Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on December 13, 2023.
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When we think about the term hidden gems, several possible definitions come to mind.
Some are visibly hidden- you may walk right past it and not know it is there due to lack of obvious signage. Some are hidden because they are simply outside of a popular business district that you may have to go out of your way to enjoy. And, of course, some places can be classified as hidden gems because we love them and think they deserve more popularity and support.
To come up with a list of the best Pittsburgh hidden gems, we really could tap into all of these concepts and then some.
So, for this one, we will lean into the term “hidden” as best we can. Some of these are blink-and-you-‘ll-miss it, others have a secret hidden inside, and some you may have to go off-the-beaten-path in a popular area to find.
Some come along and find new places in Pittsburgh you may not know about!
Wood Street Galleries
There are many wonderful galleries in downtown Pittsburgh, and one we go back to again and again is none other than Wood Street Galleries. This free gallery features rotating exhibits throughout the year in its two-floor showroom.
Even better? This one is generally open a bit later than other galleries in the city (particularly on Friday and Saturday nights), meaning that those who head downtown later in the day still have an opportunity to check out great art shows put on by the Cultural Trust!
Why is this one a hidden gem? Although signage for Wood Street Galleries is prominent, we consider this one a hidden gem because it is a gallery, quite literally, in a T station (Wood Street Station). You can't access this one via the normal T entrance, and instead have to walk around the back side of the building, enter through a separate door, and take an elevator up to the two levels for the exhibit. Hidden indeed!
Wood Street Galleries is located at 601 Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Tattoo Art Museum
Did you know Pittsburgh is home to a museum dedicated to all things tattooing? The aptly named Pittsburgh Tattoo Art Museum in Shadyside features a modest exhibit of historical tattooing artifacts, designs, and more from the owner's personal collection.
Although we personally do not have any tattoos, the exhibits here do a really great job at showcasing how this style of body art has evolved over the years!
Why is this one a hidden gem? The Pittsburgh Tattoo Art Museum is a hidden treat simply because it is in an unassuming basement tattoo parlor in Shadyside. Yes, you may see some signs for this one, but it is minimal and feels a bit tucked away compared to other conventional museums.
The Pittsburgh Tattoo Art Museum is located at 5413a Walnut Street in Shadyside.
Beyond making popular spirits like Jaggerbush gin, Parking Chair vodka, and the delicious 1129 Ridge Ave Absinthe, the cocktail program here really showcases the versatility of the spirits with some inventive and tasty creations!
Why is this one a hidden gem? Lawrenceville Distilling is a hidden gem to us simply because it is not on the bustling stretch of Butler Street. Instead, it is found in an old warehouse on Harrison Street around the corner from the likes of Allegheny Wine Mixer, Pusadees Garden, and more. Yes, businesses do exist in Lawrenceville outside of Butler Street, and this one is a great option when looking for something a bit different.
Lawrenceville Distilling is located at 5410 Harrison Street in Lawrenceville.
Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall
Part of this is because they attract world-class talent at respectable ticket prices, but throw on an intimate venue, great sound, and an excellent beer lineup and you truly have the makings for a great night out. This truly is one of those places where we want to visit for a show simply to be in the space, whether we know the band playing or not!
Why is this one a hidden gem? If there is any place on this list that we think most readers probably know about, it would be Thunderbird Cafe. But the reason we call it a hidden gem is not because you may not know about it, but because of what lies inside when you enter. The facade out front makes you think Thunderbird is a tiny theater, but it isn't until you head to the stage area that you see that it has expanded into what can only be described as several buildings worth of space, from the basement to the attic. So, while not a secret by any stretch of the imagination, this one is “hiding” a real treat for those who haven't visited.
Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall is located at 4053 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
Is live jazz more your musical preference? We have to admit Pittsburgh's jazz scene is a popular one, even if you have to look for it at times.
For jazz performers of international acclaim, it is hard to overlook the MCG Jazz series at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in the North Side. This one has brought some of the world's best jazz musicians to Pittsburgh since 1987 in its intimate, 350-seat music venue!
Why is this one a hidden gem? Unlike Thunderbird Cafe, the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild is much more hidden. This one is tucked away in the industrial stretch of Chateau and is one of the last places you'd consider finding world-class jazz musicians playing. But snag a ticket to a show during the season, and you'll be treated to some of the best music in the city.
MCG Jazz takes place inside the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild at 1815 Metropolitan Street in Chateau. Purchase tickets well in advance as shows regularly sell out.
Pittsburgh has many cool streets, but did you know we have one made entirely out of wood? Roslyn Place in Shadyside was constructed in 1914 and is one of the last remaining streets made in the Nicolson Pavement style, where creosote-soaked wood was used to line a street.
The wood blocks of the street are present to this very day, and while the quiet cul-de-sac is part of a residential neighborhood (be respectful if you visit and park outside of Roslyn Place proper as the street is quite small), it is still a unique one to see all the same when in Shadyside!
Why is this one a hidden gem? Roslyn Place is one of those gems that we consider to be hiding in plain sight. If you drive on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside, you likely pass it all the time and do not even know what it contains! Truly, unless you make the effort to stop, get out of your car, and see this one for yourselves, you really could blink and miss it here.
There are many cool Pittsburgh streets to check out beyond Roslyn Place, including the steepest publicly accessible road in the USA! Check out more of these gems at the previous link.
Roslyn Place is located in Shadyside right off of Ellsworth.
St. Anthony Chapel
St. Anthony Chapel in Troy Hill is about as unassuming as they come, but it isn't until you go inside that the secrets contained within are revealed. This one is said to be home to the largest collection of Catholic relics outside of the Vatican- over 5,000 if some reports are accurate!
For those who like religious-oriented art, the chapel is also home to life-size carved Stations of the Cross which are also said to be one of just a few in the entire country. Even for those who are not Catholic, the collections here are quite the sight.
Why is this one a hidden gem? From the outside, St. Anthony's just looks like a fairy conventional chapel that every neighborhood has. But, as you may have guessed from the description above, the collection of relics that this one holds is truly impressive!
St. Anthony Chapel is located at 1704 Harpster Street in Troy Hill.
We all know that Pittsburgh was built by immigrants in the steel industry (amongst others). But where communities come, so do social clubs, and Pittsburgh sure does have a lot of them.
One of our favorite social clubs is Teutonia Mannerchor in the North Side. This one was founded when a German men's choir needed a permanent home (Mannerchor translates to men's chorus, after all). Funds were raised, the social hall was built in the North Side, and it has survived since 1888!
While this one is still a private social club celebrating all things German culture and heritage, the public events throughout the year really cannot be missed.
Why is this one a hidden gem? Teutonia Mannerchor is a hidden gem because it is inaccessible outside of select events throughout the year (often for Maifest, Somerfest, or Oktoberfest). This private social club is members-only and opens up to the public during these festivities to offer food, music, and flowing German beer. So not so much a blink-and-you'll-miss-it gem, but rather wait-and-you'll-miss-it!
Teutonia Mannerchor is located at 857 Phineas Street in the North Side. Be on the lookout for when public events are scheduled!
Dr. Tumblety's & Storyville Lounge
Dr. Tumblety's is an interesting store in Allentown that brands itself as a “Time-Inspired Specialty Shop.” From dapper hats to candles, incense, and more, the eclectic collection here is really worth checking out when in the neighborhood.
But their backroom, the aptly named Storyville Lounge, is unique. This one is designed to feel like an event space in the New Orleans' red light district and features private events, burlesque shows, and more throughout the year (albeit on a limited schedule at the time of publication). If you ever have the chance to get inside this space for a show, you are in for a treat!
Why is this one a hidden gem? Dr. Tumblety's storefront in Allentown is, obviously, not hidden. But their lounge in the backroom most certainly is. Although we admit that we typically only see this one when it is open publicly for the bi-annual Allentown Night Market, do not miss out on the opportunity to visit if you can get in for an event.
Dr. Tumblety's is located at 753 E Warrington Avenue in Allentown. Be on the lookout for events in Storyville Lounge to checkout the back room space!
The Troy Hill Art Houses
What are the Troy Hill Art Houses, you may ask? Well, out of respect to the owners, we are not really allowed to tell you much.
We can say that these collections of houses in Troy Hill have all been designed from the basement to the attic by independent artists and are open for tours on select weekends throughout the year. It is the kind of place that will truly make your jaw drop once inside. If the likes of the Bayernhof, Trundle Manor, and Randyland are spots you enjoy, then the Art Houses should be high on your list from there.
As of publication, there are three art houses in Troy Hill (with a fourth in development)- La Hutte Royal, Kunzhaus, and Darkhouse Lighthouse. Each house requires a separate reservation to visit, and if you can score spots for all three, you will have a full morning or afternoon in the neighborhood you wont soon forget.
Why is this one a hidden gem? The Troy Hill Art Houses check all the definitions for hidden gems because the houses are hiding in plain sight, you do not know what they contain, and so on. Unless you've visited before, you simply would never know that these houses are, in fact, museums. It isn't until a docent opens the door at the prescribed time that you realize that the secrets of what lies within begin to unfold. Naturally, to keep up the secret, we did not take any photos inside!
Do you have a favorite hidden gem in Pittsburgh? Comment below to share!
The Troy Hill Art Houses can be found throughout Troy Hill. However, for the purpose of this article, we are not publishing the addresses.