Last Updated on October 28, 2021 by Jeremy
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We started Discover the Burgh in 2015 as a means to get out and enjoy everything in Pittsburgh. Since then, we have been blown away by all the city has to offer, and are getting close to having personally experienced 1,000 unique things to do in the city.
While this site is mainly an opinion blog sharing our personal views on all of these attractions, restaurants, bars/breweries, events, parks, and more, we haven't really called out any spots are our personal favorites. You can tell if you read our articles which ones we like more than others, sure, but we never had a dedicated feature to this effect.
For a while, we thought we'd unveil an awards series to highlight our favorite spots. But then we realized they are overplayed and clickbaity. Then we worried that perhaps it was always too soon to do this because we still have way more of the city to see. But as we explore more of the city, we realize that we will never, ever be “finished” and have to commit to it at some point.
So this guide to our favorite places in Pittsburgh was born.
About Our Favorite Places in Pittsburgh
In this guide to Discover the Burgh's favorite spots, we want to call out three places that we consider to be our favorites in each category. We are doing so because, well, to be honest, it is impossible for us to pick just one in any category.
Likewise, it is worth noting that this list is presented without any caveats. Our selections are based solely on our personal preferences. How reflective they are on being uniquely Pittsburgh, the culinary merits of the chef, award capacity of the brewery, or the like has no merit in this list whatsoever. It is solely the places we like (and frequent) the most without any other criteria.
As this is a rather long article, if you would like to jump down to different sections of the guide, you can do so with the following links:
- Parks & Nature Areas
- Food Trucks
- Coffee Shops
- Specialty Stores
- Ice Cream
Otherwise, scroll down as we get started with our favorite attractions!
As far as Pittsburgh attractions are concerned, we consider them to be anything from museums, public art, to other experiences you can enjoy in the city. Rather than have these all be separate categories, we decided to roll them up into one general attraction theme for this feature. The following are our favorites.
We cannot say enough good things about Phipps Conservatory. This local botanical garden features over a dozen themed rooms, seasonal flower shows throughout the year, and so much more. While we are especially fans of the annual Spring Flower Show and Winter Flower Show (for vibrant flowers and holiday decorations, respectively), we have to admit that this is our Pittsburgh happy place. If we are ever in need of some reflecting time, we find ourselves heading to Phipps to put our minds at ease with beautiful flowers.
Phipps Conservatory is located at 1 Schenley Drive.
As far as attractions are concerned, we consider ourselves fans of the offbeat. In Pittsburgh, one of our most unusual attractions is Bicycle Heaven in the North Side. This free museum is said to be the world's largest bicycle store, and with over 4,000 bikes in their collection, we can certainly see why that is. Not only is the sheer scale of this one impressive (don't miss the second-floor showroom), the rare bikes in their collection are stunners. From the Pee-Wee Herman bike, to Beatles bikes, a tree growing around two bikes, and many other historical bikes dating back well over 100 years, this one really has something for everyone- bike lover or not.
Bicycle Heaven is located at 1800 Preble Avenue.
If we had a category for favorite Pittsburghers, Randy from Randyland would be on it. Randy founded this art installation in the 1990s by buying two houses on a credit card. In the months and years that followed he turned them into what we think is Pittsburgh's most colorful spot that you really need to see to believe. Randy is frequently found on the property greeting guests, telling the story of Randyland, and inspiring happiness in all who meet him. (Although even when he isn't there, Randyland is still a stunner, although we are also biased since we live closeby!)
Randyland is located at 1501 Arch Street.
Parks & Nature Areas
Much like our attractions from above, we consider parks and nature areas to be anything that is a green space. This could be as large as a thousand+ acre state park to as small as a parklet on the corner of a city block. And as far as Pittsburgh parks are concerned, we certainly have a lot to choose from. Our three standouts are as follows.
Fall Run Park
Out of all of the parks we consider to be a favorite, Fall Run Park in Glenshaw is by far the smallest. This 94-acre park located just off of Route 8 can be enjoyed in just about 20 minutes with its one out-and-back trail. So, for a small park, why do we love it? Well, we absolutely adore this one's 20+ foot waterfall- the closest appreciable waterfall to the city. Likewise, this park is still fairly under the radar such that you can often have some alone time at the waterfall if you would like to hang out for a bit. While a cool park, we do have to admit that this one is best after a strong rain when the falls are really flowing!
Fall Run Park is located at 187 Fall Run Road in Glenshaw.
To reach McConnells Mill you'll need to drive north of Pittsburgh for just about 40 minutes. Once you arrive you'll be greeted with a number of different hiking opportunities to see the park's beautiful nature, numerous waterfalls (some more prevalent than others, like Hell's Hallow), and of course the park's historic mill and covered bridge. This all comes together for an ambiance that is a bit unlike any other park you'll find in the region, and is a personal favorite of ours in the fall when the leaves are at their peak colors!
McConnells Mill is located at 1761 McConnells Mill Road in Portersville.
Raccoon Creek State Park
Raccoon Creek State Park is one of the largest parks in the region, and is also seemingly one of the least visited. Whenever we check this one out (located just west of the airport in Hookstown), we are almost always completely alone on the trails and get to enjoy peace and quiet in nature on a hike. A subset of this park is a protected wildflower reserve that is worth visiting during the annual spring blooms as it is said to have one of the most diverse collections of wildflowers in the state. If an onslaught of colorful flowers is for you, a trip to this one during its annual bloom (typically the last few weeks of April) is a must.
Raccoon Creek State Park is located at 3000 PA-18 in Hookstown.
Although we've been to several hundred Pittsburgh restaurants over the years, we'll be the first to admit that we have a long way to go before finishing them all. As we visit new spots and re-visit old ones, our favorite list is prone to frequent changes. Right now, the following three are doing great things in the city.
Gaucho Parrilla Argentina
When meat is done well, we are happy. When meat is done exceptionally well, we return over and over again. Gaucho in the Cultural District (formerly in the Strip) makes exceptional meat, and whether you are wanting to visit this one for steak (go for the platter), pulled pork, or some of their other unique creations, the only thing that disappoints about this one is its line. But for meat this good, we'll wait as long as is necessary. It is simply the best.
Gaucho is located at 146 6th Street downtown.
In a complete flip from Gaucho, we move on to an Eastern European vegan restaurant- Apteka. This restaurant does to vegetables what Gaucho does to meat, and makes you forget that you are even eating vegan food in the first place. The Eastern European dishes are complex, full of rich umami flavors, and always go perfectly with a craft cocktail from the bar and a huge plate of their pierogies- perhaps the best in the city. Like Gaucho, expect a wait at peak hours.
Apteka is located at 4606 Penn Avenue.
One restaurant style we've always wanted in the USA is a tapas bar after having fallen in love with them on our honeymoon in Spain. While Morcilla is not 100% the kind of tapas bar we like (in Spain you often get free tapas when you drink), this one has an impressive food and drink menu, as well as a stunning pintxos bar full of small plates that we adore. This one may be a more expensive outing, but is worth every penny.
Morcilla is located at 3519 Butler Avenue.
Whenever we visit a brewery, we almost always frequent the food truck that is out front. This has allowed us to sample dozens upon dozens of different trucks (all paired with a great beer) and get a great cross-section of this city's mobile food scene. But as far as favorites are concerned, our top three were somewhat easy selections.
Out of all international cuisine, Korean may be at the top of our list. We fell in love with this food style when visiting South Korea, and really can't get enough of it while at home. Naturally, one of our favorite Pittsburgh food trucks is none other than Mr. Bulgogi. This Korean food truck makes bulgogi rice bowls made with thinly sliced meat with a semi-sweet glaze that is, to put it bluntly, addicting. Not only that, their Korean pork and chicken dishes are also quite full of flavor, and their friend mandu dumplings are a great side to round out the meal.
Pittsburgh Sandwich Society
We could easily place Pittsburgh Sandwich Society on this list for their In-and-Aht Burger alone, a playful take on the popular double double animal style sandwich from In-and-Out Burger (but, in our opinion, is far better). Yes, we like that one so much that it is hard for us to order anything else. That being said, when the hot chicken sandwich is available as a special, you'll do well getting this one- it is one of just a few hot chicken offerings in the city that actually brings the heat!
Pittsburgh Sandwich Society has a weekday lunch space at 108 43rd Street in addition to their food truck.
Our final food truck is, in fact, a cart. Blowfish BBQ can often be found at area breweries and events and serves up what we believe to be some of the finest barbecue in Pittsburgh. While the options at this one can be limited depending on where they are setup at, we can safely order anything on the menu and not be disappointed- a real treat for barbecue. Whatever you do, toss on a side of their smoked mac and cheese if it is available. It is divine!
It should be no surprise that all of our favorite bars are cocktail bars. While the city has no shortage of great wine bars and other places with beer specials, we are inherently drawn to the cocktail scene. When we go out for these libations, the following are our go-to spots.
When most people think about going to South Side to drink, it is likely to a dive bar for a cheap drink special. When we think about going to South Side to drink, we think of Acacia. This speakeasy-style bar is easy to miss when you walk by as the boarded-up windows and dim lighting makes you think its just another closed building in the neighborhood. The only giveaway, apart from people frequently entering or leaving, is a faint logo etched onto the windows. Inside you'll be wowed with a menu of some of the finest cocktails in the city with some rather unique flavor combinations.
Acacia is located at 2108 E Carson Street.
When we're in the mood for themed drinking, specifically tiki-style, we head over to Hidden Harbor in Squirrel Hill. Apart from their impressive rum collection, this bar knows how to make some pretty stellar cocktails with numerous spirits and an array of tropical juices (not to mention a few spirit-forward creations in the mix too). Just be careful at this one as the spirits sneak up on you after a while!
Hidden Harbor is located at 1708 Shady Avenue.
Lorelei is the second bar from the team behind Hidden Harbor (above), and shortly after visiting you'll understand why this one is a favorite. This Alpine bar is gorgeously themed into two sections- one beer hall with a stunning mural and one cocktail bar with an intimate ambiance. But while this one showcases European kolsch and pilsner quite well for the draft list, we have to admit that we are huge fans of their cocktail and wine program as well- all featuring an Alpine twist. It is rare for a bar to do all three major alcohols well, and this is most certainly one of them.
Lorelei is located at 124 S Highland Avenue.
When it comes to Pittsburgh breweries, we often go back and forth on what makes something a favorite. The question we ask ourselves is it better to be great at many styles or exceptional at just one. Thankfully, we're lucky to have both, and our top three breweries are a mix of each.
Hitchhiker Brewing quickly became one of our favorites as they can rock numerous styles. Whether we're drinking their IPA (Static Nature or Whole Punch line), aged stouts (Triple Shakes), smoothie sours (Subsurface series), or their unique collaborations, every style seems better than the rest and we just can't get enough and are always excited to check out the next release here.
Hitchhiker Brewing has two locations. One at 1500 S Canal Street in Sharpsburg and one at 190 Castle Shannon Blvd. We often visit the Sharpsburg location.
Dancing Gnome holds a special place in our hearts as being the first brewery to get us to like IPAs- really! We never really cared for West Coast-style IPA, and only really dove into the juicy New England style at this brewery thanks to their wide production with many unique hops. While we are still a bit partial to the boozier double IPAs here, you really can't go wrong with anything on the menu if hops are in your future. For those who want something a bit different, Dancing Gnome does periodic stout (Black Clouds) and fruited sour series (Underscore) that are quite exceptional, but be prepared for a huge line if you want to get cans- we often get to releases an hour or two before for these rare finds!
Dancing Gnome is located at 1025 Main Street in Sharpsburg, PA.
If there was one brewery that really triggered our love of the Pittsburgh craft beer scene, it would be Strange Roots (formerly Draai Laag). This was one of the first breweries we visited in the area and is also one that really set us off on the great potential of the local beer scene. For many years, this one was exclusively about sours (one of our favorite styles), and in particular the wild fermentation type. The beer here is fermented with yeast extracted right out of the air, which takes local to a whole new level. With some rather funky brews and interesting flavor combinations, we can't get enough of this one. While the brewery has also expanded into non-sours with their name change to Strange Roots, we have to say we find ourselves going back for the sours here (especially Ragnarok and Goedenacht to name a few).
Strange Roots has two locations. One at 501 E Ohio Street in Millvale and one at 4399 Gibsonia Road in Gibsonia. We often visit the Millvale location.
Pittsburgh is home to a number of distilleries, and we have to admit that we are fans of just about all of them. From those that use local grains, focus on historical recipes, or go deep in their craft, there really is a lot to enjoy in the form of Pittsburgh spirits.
Liberty Pole Spirits
Pittsburgh has a long history in the production of whiskey dating back to colonial times. Shortly after independence, the region was at the heart of the famous Whiskey Rebellion where producers rose up against government taxation of whiskey. This history is highlighted perfectly at the Washington, PA, based Liberty Pole Spirits– a distillery that is well worth the drive for their spirits and their cocktails as much as the history that is on display in their tasting room. No matter what you do when visiting, be sure to get a sample of their Peated Bourbon- it is one of our favorite spirits!
Liberty Pole Spirits is located at 68 W Maiden Avenue in Washington, PA.
We're big fans of Quantum Spirits for a number of reasons, and part of that the owners embrace their engineering and science backgrounds on a quest to produce the best spirits possible. This comes together not only for some stellar libations, but also great theming with science fiction references aplenty and barware aptly labeled Team Nerd. As fellow engineers, we approve. Don't miss their rye-based vodka here which offers a sweetness a bit unlike any other vodkas we've ever had (although you really can't go wrong with any spirit they make).
Quantum Spirits is located at 203 E Main Street in Carnegie, PA.
Maggie's Farm Rum
If you consider yourself a rum fan, then you should take a trip to Maggie's Farm Rum in the Strip District. To say that this is their specialty is an understatement as apart from a few liqueurs, rum is all they make! Not only can you go down the rabbit hole tasting numerous kinds of rums in a flight they also are masters at rum-based cocktails and have a pretty stellar menu to choose from as well. Be on the lookout for any Queen's Share bottle releases as they are the best of the best at this one and sell out fast.
Maggie's Farm Rum is located at 3212a Smallman Street in the Strip District.
There are many coffee shops in Pittsburgh doing exceptional things, which makes picking only three favorites especially difficult for us. That being said, if you hit any of the following you'll be in good hands.
Commonplace Coffee can be found at numerous locations around the city, and after having many espresso shots, pourovers, and cortados from several of their locations, we can certainly understand the popularity. A neighborhood coffee shop that roasts their own beans and does the basics exceptionally well is all we need to be happy, and at Commonplace Coffee you'll get just that.
Commonplace Coffee has several locations around the city. We often visit the North Side location at 1501 Buena Vista.
Convive Coffee Roastery
Much like Commonplace Coffee above, Convive Coffee Roastery in McCandless Crossing makes our cut as a favorite for their in-house roasting program. We love visiting this one to check out their latest batches and trying them in a pourover as well. To put it simply, they know how to roast!
Convive Coffee Roastery is located at 751 Providence Blvd in McCandless Crossing. Convive is also opening a second location in Lawrenceville in the not-so-distant future.
While we are normally a bit biased to coffee shops that have their own roasting programs (see above), we like Arriviste for their curated beans from exceptional roasters both in Pittsburgh (Commonplace, naturally) and around the country- mostly single origin in nature. So if a well-made espresso or pourover is in your future, a trip to Arriviste in Shadyside is a must.
Arriviste is located at 5730 Ellsworth Avenue.
With a local blog, it is not surprising to hear that we love supporting local businesses every way we can. And as far as retail stores are concerned, we are big fans of specialty shops that only focus on one specific group of products. Not only does this allow the shops to go deep on a specific theme, but the passion the employees show for it is electric as well. So it should be no surprise that our picks for favorites follow this mindset accordingly.
Chantal's Cheese Shop
If you need to know one thing about us, it is that we love cheese. Any cheese. Our cheese drawer is almost always stocked with weird and wonderful delicacies, and the vast majority of them come from Chantal's Cheese Shop in Bloomfield (across from the Children's Hospital). While a bit small, this one has one of the best-curated cheese selections in the city and the owner, Anaïs, is also one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Every time we go she remembers us, immediately tells us about the new cheeses she received since our last visit, and throws a new cheese in our faces to try (which we almost always buy some of). It very much is like going to see an old friend, but with cheese. Even better is that she can cut cheese to fairly small sizes, meaning you don't have to commit to a lot like other shops in the area.
Chantal's Cheese Shop is located at 4402 Penn Avenue.
We've been critics of Pennsylvania liquor laws for quite some time. Thankfully, the laws are recently changing and are making things easier for people who want to purchase Pennsylvania made products. As part of that, Pennsylvania Libations was able to open in the Strip District. This store only stocks Pennsylvania made liquors and also offers tastes of virtually every bottle for those who want to sample before making a purchase. As purveyors of great spirits, we are huge fans of this one!
Pennsylvania Libations is located at 2103 Penn Avenue.
Playthings Etc. in Butler, PA, brands itself as the world's coolest toy store, and it doesn't take long after arriving to see why that is. First, there is the building itself- it is shaped like a stealth bomber. Second, there is the staff. The folks here know the inside and out of every toy they have, and will take time to not only talk to you about them but play with you as well! Suffice it to say, this one is fun for guests of all ages because we all need to be kids again from time to time.
Playthings Etc. is located at 2483 William Flynn Highway in Butler, PA.
If there is one scene that is lacking in Pittsburgh, it is ice cream. While we have numerous stands and several specialty stores, the competition beyond traditional soft serve is rather limited. On one hand, we're okay with that because of the options we have there are some gems, but we also want more. Or perhaps maybe we're just a bit bitter that our trendy shop everyone loves is, quite frankly, not that great. In any case, our favorite ice cream spots may be a bit of a surprise!
Antney's Ice Cream
If you are in the mood for an ice cream spot with unusual flavors, Antney's Ice Cream in Westwood/Green Tree will not disappoint. This Pittsburgh staple has been serving up generous scoops for years and has some of the best texture and flavors in the city. It is a no frills, walk-up kind of ice cream stand, often with a long line, and is worth the trip time and time again. Just don't forget the pup cup for your furry friend.
Antney's Ice Cream is located at 1316 Poplar Street. Antney's is seasonal.
Glen's Frozen Custard
While we cannot agree on what the best ice cream style is (I mean, can you really go wrong?), we both agree that custard is one of the strong contenders as a favorite. The addition of egg yolks into the mix adds a rich flavor and great textural component that you simply don't get with many milk only ice creams. Glen's Frozen Custard offers an exceptional iteration into this style, and while their flavors are often limited in quantity compared to Antney's above, we find ourselves making the drive out to Springdale to enjoy their product again and again.
Glen's Frozen Custard has two locations. One at 2796 Leechburg Road in Lower Burrell and one at 400 Pittsburgh Street in Springdale, PA. We often visit the Springdale location.
Leona's Ice Cream Sandwiches
Leona's goes one step further from your traditional ice cream shop and instead of selling straight scoops, this one is all about the ice cream sandwich. But these are not just any ice cream sandwiches. These are monster creations with generous scoops of ice cream between various types of housemade cookies. We love Leona's for two particular reasons. The first is that they bring out batches of new flavors every single month, making this one great to try again and again. The second is that you can find them at various breweries, events, and markets over a standard scoop shop. Don't ask us how, but this one goes beautifully with a fruited sour from Strange Roots. Trust us.
Leona's does not have a brick and mortar shop but instead distributes at local breweries, markets, and events.
There is nothing better than walking into a bakery and getting all the smells of delicious bread and baked goods. Our Pittsburgh bakery scene is actually quite robust and we are fortunate to have a number of stellar options for all interests. But for us, some of our favorites are all delightfully French- as it should be.
If you close your eyes and picture the ideal bakery, what do you see? Is it a small house, standing on its own, with the smell of bread and pastries emanating from it, then you're probably picturing Madeleine Bakery. While this one may not be explicitly French, as they do a bit of everything, our favorite products from here most certainly are- specifically their namesake madeleines, the kouign amann, and canele (the latter of which has only had limited availability, sadly). We almost always find ourselves stocking up on a bit of everything when we visit this one be it bread, a croissant, plus a few madeleines for good measure. You really can't go wrong with anything here.
Madeleine Bakery is located at 609 S Trenton Avenue.
If a serious French bakery experience is for you, a trip to one of La Gourmandine's several Pittsburgh locations is a must. They've got baguettes. They've got croissants. They also have a whole line of pastries that will satisfy just about any sweet tooth. If a quintessential bakery experience is what you seek, you must visit La Gourmandine.
La Gourmandine has three locations. One at 308 Forbes Avenue, one at 4605 Butler Street, and one at 5013 Second Avenue. We often visit the Butler Street location.
Butterwood Bake Consortium
Our final bakery pick diverges from the pattern of the previous two just a bit. This is because Butterwood Bake Consortium is known for some rather extravagant creations- namely around cakes! If you are looking to go the indulgent route on your next bakery outing, getting a large slice of cake from Butterwood Bake Consortium should be on your radar.
Butterwood Bake Consortium is located at 5222 Butler Street.
Pick any week of the year, and odds are good there will be many events in Pittsburgh to check out. So if you want to get out and do something special to a season, month, or often just cause, odds are good you'll find an event for you. As we have hundreds to choose from in this category, limiting it down to our top three was rather difficult. As such, we decided to feature the three events we never miss each year as our qualifier.
Light Up Night
The start of the Christmas season occurs on a very specific date in Pittsburgh, and it isn't Black Friday. It is Light Up Night, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This event is when all of the Christmas lights get turned on in the city, with live music, the opening of our Christmas market, and several fireworks shows (although one is technically from a competing event the same night). As such, it doesn't take much to realize why we love this one so much. It really helps you get into the Christmas spirit properly!
Light Up Night takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving in downtown Pittsburgh. Note the day change for this event began in 2021.
Three Rivers Arts Festival
One of the best things about the Three Rivers Arts Festival is that it takes place for two weeks each June, meaning you have plenty of time to head downtown to check out the art, vendors, and live performances of various types. We love this one for its vibrant music schedule, and headliners in recent years have included some stellar musicians like Sarah Jarosz and Mandolin Orange to name a few. So head down to Point State Park in June and check out one of the best festivals in Pittsburgh!
The Three Rivers Arts Festival takes place for two weeks each June in downtown Pittsburgh.
Beers of the Burgh
Most everyone knows that we love craft beer, so it should be no surprise that a beer festival makes our list, and of course it is a local one. Beers of the Burgh is Pittsburgh's premier beer festival as it features dozens of breweries from western Pennsylvania and is one of the largest collections of local beer you'll ever get to sample. While this one features a summer and winter event, we often find ourselves hitting this one up for summer as it takes place at the iconic Carrie Furnaces in Rankin. Drinking local beer in the shadow of a former steel mill? Hard to get more Pittsburgh than that.
Beers of the Burgh consists of a summer and winter beer festival. We highly recommend the VIP tickets for early admission here!
Is there a category you'd like us to call out our favorite places in? Comment below to let us know and we'll update this guide accordingly!