Pittsburgh Weekend Guide – First Timer Edition

If there is one thing I hate more than poorly thought out city guides, it would be poorly thought out city guides that feature ridiculous suggestions that no one would actually do. Are you really going to drop $200 for that spa treatment, head out of town to an obscure restaurant, or go to a specialty museum on your first visit to a city?

Probably not.

In fact, you likely wouldn't do it on your second, third, or fourth visit either (although if we had our way, you may work in an obscure museum because Pittsburgh has some pretty awesome ones).

Our first-timer's weekend in Pittsburgh guide gives a good introduction to the city and is oriented for someone who has never been here before.

This list has been crafted from years of experience in showing friends and family around town while incorporating many of the city's highlights, skipping some of the common letdowns, and overall giving you a welcome that will make you want to return to this great American city many times in the future.

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Exploring Point State Park and the Fort Pitt Museum

Point State Park in Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh is unique in that it sits at the point where three rivers, the Ohio, the Allegheny, and the Monongahela, converge.  

The resulting land at the tip of downtown Pittsburgh has played an important role for the city throughout its history, and today is a gorgeous public space known as Point State Park that is a must see spot for all visitors to the city.

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Heinz History Center – Learning the History of Pittsburgh

Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA

Every city needs a great museum to let its history shine, and in Pittsburgh that museum is the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

Our first observation after entering the Heinz History Center was that it was much like the popular Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC.  But instead of having separate buildings for each theme as in our nation's capital, the Heinz History Center has everything in one building.

Well, as it turns out the museum is in fact affiliated with the Smithsonian, and the legacy of the nation's most popular museum collection shines in every exhibit in this city gem.

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The Mattress Factory is Pittsburgh’s Incredible Contemporary Art Museum

Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh

When it comes to contemporary art, you never know what you are going to get. This is part of the fun in visiting these museums because there never seems to be one particular style that is on display. Sometimes it is disappointing, other times thought provoking, but overall you never really know what will be around the next bend.

At Pittsburgh's contemporary art museum, Mattress Factory, we found each exhibit to be more interesting than the last and left wondering why it took us so long to visit this museum in the first place.

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Exploring the Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning

Chinese Room at the Cathedral of Learning

Cathedral of Learning in PittsburghPitt's Cathedral of Learning is one of the most beautiful university buildings in the country. 

Ignoring the fact that this college building is the only skyscraper in Oakland and its main lobby resembles a European cathedral mixed with Hogwarts, Pitt's flagship building houses one other treasure worth exploring during a visit: the Nationality Rooms.

Let's go to the last place you'd expect to visit in Pittsburgh– back to school!

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Bicycle Overload at Bicycle Heaven in Pittsburgh’s North Side

Bicycle Heaven in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's massive specialty stores have a way of embracing their size and end up turning into museums for all to enjoy. There is Artifacts, the import store for the rich and famous; Construction Junction, the re-use store for the rest of us; and in our latest exploration we visited Bicycle Heaven, the store for bike lovers.

Much like the other unusual stores we've visit in the city, when we say that Bicycle Heaven is large, we mean it. The store claims to be the largest bike shop in the USA, sells tens of thousands of items on eBay, and covers two floors with about a dozen rooms in its North Side warehouse.

Naturally, this sounds exactly like the kind of place we want to explore when enjoying our city.

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Learning an Array of Sciences at the Carnegie Science Center

Making Tornados at Pittsburgh's Science Center

One of Pittsburgh's most popular museums is the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side. This massive complex is home to several wings featuring displays of unique sciences including robotics, aerospace, water, sports science, physics, medicine, and more.

As engineers and self-described science nerds, this was one museum we have been very eager to check out.

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The Center for PostNatural History – Pittsburgh’s Most Unusual Museum

Transgenic Goat at the PostNatural Museum in Pittsburgh

The Specimen Vault at the PostNatural Museum Pittsburgh is a hub of unusual museums, and The Center for PostNatural History in Bloomfield / Garfield is no exception.

For those who are not familiar with the term, PostNatural describes living organisms that have been modified by man through everything from selective breeding all the way to genetic engineering by accredited scientists, mad scientists, and everything in between.

As an engineer this museum sounded perfect to me, and I was incredibly excited about visiting during their limited Sunday opening hours to check out the exhibits.

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Randyland is a Colorful Must See Attraction in Pittsburgh

Randyland - The Most Colorful Place in Pittsburgh

Unlike other attractions in the city, you'll have no problem spotting Randyland from a distance.

This outdoor art studio, if you can call it that, is quite possibly the most colorful spot in all of Pittsburgh– and that is only the first impression from looking at it on the outside.

Once you enter, a world of incredible art and whimsy is yours to explore.

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