22 Unique & Fun Things to Do in Pittsburgh, PA

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The following list of things to do in Pittsburgh is brought to you by Julia from Planned Wanderings. A western NY native whose dad is obsessed with all things Pittsburgh, Julia enjoys exploring new places, meeting penguins, and chasing after the best donuts in the US (all of which you can do in Pittsburgh)!

I don’t usually like big cities. I prefer cute small towns that look like Gilmore Girls or Hallmark movies were filmed there.

But Pittsburgh, PA is truly something special. Sure you have your typical big city attractions, but there are also so many unique things to do in Pittsburgh that you really can’t do anywhere else! And the city itself is beautiful, with its gorgeous skyline, iconic yellow bridges, and central fountain located at the very tip of The Point, where three rivers unite.

While the Steel City hasn’t always been the destination that it is today (the smoke from the steel factories actually made it constantly dark and smoky–there’s even a theory that Batman’s Gotham City was based on Pittsburgh!), I believe it is truly one of the best city destinations in the U.S.

You can even knock out a huge chunk of my Pennsylvania bucket list, just by visiting Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas! So here is my list of the best things to do in Pittsburgh, PA, plus helpful advice and extra tips for visiting this top U.S. city destination.

Save this List of Things to do in Pittsburgh for Later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

1. Get to Know Pittsburgh on the “Transportainment” Bus

If this is your first visit to Pittsburgh (or if you just want to take a comedy filled tour with a drink in hand), get to know the city a little with a comedy tour on The Burgh Bus. This BYOB tour is led by local comedians through all of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods and iconic sites.

2. Ride the Inclines

Without a doubt, riding one (or both!) of Pittsburgh’s historic inclines is one of the most special and unique things to do in Pittsburgh! Pittsburgh has two historic inclines (they originally had 12!), the Monongahela (pronounced mah-non-ga-hail-la) and the Duquesne (pronounced due-kane). These two inclines remain from the glory days of the city’s steel industry, when the steel workers would ride them up and down Pittsburgh’s steep hills to get to work.

The Monongahela: The “Mon” Incline was the first funicular railway built to carry passengers in the US! It rides up the side of Mount Washington, and looks out on the Monongahela River.

This incline is a little bit cheaper than its sister (about a mile down the road), but the view here is not as spectacular. A lot of Pittsburghers still use this incline to commute to work in the city. It is easy to walk to from the Station Square neighborhood, and you can park in the Station Square Parking Garage or take the subway.

It’s $3.50 for a round trip fare. You can pay in cash (but bring exact change) or use a credit card at the ticket machine.

Duquesne Incline: The Duquesne Incline is not as easily accessible by public transportation as its sister incline, but this one has the best view of Pittsburgh! It is purely magical! Try to come in the evening to catch the sunset.

It is located about a mile down the road from Station Square. You can park in either the upper or the lower parking lots (If you’re going to ride the incline, I suggest parking in the lower lot to ride it up the hill. If you just want the view, park at the top, AKA Grandview Overlook).

It costs $5 for a round trip ticket, and you do need exact change. Also be aware that there are no public restrooms available at the Duquesne Incline.

3. Float on 3 Different Rivers

I always love enjoying the waterfront area of a city, but Pittsburgh is extra special because it is not just one, not even two, but THREE different rivers! Pittsburgh is located at the meeting point of 3 rivers: The Monongahela, the Ohio, and the Allegheny rivers.

There are a lot of different ways you can enjoy the waterfront:

  • The Gateway Clipper: The Gateway Clipper steam boat ride is the most popular river cruise in Pittsburgh. You can take an afternoon sightseeing tour, or a dinner tour, or other themed boat rides. The boat leaves from the dock in Station Square, a popular tourist neighborhood with lots of restaurants, parking, and access to public transportation. You will get beautiful views of the city of Pittsburgh as you float down all three rivers.
    • Pro Tip: Don’t sit in the back by the motor, or you won’t be able to hear any of the fun facts on the tour!
  • Rivers of Steel: Rivers of Steel actually offers multiple different tours of the city of Pittsburgh, including walking tours through old blast furnaces (now a national historic landmark), and their “Uniquely Pittsburgh” boat tour.
  • Venture Outdoors: If you want to get out on the river(s) on your own, one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh is to rent a kayak and hit the water! Venture Outdoors has several kayak locations where you can explore all around downtown, North Shore, and South Shore at your own pace.

4. Walk Across the Famous Yellow Arch Bridges

The Steel City is also known as the “City of Bridges.” In fact, Pittsburgh has the most bridges of any city in the world (446 to be exact), including Venice, Italy! And almost all of those bridges are painted a bright yellow that is an iconic part of Pittsburgh’s skyline.

Three of these bridges connect the North Shore to the downtown heart of Pittsburgh. They all have matching arches, are named after famous Pittsburghians (who all have museums you can visit), and have dedicated pedestrian walkways. These are known as the “Three Sisters,” and walking across them is one of the iconic things you have to do on a trip to Pittsburgh (not to mention the great photo ops they afford!).

The Three Sisters bridges:

  • Roberto Clemente Bridge– Roberto Clemente was a Hall of Fame baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 50s and 60s. You can learn more about him at the Clemente Museum.
  • Andy Warhol Bridge– The famous pop artist Andy Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can learn more about his Pittsburgh roots, and see his famous artworks at the Andy Warhol Museum.
  • Rachel Carson Bridge– Rachel Carson was a national scientist and celebrated author during the early to mid twentieth century. You can visit the Rachel Carson Homestead, just north of Pittsburgh.

5. Follow the Fred Rogers Trail

Another famous Pittsburghian is Mr. Fred Rogers, the beloved TV personality behind Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. The Show was filmed in Pittsburgh, where Fred Rogers lived. Be sure to watch the Tom Hanks movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood to learn more about Fred and his life in Pittsburgh.

There are so many places you can visit dedicated or related to Mr. Rogers that there is an entire “trail” to follow. Here are some of the highlights of the Fred Rogers Trail:

6. Learn About Ketchup

While you’re at the Heinz History Center, you can learn all about ketchup, America’s favorite condiment, and the product the Heinz family is most known for. For example, you can learn that they originally made a variety of ketchups, including mushroom and liver… (feel free to impress your family with that #funfact).

There are also tons of other history exhibits to explore at the center, including the Mr. Rogers set, a tribute to the Lewis and Clark expedition that passed through Pittsburgh, and even a children’s play area. This is one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh, especially if you are visiting with the whole family.

7. Explore Classrooms from Around the World

Probably Pittsburgh’s most recognizable building, the Cathedral of Learning is a 42 story building on the University of Pittsburgh’s Campus. People used to gather here to watch baseball games at the nearby Forbes Field, which could be seen from the top observation deck.

The cathedral is the second tallest educational building in the world. But it’s worth visiting for more than just its height and (Hogwarts-esque) architecture. You can take a guided tour of the building to see the nationality rooms that are designed to represent classrooms from all over the world, or you can pop in on your own for free during school hours. This is by far one of the best and most unique things to do in Pittsburgh.

Be sure to check the school’s hours if you plan to visit on your own, so you don’t show up the day after graduation… The best place to park if you are driving yourself is in the Soldiers & Sailors Parking Garage, just up the street.

8. Go on a Mission to the Moon

There are multiple museums to visit in downtown Pittsburgh. One of the most unique museums is the Moonshot Museum, a small science museum where you can watch actual spacecraft be assembled, and go on a virtual mission to the moon!

The museum’s main goal is to create interactive experiences that simulate working in the space industry, so if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at being an astronaut, this is the place for you!

9. See Andy Warhol’s Famous Pop Culture Paintings

Another of Pittsburgh’s many museums, and one of the most popular things to do in Pittsburgh, is to visit an art museum with 7 floors dedicated entirely to one of the most famous artists of all time: Andy Warhol.

Although Warhol worked and lived in NYC, he was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he began his art career as an intern designing window displays for local businesses. The Andy Warhol Museum is located on the North Shore, just across the Andy Warhol Bridge from downtown Pittsburgh. Try to visit right when they open to avoid crowds.

Bonus: As a fun day trip, you can make your way to the suburb of Castle Shannon to leave a soup can at Andy Warhol’s gravesite.

10. Experience Weird Art & Illusions

Located in the narrow historic streets of Pittsburgh’s Mexican War Streets district, The Mattress Factory (contrary to its name) is a local art museum full of unique exhibits.

Their mission is to provide a space where artists can work without boundaries or hindrances. As such, they usually have an artist in residence, who lives on grounds while creating something really special in the space provided. You will see some of the most unique and immersive art here, making it a great spot for instagram selfies!

The Mattress Factory has three different historic buildings to explore, and a beautiful garden. They do have a small (free!) parking lot, and are within easy walking distance from several bus stops and the National Aviary. If you do drive yourself, take note that the streets in this neighborhood are extremely narrow.

Bonus: If you like weird art and illusions, be sure to check out Pittsburgh’s version of the Museum of Illusions.

11. Take a Selfie in Randyland

Randyland… Randyland is… well, you just have to see it. Local resident Randy Gilson decided to brighten up the neighborhood by painting recycled objects he found and creating artistic sculptures around his house.

This eventually led to what today is known as “Randyland,” an entire street corner covered in the most colorful and eccentric display you’ve ever seen. It is a must-see spot on any Pittsburgh itinerary!

It can be difficult to find a parking spot (and the streets are super narrow!), so I would suggest walking from the nearby Mattress Factory or the National Aviary/Allegheny Commons Park.

12. Get a Painting Made by a Sloth

Pittsburgh is home to the National Aviary, the country’s largest zoo dedicated just to birds (and their popular resident sloth!). You can get super up close to the birds at the National Aviary. I’m talking right in your face (but hopefully they don’t poop on your face…) close.

In addition to seeing all the amazing animals (including penguins, which are the best!!), you can book a unique animal encounter. Some of the ones they offer include feeding penguins or sitting down with the sloth while he actually makes a painting just for you!!! I honestly can’t get over how cool that is (though it’s a bit expensive too, so I may just go with the cheaper option to meet and hold said sloth). Talk about a special souvenir to remember your unique Pittsburgh trip.

Located on the beautiful grounds of Allegheny Commons Park, close to the children’s museum, and easy to get to via public transportation, the National Aviary is one of the best Pittsburgh attractions to visit. If you’re driving, they have a small parking lot that costs $5 for the day, or you can find paid street parking out front.

13. Relax at Point State Park

Point State Park is located (in my opinion) in the most beautiful part of Pittsburgh, right at the little point of land where the three rivers meet. There is a gorgeous fountain right at the tip of the point, where I love to just sit and relax for a while.

But there are even more things to do at Point State Park than just relax at the giant fountain. You can rent a bike and ride around the park (and the three rivers heritage trail), or just take a stroll through the many riverfront trails. You can also visit the Fort Pitt Museum (which is included with your admission to the Heinz History Center).

14. Get Excited About Sports History

My dad is a HUGE Pittsburgh Steelers fan. And a Pirates fan. And a Penguins fan. And he doesn’t even watch baseball or hockey… he just likes Pittsburgh.

Now, I myself (for the record) am NOT a Steelers fan. Orrr… a baseball fan at all (but seriously, it’s sooo boring!!!). However, I can’t help but get a little excited about sports when I see all the historical sites in Pittsburgh. I even got excited about baseball when I read all the historic baseball moments that took place in the city.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Pittsburgh is the site of the first professional football game. In other words, it’s the place where players were first paid to play (American) football.
  • If you’re a football fan, you can also tour Acrisure Stadium (Formerly Heinz Field, which I personally think is a much better name. Like, how do you even pronounce that?? But I digress…). And I have to admit, it is a pretty cool stadium (If you’re not a sports fan, you can also experience the stadium for an epic concert, like Taylor Swift. Or as my mom called her, Twila Paris…).
  • You can stand in the spot where the immaculate reception was caught (if you’re not familiar with sports history, the immaculate reception was an unlikely reception off a teammate’s helmet that resulted in a game winning touchdown in the final seconds of a playoff game. Talk about dramatic. It is one of the greatest, and most controversial plays in sports history).
  •  The Pittsburgh Pirates played in the very first game of the World Series in 1903, at Huntington Ave. Grounds in Boston, MA. But games 4-6 of the first World Series were played at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh.
  • Babe Ruth hit his last (three!) home runs in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, PA, just a few days before the final baseball game of his storied career. His third and final home run of the game sailed out of the park, which was the first time anyone had ever hit a fair ball out of the (larger than average) Forbes Field.
  • Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente played baseball in Pittsburgh for his entire career, from 1955-1972. He was one of the first players of color to be hired by major league baseball, and was the first Latin-American player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But he is most remembered for his charity work, his incredible heart, and his tragic death, which occurred in pursuit of helping others. One of the Three Sisters bridges is named after him, and he has his own museum in Pittsburgh you can visit to learn more!
  • In 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates became the first team in major league baseball to field an all-Black lineup! So many big moments in baseball history happened right here in Pittsburgh!
  • To top it all off, if you’re a baseball fan (which I’m not…) you will know that PNC Park, the present day ballpark in downtown Pittsburgh, is considered by many to be the best ballpark in major league baseball. Not a bad spot to watch a game!

15. Relive a 1960’s World Series Game

Ok, I think I went a little crazy talking about all of the unique sports history that took place in Pittsburgh, but the city honestly has so many things to be proud of, that even us non-sports fans can get excited!

But there is one sporting event I haven’t mentioned yet, because it deserves its own spot on my list of unique things to do in Pittsburgh. If you are in town on October 13, you can relive the final World Series game of 1960!

And when I say relive, I mean that people gather at the site of the old ballpark, maybe pick up a hotdog from the stand down the street, and listen to a radio recording of the final game of the 1960’s World Series.

They cheer when the crowd cheers. They sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game when it’s played. And they don’t high five at the end of the game. Because people didn’t high five in 1960.

The 1960 World Series was unique to the history of baseball because it is the only World Series game that was won on a home run hit in the bottom of the final inning of the seventh (and last) game of the World Series. Talk about a dramatic finish.

And it just happened to be the Pittsburgh Pirates who won.

So go ahead and plan a trip to Pittsburgh in the fall, so you can relive this dramatic moment with a radio, hot dogs, and no high fives.

16. Eat Around the World in the Strip District

Moving on from sports… there are so many great places to eat in Pittsburgh! One of the best places to eat, and the best things to do in Pittsburgh, is the Strip District.

The Strip District is a neighborhood of Pittsburgh, located mostly between Penn Ave. and Smallman Street, with lots of local shops and restaurants.

The area is especially known for its international shops. You can visit a Japanese market, an Italian bakery, a Thai restaurant, or the famous Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. Whether you’re looking for fresh food to cook a meal, or want to grab an authentic slice of pizza and a cappuccino, you can find it in the Strip District.

There is plenty of parking available along the street, but the easiest place to park is in the lot behind The Terminal on Smallman Street. Parking is free for the first half hour. Also note that most shops in the Strip District will accept credit cards, but be sure to check first, as there are a few that don’t.

17. Eat Fries on a Sandwich (and Everything Else)

When you think of food in Pittsburgh, the first thought that comes to mind should be fries on sandwiches.

And when you think of fries on sandwiches (and salads!) the first thought that comes to mind should be: genius (because seriously, more people would enjoy eating salads if they all came with fries!).

The story goes that the truckers and blue collar workers didn’t have a lot of time (or hands) to eat with. So when Joe Primanti threw some spontaneous fries on their sandwich orders, they loved it! They could now scarf down their meals and get back to work, or eat everything with one hand, while still driving with the other.

Primanti Bros. is the famous chain from Pittsburgh, PA that sells the classic sandwiches with fries and coleslaw (though you can find fries on pretty much anything on pretty much any menu). Now, many Pittsburghians don’t particularly love the Primanti Bros. chain. But, they can all agree that if you’re going to eat at Primanti Bros, you have to eat at the original location in the Strip District (and, if you’re going to Pittsburgh, you have to eat a sandwich with fries on it).

The store is pretty small, so try to visit outside of peak dining hours. You can seat yourself, and pay at the counter when you’re done eating (and yes, they do accept credit cards).

18. Eat (Lots of!) Little Donuts

I have one more particular Strip District restaurant that I want to point out. Probably because I am obsessed with donuts, and these donuts are actually in my top 5 favorite donut shops in the US!

Peace, Love and Little Donuts is a small chain that can be found all over the north east, but the original shop is in the Strip District in Pittsburgh (and a bonus of visiting the original shop is that you get a free donut just for walking in!).

They have TONS of toppings to choose from, and the best part is, because they’re so little, you can try lots of different flavors!

19. Attend a Pickle Festival

On the subject of food, one of the most unique things to do in Pittsburgh is to attend a… wait for it… pickle festival (this is an entirely G rated festival, so if you’re mind went somewhere else… don’t!).

As we’ve already covered, Pittsburgh is home to the iconic Heinz ketchup company, but their original products were actually horseradish, sauerkraut, and pickles. You can celebrate this history at the annual pickle festival: Picklesburgh.

The festival takes place in July each year, and includes pickle pizza, pickle cotton candy, and even a pickle juice drinking contest… Challenge accepted! (Just kidding…I think I may have just thrown up in my mouth a little bit).

20. Eat a Big Mac at the Big Mac Museum

Now that we’re near the end of my list of things to do in Pittsburgh, I have a few unique things to add outside of the main city itself.

The first is a trip to a McDonald’s just outside of Pittsburgh, in Huntingdon, PA. Now…normally I don’t go to McDonald’s (you can’t even find one with a working milkshake machine most days…). But this McDonald’s has a display dedicated to the history of the Big Mac and the iconic restaurant chain (because #funfact the Big Mac was invented here!!).

They also have a giant Big Mac (a BIG Big Mac?) by the play area, which is great for goofy selfies. So it’s worth a stop if you have a car. Just make sure to add fries to your Big Mac, in true Pittsburgh fashion.

21. Day Trip to Fallingwater

Frank Lloyd Wright is probably the most well-known architect of all time (he’s at least the only architect that I know). And probably his most famous creation is Fallingwater.

This unique house is about an hour south of Pittsburgh, and is definitely worth a day trip to see the famous landmark and explore the walking trails on the grounds. 

22. Day Trip to Punxsutawney

And last of all, one final unique thing you can do on your trip to Pittsburgh is to take a day trip to Punxsutawney, PA (pronounced Punks-uh-taw-nee), home of the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.

You can find fun groundhog statues all over the small town, see the adorable “Phil” and his family (Phil magically doesn’t age, and has been the same venerable groundhog since they started the festival in 1877. There’s a sign), at the local library, and eat at Punxy Phil’s Family Restaurant.

Or, come in February for the annual Groundhog Day celebrations! And be sure to watch the movie Groundhog Day in preparation for your visit.

Did I Miss Any of Your Favorite Pittsburgh Activities?

Don’t be fooled into thinking these are the only things to do in Pittsburgh! The Steel City has no end to attractions, restaurants and entertainment!

If you have any more ideas of unique Pittsburgh attractions, feel free to share them in the comments below!

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🏨 Booking.com: For searching hotels

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✈️ Google Flights: For finding flight deals

🌎 WorldNomads: For travel insurance

🎉 GetYourGuide: For booking activities

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