THE HAPPY WANDERER – PITTSBURGH


Livable Pittsburgh steps from haze

By Ginny Prior Columnist

Name the most livable city in America. If you said ” Pittsburgh,” give yourself a hand. The distinction by Places Rated Almanac reflects an almost unimaginable turnaround for a city once known as the Steel Capital of the U.S. Today, Pittsburgh is not only one of the 10 cleanest cities in the world (Forbes Magazine), it’s a great city to explore on foot, bike, Segway or kayak.

It’s the confluence of three rivers that makes Pittsburgh so special. Like an exquisite, hand-woven rug, a network of bridges crosses these waterways — each with its own architectural draw. In fact, Pittsburgh has more bridges (446) than any city on earth, even Venice, Italy .

One of the best ways to see Pittsburgh and at least a dozen of its bridges is by kayak. After a brief tutorial, Kayak Pittsburgh puts you on the river for an easy paddle that lets you take in nature and see the cityscape from a unique perspective.

Or you can rent a bike and ride as far as you’d like along the Great Allegheny Passage, a breathtaking 300-plus-mile rail-to-trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. It’s one of my great goals in life to tackle this trail, taking in the wild rivers and bucolic farm towns along the way.

Equally as adventurous is seeing Pittsburgh by Segway, those futuristic machines that travel in pods through most tourist destinations. Segway in Paradise runs the concession in Pittsburgh, a compact city that lends itself well to these self-balancing, electric transporters. Their launching point is one of the city’s top attractions — Station Square.It’s here that two of the last working inclines still climb the hills high above Pittsburgh, taking passengers to one of the best views in America. As the cable cars ascend, a breathtaking view unfolds of the rivers, the bridges and 38 miles of downtown shoreline punctuated by landmarks such as Heinz Field (home of the Steelers) and PNC Park (Pittsburgh’s retro downtown ballpark). The Allegheny Mountains frame one of the prettiest pictures you’ll see, especially at sunset.

One of the world’s tallest fountains can be seen in Pittsburgh. Fed by an underground river, it shoots a geyser-like spray 275 feet into the air. Other oddities in town are the 712 sets of outdoor steps built into the city’s hilly terrain. There are even “step tours” that take the city’s more mobile tourists up and down the 44,645 steps, though undoubtedly not in one day.

The fact that Pittsburgh has such great outdoor appeal only serves to sharpen the appetite. Luckily, there’s a famous sandwich to handle this kind of hunger. Take your choice of meat and add coleslaw and French fries — inside the bread. Any food that falls out is fair game for the rest of the table, especially if it’s dipped in another native dish: Heinz Ketchup. The sandwich is one of the city’s sloppier culinary treats, best made at a Pittsburgh institution called Primanti Brothers in the historic Strip District. Top it off with a Clark Bar (invented in a house in Pittsburgh’s north side in 1886) and you’re ready to tackle the city’s four Carnegie museums, including the art center named for one of its most famous sons, Andy Warhol.

The Warhol is a unique, interactive museum that celebrates contemporary art and pop culture. Much like the city itself, the museum is constantly re-defining itself in relation to contemporary life.

It makes me think that Warhol would no doubt be pleased today with the transformation of Pittsburgh. A town where steel mills once belched black smoke into an air barely breathable is a shining example of the ingenuity of America and her ability to reinvent herself.

Pittsburgh is celebrating its 250th anniversary. For more information, go online to www.visitpittsburgh.com.

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