Home to part of America’s manufacturing heartland during the heyday of the Industrial Revolution, the legacy of magnates like Andrew Carnegie and John Heinz can still be seen throughout Pittsburgh. The economic activity generated by their empires not only populated the downtown core of this city with the stylish skyscrapers that still proudly define the skyline today, but their philanthropic spirit also spawned countless museums that gifted the citizens of this blue collar town with world class art, historical and scientific institutions.
In the modern era, this no doubt led a man by the name of Andy Warhol to take the world by storm with a brand of art never seen before – one that was defined by the pop culture that we were being exposed to in the early days of television. And if all this wasn’t enough, the geography of Philadelphia‘s little brother grants it views that have received accolades in national publications.
So if you’re headed westward towards the Midwest from the Mid-Atlantic coast in the course of your American explorations, plan a multi-day pit stop in Pittsburgh … you’ll be glad you did.
The first stop you should make when combing through the cultural highlights of Pittsburgh should be The Andy Warhol Museum, which is the largest museum in America that is dedicated to a single artist. This museum offers the full spectrum of Warhol’s works, with 900 paintings, 1,000 prints, 77 sculptures, 4,000 photos, and countless films spread over seven intriguing floors.
Those looking for a wider variety of modern art pieces should make the Carnegie Museum of Art their next stop, as its status as an institute funded by the Carnegie estate ensures much more diverse collection within its walls. Opened in 1895, it was the first modern art gallery of its kind in the United States, with sections on sculpture and architecture being added in 1907. In particular, the sculpture hall houses statues from Egypt, and from the days of the Greek and Roman Empire, making it a place that lovers of ancient art can’t miss!
Another attraction in Pittsburgh’s core that was brought into being and funded by the industrialists of yesteryear is the Heinz History Center. This place tells the story of this character-filled city, as well as the region in which it sits. As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, it often hosts exhibits brought in from the mother museum in Washington DC, complimenting the permanent exhibitions that highlight the history of Pittsburgh’s people and industries.
If you consider yourself a person of the sciences rather than the arts, the Carnegie estate has not forgotten about you, as they have also conceived and sustained the Carnegie Science Center. You won’t be alone at this popular museum, as it is the most visited attraction of its kind in the city.
Many visit to see roboworld, the world’s largest exhibit that pays homage to the rapidly expanding science of robotics. Also of note here is the USS Requin, a decommissioned submarine dating back to the Second World War, as well as a miniature railroad that will delight the young and the young at heart.
As spectacular as Pittburgh’s downtown core looks while you walk amidst its art deco skyscrapers, it looks all the more stunning when viewed from Mount Washington. While it is certainly not a mountain, this neighborhood, elevated on a bluff well above the Monongahela River, boasts views that have moved publications such as USA Weekend (a weekend supplement to USA Today) to declare it one of the best skyline views in the nation.
Getting here is half the fun, as you can ride a funicular from the neighborhoods closer to the river’s edge beneath to the top in Mount Washington. After you have snapped some spectacular pano shots of the Pittsburgh skyline, indulge in some of the best restaurants in the city, which take advantage of one of the best urban vistas that can be found in the Eastern United States.
If you have some time to kill before heading onward to your next destination, spending a few hours strolling through the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a significantly better way to end your time in Steel Town. Started in 1893 by real estate and steel tycoon Henry Phipps, this iconic garden has played host to immaculately sculpted English and Roman style gardens and exotic flora such as palms and orchids for well over 100 years.
Today, the green heart of Pittsburgh has maintained its green thumb, ranking as a Silver LEED structure, despite the fact that the original structure was erected well before building in an environmentally responsible manner was de rigeur.