14 Jun 48 Hours In: Pittsburgh
For whatever reason, I’ve always been curious about Pittsburgh. Aside from the gorgeous and immaculately preserved examples of Gothic Architecture, I was drawn to the small town, arts focused vibe. I booked a trip to Pittsburgh as a surprise Christmas gift for my partner, and our two day escapade was SO much more than we both expected. Here’s how to spend a weekend in the little-big city of Pittsburgh!
Check in and fuel up. We chose to stay at the Ace Hotel, partly because of the perfect East Liberty location and partly because I am unabashedly obsessed with Ace Hotels. With both an excellent restaurant and coffee/booze bar in the lobby, it was easy for us to fuel up before setting out for the day. Located in a converted former YMCA building, both the interior and exterior are beautifully designed in classic Ace fashion; homage paid to the building’s former use updated with modern elements throughout. Grab a Stumptown coffee and prep your brain to consume ALL OF THE ART!
How much art can you take? Tons, if you’re a local Pittsburghian apparently. From the teeny tiny, totally unique Mattress Factory to the Andy Warhol Museum, there is so much to feast your eyes on. Arrive early to the Mattress Factory to grab a coffee at the cafe and stroll the surrounding cobble stone streets lined with colourful Folk-Victorian row homes. Comprised of three buildings, The Mattress Factory will take about 2 hours to completely walk through (depending on whether or not you linger at certain exhibits). The heavy art-focus is comprised of ever changing installations with a few main anchors including two permanent Yayoi Kusama exhibits. It currently houses one of the largest collections of Greer Lankton works, including a recreation of the artist’s Chicago apartment.
Lunch break! Smallman Galley is “what happens when you apply a Silicon Valley-style incubator to restaurants.” Located in the Strip-District, this 6000 square foot space feature a rotating selection independent eateries serving up their very best in a variety of cuisine styles. If you prefer a quick in and out bite, not to worry – just grab a slice of pizza!
“Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”. Get your second dose of creative stimulation for the day from the 8-floor Andy Warhol Museum. Possibly Pittsburgh’s most famous export, each floor of the museum is dedicated to a period within the artist’s life, along with an underground level that serves as a conservation lab. From early sketches to famous finished works, the museum is home some of Warhol’s most iconic pieces. You can immerse yourself even further by trying to recreate one of his pieces using various signature watercolour and silkscreen techniques in the museums “factory” space.
Pre-dinner cocktails. If you’re not staying at The Ace, head there to get your evening started. Come happy hour, the lobby becomes a local hangout for the after work crowd. Snag a seat and choose from a perfectly curated list of seasonal cocktails and craft beers paired with small snacks from The Whitfield located just across the hall. The buzz of the crowd is sure to get you going if Negronis won’t do the trick!
A night on the town. Pittsburgh has one of the most incredible up and coming culinary scenes in America – you’ll end the weekend a few pounds heavier (trust me, it’s worth it). Head chef Justin Severino of Cure believes that no part of the animal should ever be wasted, and proves his point through the perfectly cured and smoked menu. Sourcing ingredients from local purveyors to ensure the best possible quality, this Upper Lawrenceville hotspot requires a reso due to its intimate dining area and tasting style dining. A true classic, the beef tartare is an absolute must try. Equipped with a full belly but a yearning for just one more drink, head to Acacia. The prohibition speakeasy style bar is across town, but worth the trek. Enjoy a spiced mezcal nightcap or have one of their cocktail wizards create something custom for you.
Prepare for the best brunch you’ve ever had. This is not a drill. Bar Marco calls a former fire station home, and serves up the some of the most epic breakfasts in Pittsburgh. With a focus on simple dishes and local fare, one bite into their cloud-like brioche will send you straight to brunch heaven. Morning dessert is totally a thing, so do NOT skip the donuts! To avoid the need you’ll probably feel for a post-food coma siesta, stroll the strip district to explore the amazing artisanal vendors, and grab a coffee from Colangelo’s on your way out.
Take in some history. One of four Carnegie museums, the Museum of Natural History is crazy old, crazy beautiful, and crazy amazing. Founded in 1896, it’s one of the most renowned natural history museums in the USA. One of the most awe-inspiring exhibits is Dinosaurs in Their Time, which features 230 authentic fossils. If culture is your thing, there is both an American Indian and ancient Egypt exhibition. Last but not least, the Wertz Gallery features a stunning collection of gems from around the world, including a 3106 carat diamond.
The last supper. Located in the heart of the downtown Financial District, Butcher and the Rye will satisfy your now completely unrealistic expectations of Pittsburgh’s food scene. From the ever so delicate pork belly to the melt in your mouth mussels, the elevated pub style menu is packed with amazing options. And it doesn’t stop there. The perfect balance of classic and experimental cocktails are the perfect accompaniment to your meal. Or try a whiskey flight, if that’s more your speed. Both Wigle and Boyd & Blair are both distilleries right in Pittsburgh, so you can really drink like a local.
Beer and a movie. This is one of the most unique establishments in the whole city. Row House Cinema is a single-screen theatre with a rotating list of films based on a different theme each week. And possibly the coolest part? It’s attached to Bierport, a craft beer bottle shop with nearly 1000 flavours available for purchase. Do a pre-screening tasting on the lower level, with flights curated by the shop’s in house experts. Once you’ve found your new favourite brew, you can purchase a bottle and take it into the theatre with you. YUP. AMAZING. You win, Pittsburgh.