My 48-Hour Love Affair With Pittsburgh During a Winter Freeze

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Pittsburgh is home to more than 440 bridges!

Pittsburgh is home to more than 440 bridges!

It just took 48 hours to fall in love with Pittsburgh. Sure, one of those mornings it was 3 degrees, but during my quick visit I found so many things to love about the Steel City.

Yes. Three degrees.

Yes. Three degrees.

Maybe I’m more aware of it but in my community of North Port, Fla., it seems as though every other vehicle has a Pittsburgh Steelers sticker or some kind of decor celebrating the six-time Super Bowl champs. Sunday afternoons during football season, Wal-mart is a sea of black and gold with Steelers fans. Yup, this Bills fan is living smack dab in the middle of Steelers country.

During my February trip, I had several people tell me how developers lured Pittsburghians (or do they preferred being called Pittsburghers?) down to my part of Florida for retirement. I’d say they were successful. Knowing this before touching down at the Pittsburgh International Airport and seeing first-hand how the residents love their city, especially their sports teams, it was easy to fall in love with Pittsburgh.

How do I love the Steel City? Let me count the ways.

Pittsburgh International Airport
Getting to Pittsburgh was easy, I flew low-carrier Allegiant Air which offers nonstop flights from a few Florida destinations including Punta Gorda (PGD) and St. Petersburg/Clearwater (PIE).

That's me! At the Pittsburgh International Airport with the statue commemorating the 1972 "Immaculate Reception."

That’s me! At the Pittsburgh International Airport with the statue commemorating the 1972 “Immaculate Reception.”

Passion for Sports
I love sports and without a doubt, so does Pittsburgh. Like, a lot. In the airport there’s a sculpture called “Immaculate Reception” to commemorate one of the most famous plays in the NFL. It was during a playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raideres at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium on Dec. 23, 1972. Steelers fullback Franco Harris scooped up a fumbled ball and ran for a game-winning touchdown. Yes. That was 1972 and in 2015, there’s a statue capturing that moment in time.

I also noticed that just about everyone I came in contact with was wearing some sort of Steelers apparel. Some were pretty obvious, like the bold black and gold jackets while others were more subtle, such as a small logo at the end of a scarf.

Consol Energy Center where the Pittsburgh Penguins play.

Consol Energy Center where the Pittsburgh Penguins play.

I was able to squeeze in a Pittsburgh Penguins (hockey) game during my visit and holy, moly! I didn’t realize how pretty dang fortunate I was to snag a ticket – one of the joys of traveling solo! Apparently, not all NHL teams have the same pricing structure. Even better was finding a discount code on the Penguin’s site to save a bit of dough, so I could afford one of those $8 or $9 beers. Thanks to one of my Facebook followers for the suggestion!

Blue and Bacon Burger with a side of red-skinned boiled potatoes at Tessaro's.

Blue and Bacon Burger with a side of red-skinned boiled potatoes at Tessaro’s.

The Food
Seriously, I needed to go on a food detox after visiting and I’d plan a return visit to Pittsburgh just based on the food. In addition to the Penn Avenue Fish Company (2208 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, Tel: 412-434-7200) where family friend Timmy Reynolds is the head fishmonger and I dined on a delicious lunch, I gobbled up a bacon and blue cheeseburger from Tessaro’s (4601 Liberty Ave., Tel: 412-682-6809).

No joke but this has to be one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. The burger, prepared medium, was thick and tender. Blue cheese added a creamy, smooth and slightly tangy flavor which was balanced by the salty and savory bacon. The side I chose was boiled red-skinned potatoes and when my server asked if I wanted drawn butter, “Of course,” was my response.

Pierogies from S&D Polish Deli are a beautiful thing.

Pierogies from S&D Polish Deli are a beautiful thing.

My friend Timmy also recommended I grab some pierogis from S&D Polish Deli (2204 Penn Ave., Tel: 724-858-8145) located next to the Penn Avenue Fish Company. O.M.G. This was like a taste of home – something my Mom would pick up from Buffalo’s Broadway Market. I had forgotten what pierogis are supposed to taste like – the dough was tender and inside was a soft, smooth goodness in the form of cheeses and potatoes. To-go packages were available and Timmy was right, they were the perfect munchies-fix after hockey game.

Primanti Brothers' No. 2 best seller - the Pitts-burger. What's No. 1? Beer.

Primanti Brothers’ No. 2 best seller – the Pitts-burger. What’s No. 1? Beer.

No visit to Pittsburgh is complete without a visit to Primanti Brothers (the original is in the Strip District, 46 18th St., Tel: 412-263-2142). No. Seriously. I don’t think they’ll let you leave the city without visiting.

Oh, boy. There’s a lot to choose from the menu and as a friend explained, these sandwiches were popular with truck drivers because everything is mashed between two pieces of Italian bread. Timmy told me they’re best after they’ve been wrapped tightly in the paper and all the different juices have a chance to blend together.

My meal of choice was the Pitts-burger, the number 2 best seller. It’s a burger patty piled high with coleslaw, french fries, fried egg, fried onion and tomato. So many flavors having a party in my mouth! What’s the number 1 best seller? Beer. If you go, they’re open 24 hours and are cash only.

When in Pittsburgh, try the Iron City Beer.

When in Pittsburgh, try the Iron City Beer.

Speaking of beer, I didn’t have a chance to explore Pittsburgh’s craft brews but did enjoy an Iron City Beer or two or…just remember, when visiting, order one. Thanks to one of my Facebook followers for the suggestion!

Ice on the Allegheny River, View from the Roberto Clemente Bridge - Pittsburgh, Pa., Feb. 12, 2015

Ice on the Allegheny River, View from the Roberto Clemente Bridge – Pittsburgh, Pa., Feb. 12, 2015

The Bridges
Bridges fascinate me and when I have the chance to walk across one, I’m on it. Literally. Okay, I’m not actually climbing all over it, but I’m walking and admiring the design in constructing it. Everywhere I turned, there seemed to be a bridge. Later I found out Pittsburgh is home to more than 440 bridges. Whoa!

Love Locks on Roberto Clemente Bridge, Pittsburgh, Pa., Feb. 12, 2015

Love Locks on Roberto Clemente Bridge, Pittsburgh, Pa., Feb. 12, 2015

Love Locks on the Roberto Clemente Bridge
I may get flamed for this because apparently there are two groups of thinking. Well, maybe more than two, but I definitely know there are some people who look at these love locks as graffiti and damage. Others see it as romantic. I’m from the latter school of thinking and we’ll just leave it at that. Side note: During the morning I walked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge it was 3 degrees yet I took off my gloves so I could snap photos of the love locks and bridge. 

Screen print demo at the Warhol Museum

Screen print demo at the Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol Museum
Wow. Wish I could have had a 15-minute conversation with artist Andy Warhol. He was an extremely creative man and sad his life ended so short. His expressions through art aren’t for everyone and I admit to not “getting” some of his work but still have an appreciation for his artistry. I spent several hours here including watching a screen print demonstration (in which I thought they were going to make a screen print but instead walked through the process) and enjoyed lunch of tomato soup and a sandwich. (117 Sandusky Street, Tel: 412-237-8300)

Screen printing demo at the Andy Warhol Museum.

Screen printing demo at the Andy Warhol Museum.

A Safe, Convenient Place to Stay
Home base was Spring Hill Suites Pittsburgh North Shore (223 Federal St.) and was absolutely perfect! Location was within easy walking distance to restaurants and attractions (including PNC Park where the Pirates play). The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to anywhere within a three-mile radius (don’t be the cheapskate and remember to tip the driver!) and complimentary breakfast. My room was spacious with a separate work area and kitchenette, which is why I was able to refrigerate my pierogis and heat them up in a microwave.

Pittsburgh, until we meet again I’ll be dreaming of you and wondering what else you have to show me once the snow melts.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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3 Comments

  1. Did you learn any Pittsburghese while you were there? (Also, I added a link to this in my newsletter)

  2. Funny you should ask – at the airport I bought a shotglass with Pittsburghese on it 🙂

  3. Your Pittsburgh experience is not uncommon………….but that your report did not note the hyper-friendliness of Pittsburghers. Also the beautiful tapestry of ethnic neighborhoods & with them authentic foods from all over the world……in restaurants and markets. I was born there but have lived in southernmost Florida/Florida City, Loxahatchee & for 23 yrs rural St Lucie County. If you have never been or it’s been awhile since you visited Fort Pierce, be my guest for a tour of great old Florida history in the town where old Florida traditions continue. This December 13th we will celebrate the 450th anniversary of this area first being naned Santa Lucia by Menendez in 1565. Part of the celebration is a recreation of the REAL 1st Thanksgiving which was here in Florida by the Spanish………..long before Plymouth!!!!!!!

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