Pittsburgh sits where the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet, so it’s no wonder that this city of bridges attracts those who love to spend time on the water. Even if you’re not a local, there are a number of ways that you get out on the rivers, whether you prefer to kayak or paddleboard, or travel in style on a riverboat cruise.
If you want to learn more about the city, or spend a great evening socializing with friends and enjoying local food, a Gateway Clipper cruise may be the way to go. The fleet, made up of paddlewheel-style riverboats, travel along the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers, and you can choose the type of cruise you want to take. You can spend an afternoon on an hour-long, narrated tour learning about Pittsburgh’s early days as a frontier village, its buildings and bridges, or even the quirky things that make it unique, and leave with a wealth of knowledge about the Steel City.
If you prefer to take it up a notch, I’d recommend one of the fleet’s evening cruises, where you can enjoy dinner, music, dancing, and cocktails on a 2-1/2 hour tour. There are specialized over-21 events that include wine and beer tastings, and even a polka cruise that features all of Pittsburgh’s food favorites like haluski, pierogies, kielbasa and sauerkraut, and hot sausage sandwiches
If you have kids, they might enjoy the Gateway Clipper’s special tours for the younger set, which include a Super Heroes cruise, where they get to hang with Spiderman and other caped crusaders; the Princess Sing-a-long Cruise, or the Enchanted Rivers School of Wizardry where kids can learn magic and games of skill.
Speaking of kids, Just Ducky tours are fun for the whole family. These World War II amphibious vehicles take you from the land to the water while still in the same vehicle, starting at Station Square and touring downtown before splashing into the river for a chance to see the city from off-shore. Sports fans should note that you can even take a combo tour that starts at Heinz Field for a behind-the scenes walking tour before heading into the river to see the stadiums from a different view. Note that it’s advisable to make online reservations ahead of time as a number of the tours sell out quickly—sometimes two to three days in advance—especially in the summer when everyone wants to spend time on the rivers.
If you’d rather get a workout while enjoying the scenery, visit Kayak Pittsburgh, located on the city’s North Shore, to rent a kayak or paddle board. Though you won’t get a guided tour this way, it’s my favorite way to see the city just because it’s unique. While Kayak Pittsburgh is part of the nonprofit Venture Outdoors, you don’t need a membership to take part; all you have to do is show up and rent a boat!
Even if you’re never done it before, it’s easy to get comfortable; staff can teach you how to use a kayak in about 10 to 15 minutes, and they’ll let you know where on the water to go. Kayaks also come with a life vest and you’re never that far from shore, so it’s a great way to get introduced to the sport. You can also take advantage of special programs like fireworks paddles, full moon paddles and more for a really different look at the river.
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Freelance writer. Road tripper. Travel diva. Dog rescuer. Writes for food or kibbles and bits. Based out of Pittsburgh, PA, via Juneau, AK, Vanessa has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years, and has been published in many diverse publications,including GEEK, Recreation News, CATS, VFW magazine, the Antique Trader and more. An avid traveler, she always brings home amazing memories...and often more dogs. Follow Vanessa on her blog, Mood Swings and Other Things, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.
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