There are so many things that people should know about my home city that I had a heck of a time paring it down to four items. While the ‘Burgh used to be known as the Smoky City, Pittsburgh today is so shiny-spectacular that it’s making all of the Top 10 lists, from the "Top 25 Places to Retire" (Forbes) to the "Best Cities in the Country for Foodies" (nerdwallet.com) to the "Ten Best Downtowns" (Livability.com).
There’s so much I want people to hear, from the incredible amount of green space the city has, to how much fun it is to boat along the three rivers, to how cool it is to hang with friends in out-of-the-way clubs or stand among thousands of baseball fans cheering another Andrew McCutchen home run. From the affordable cost of living to the huge amount of hiking trails….well, you get the idea.
Because my brain is about to burst, I finally decided to just focus on what’s always made Pittsburgh special to me—the people who call it home. A city is nothing without its people, and we’ve got some of the best. We’re proud of our city, and we want to share it. And that was even before it started winning all of these popularity contests!
So I’m writing this with the stipulation that I’m leaving SO MUCH out—which is why you just have to come visit.
Yes, we’re a sports’ city, but we’re so much more than that. Now don’t get me wrong—if you’re born or raised in this area, you do pretty much bleed black and gold. But there are times when we’re not watching a Pirates, Steelers or Penguins game—even during the season—and that’s when our cultural side comes out. Pittsburghers are big supporters of the arts, from the world-renowned Pittsburgh Symphony, Ballet Theatre and Opera, to the City Theatre and Civic Light Opera. More than 100,000 people are members of the Carnegie Museums, and more than 1.3 million people are reached by their programs. And that’s not even taking into consideration all of the other ‘burghers who attend performances by smaller arts groups, including Attack Theatre and Squonk Opera, or who meet for my personal favorite, the four-times-yearly Gallery Crawl.
We’re proud of our distinct neighborhoods. While Pittsburgh is one big melting pot, it’s still made up of people of very diverse backgrounds, and many of the city’s 90 neighborhoods echo these ethnic traditions. From Bloomfield, otherwise known as Pittsburgh’s "Little Italy," to Squirrel Hill, which honors the area’s Jewish legacy, people’s pride in their heritage shows. Many churches and synagogues original to these areas still stand, and recipes that have been passed down through generations can be sampled at many of the restaurants in town. We even have a Pittsburgh pierogi fest, for goodness’ sakes! If you want a snapshot of all of the cultures that have helped to influence the area, make sure to visit the Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland; you can take a free audio tour of the 29 rooms or a guided tour when school isn’t in session.
We appreciate diversity, even if that means you’re a six-foot-tall stuffed animal. One of my favorite things to do is walk the city, because you never know who you’ll run into. I spent one Saturday afternoon getting swept up into a Gay Pride parade, along with a number of Pittsburghers who were headed to a Pirates’ game. Another afternoon found me watching the Anthrocon parade (otherwise known as the "Furries" who visit Pittsburgh every year), along with hundreds of families and their kids. When the parade was over, the costumed crowd and Pirates’ fans could be found mingling at local downtown restaurants. And if you want to see a real mix of Pittsburgh personalities, visit Primanti’s Restaurant in the Strip around 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning to share sammies with Gen Xers, baby boomers and millennials all in one place.
It really is as impressive as all of those Top 10 lists make it out to be. There are 1,000 more reasons why Pittsburgh is the coolest, but I’m out of space! Trust me when I say that no matter what your interest, this city has something for everyone. Come and see for yourself and find out!
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