Downtown Pittsburgh, the city’s financial and business core, is three-quarters of a square mile stacked to overflowing with impressive skyscrapers. At first glance, Downtown appears to be an ultra modern metropolis, but Pittsburgh was founded in the mid-18th century, and still retains many of its original historic features.
The district is bounded by two rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, which merge on the western point of the Downtown peninsula to form the Ohio River. With ten bridges in Downtown Pittsburgh alone and over four hundred more within the city limits, Pittsburgh has rightfully earned its nickname – the City of Bridges.
Surrounded by water as it is, there’s an abundance of diverse aquatic activities as well as lots to do on dry land. Don’t miss any of these fifteen best things to do in Downtown Pittsburgh because they’re all fantastic fun.
1. Just Ducky
Explore Downtown Pittsburgh by land and water on a Just Ducky amphibious vehicle. The tours depart from Station Square on the city’s South Shore which is reached from Downtown by crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge.
Hit the Monongahela River to float past Downtown’s stunning skyline before emerging onto terra firma once more to drive around the streets taking in the mainsights.
The tour takes around one hour and is narrated by the driver-guide. Expect some duck and quack-themed jokes along the way; they’re all part of the Just Ducky fun.
Another fun way to get around: Pittsburgh Segway Tour
2. Benedum Center For Performing Arts
The Benedum Center For Performing Arts on 7th Street is the place to go to see a Broadway show, opera, ballet or top artist.
The Center is a renovated cinema with tiered balconies and has a seating capacity for almost three thousand spectators.
Expect world-class performances of dance classics like the Nutcracker Suite or the contemporary version Hip Hop Nutcracker as well as international stars like Celtic Woman and Mariah Carey to be gracing the stage.
3. Fort Pitt Museum
Step back in time to the founding days of Pittsburgh at the Fort Pitt Museum in Commonwealth Place in Point State Park.
The museum has both indoor and outdoor exhibits demonstrating the city’s important role in America’s independence. A first-floor gallery allows visitors to experience life in the 18th century with interactive exhibits and live military reenactments.
Adjacent to the museum in Point State Park is the Fort Pitt Blockhouse which is the only part of the original fort remaining.
4. PPG Place Plaza
No matter what time of the year it is, there’s always something happening at the PPG Place Plaza.
In the summer, the plaza’s central focus is a cooling display of one-hundred and forty water jets shooting fifteen feet up in the air. The fountain is illuminated in the evenings and the jets dance to a choreographed light show.
In winter, from November through to the beginning of March, the plaza is turned into a spectacular outdoor ice rink with skate rental on site.
5. Andy Warhol Museum
Cross the Andy Warhol Bridge from Downtown Pittsburgh to the city’s North Shore to visit the Andy Warhol Museum.
The museum only exhibits works by the late twentieth century master of pop art. The prolific collection of Andy Warhol works at the museum fill seventeen different galleries spread over seven floors covering a total exhibition space of over eighty thousand square feet.
The museum also houses several interactive workshops which invite visitors to try their hand at using some of Warhol’s famous techniques to create their own unique artwork.
6. Olive Or Twist
The Olive or Twist is a classy cocktail bar on 6th Street. The bar’s specialty is the Martini and adding unusual twists to traditional cocktail blends.
The two-story bar has an upstairs lounge with a VIP area and is decorated throughout with bare brick walls and dark wood furniture making it both warm and stylish.
The Olive or Twist present live music at the weekends and have a food menu featuring up-market pub grub.
Related tour: Pittsburgh Brewery Tour with Lunch or Dinner
7. Bike Pittsburgh
Pick up a bicycle from Golden Triangle Bike Rental on First Avenue in and explore the district on two wheels.
Cycle along Downtown Pittsburgh’s traffic-free Three Rivers Trail which runs through the district for several miles starting at the Monongahela Wharf Landing all the way to the Riverfront Plaza Convention Center. If that’s not enough mileage, the trail also runs along the adjacent North Shore.
For those who don’t want to cycle solo, Golden Triangle Bike Rental run organized tours lead by a qualified guide.
Prefer driving by bus? Try the hop-on hop-off: Hop On & Hop Off Tour Pass
8. Heinz Hall
Heinz Hall on Penn Avenue is home to both the city’s Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Youth Orchestra.
The venue originally opened as a luxury cinema in the late 1920s, underwent extensive renovations in the mid-1990s and although the building is externally plain, inside it’s the height of opulence.
Heinz Hall hosts around two hundred live performances annually which include solo artists, entertainment stars and stand up comedians as well as orchestral works.
9. The Original Oyster House
The Original Oyster House on Market Squarehas been serving food to the DT community for almost fifteen decades. Any restaurant open for nearly one hundred and fifty years survives for one reason – a top-notch reputation for first-class food and hospitality.
While the restaurant name may lead customers to believe oysters are the main item on the menu, they’d be mislead, as cod and shrimp take prime place though a Key West Oyster Dinner does star as a special.
It’s not just good food which draws people to the Original Oyster House, the premises have been used as film set locations in twenty-five movies including Night Of The Living Dead.
10. PPG Paints Arena
The PPG Paints Arena on 5th Avenue is a multi-purpose indoor venue for major league sports events and live concerts.
The arena serves as a home base for Pittsburgh’s NHL Ice Hockey team the Pittsburgh Penguins who regularly fill the nineteen thousand seat stadium to maximum capacity.
A plethora of international stars have performed at the arena including Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry since its opening just under a decade ago.
11. Mellon Square
Mellon Square on Oliver Avenue when it first opened in the mid-1950s was an innovative green space the likes of which had not been seen before. The one and a half acre garden plaza was created on the rooftop of a subterranean parking lot and after extensive renovation work in 2014 has become a mini social hub where locals and visitors gather to relax outdoors.
The square has geometrically patterned pathways, illuminated fountains, and benches ideal for sitting down to read the latest bestseller. Throughout the summer months there are regular meditations sessions in Mellon Square, plus Tai Chi and Yoga classes, live music sessions and line dancing classes.
12. City Lights Segway Tour
Ride a Segway through Downtown Pittsburgh at night to see the district in all its nocturnal splendor.
Meet the guide on Station Street Drive on DT Pittsburgh’s South Shore and have a brief instruction session before heading back over Smithfield Street Bridge to explore the best parts of Downtown at night.
Tours last for around ninety minutes, and there are several daytime options available too.
13. Lock and Dam Dinner
Enjoy a barbecue while floating past on a one hundred and twenty-foot long paddlewheel riverboat.
Experience passing through a lock while tucking into the Gateway Clipper’s tasty spice rubbed pork ribs and Texas Mop chicken legs with some mac and cheese on the side. Then take in the Downtown sights as the dessert of cinnamon spiced apple pie is served.
The barbecue cruise lasts for about two and a half hours, has a full on-board bar service plus a DJ playing dance music.
14. Howl At The Moon
For a fun night and drinks by the bucketful, drop in at the Howl At The Moon on 7th Street. Be prepared for a lively night out in a spacious and modern venue.
Howl at the Moon is a dueling piano bar, with lots of other instruments too, which favors party and popular music animated enough to get all their customers up off their chairs and boogying along with the songs.
Cocktails in Howl in at the Moon are served in buckets. Don’t leave without trying Sex on the Moon or Adios Mofo. A good night is guaranteed.
15. Duquesne Incline
If there’s one thing everyone should do when it has to be the Duquesne Incline.
Head over to the South Shore to take a ride on a funicular railway which has been in operation since 1877. The track is less than eight hundred feet long, and the cars move at just six miles per hour, so it might not sound like the most exciting thing to do, but believe it, the views of Downtown Pittsburgh from the Duquesne Incline are seriously breathtaking.