How To Live Your Best (Vacay) Life In Pittsburgh
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
May 2018 was full of happiness and anger, stress and relaxation. Funny how much can occur in 4 weeks. Some mornings I woke early, other mornings I hit snooze so many times, my daughter had to wake me to take her to school. I was lively, I was exhausted. My kid was independent, but also clingy. My husband was loving, but also on my nerves. My diet improved, but the scale was not always kind. My blog attracted thousands of visitors one week, and the next week the visitors decreased by 50%. I wrapped up my final spring quarter of business school, but my pockets were dry from ordering a hundred Harvard case studies. I was offered a new position in my company, then the position was put on hold.
What comes to mind when you think of Pittsburgh?
Wiz Khalifa? Heinz Ketchup? The STEELers?
When I think of Pittsburgh, CASSIA (no, not cinnamon) comes to mind. She's the best friend who has known and loved me from my prudish, awkward middle school days to my now less prudish, awkward late 20s mother and wife days. Since she moved from our hometown Rochester, NY to Pittsburgh, PA for college 10 years ago, I've made a few trips there.
This time around, my husband and I went on a Memorial Day weekend excursion, and drove to Pittsburgh for my 5th visit. I live for a 3 day weekend. Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, I am usually out of town. Sadly, I’ve never worked a job where I had Martin Luther King Day off, and every year I wonder if being a teacher was my true calling.
Let me tell you the story of my 2-day getaway and why I think you TOO would enjoy the City of Steel / City of Bridges / City of Cassia!
I wake in Pittsburgh at my friend’s big apartment. I marvel at the fact that Cassia’s air mattress is pretty comfortable and has stayed mostly inflated through the night. Aside from a runny nose due to my cat allergies, I slept well.
I’m on this health kick right now (hopefully long-term), so my husband and I go for a morning jog. This takes me to one of the first characteristics I notice about Pitt.
It is super hilly. I mean hills on hills on hills. A treadmill doesn’t have this much incline. Apart from our morning runs, I would sometimes get a little nervous when driving because out of nowhere the road ahead would disappear and slope down at what appears to be a perilous angle. The hills and potholes may not necessarily be so advantageous for driving, but for the fitness fanatics, the steep roads are great for challenging runs, walks, and bike rides. I had some good workouts in the hilly, but beautiful neighborhood of Morningside where we were stayed.
So yes, I had to include that I worked out, because although I gained 5 pounds on this excursion, I’d like to think I averted an extra 2 by being intentionally active!
Brunch at Park Bruges
After our morning run, our hostess forced us to walk from Morningside to Highland Park to see the sights. Climbing hills in 80 degree weather, why not.
Sidenote: Dear Cassia, I enjoyed the walk. I am being dramatic and sarcastic for the sake of humor. I hope you laugh. *sends air hug to Pitt*
I don’t exactly recall when my generation became obsessed with brunches and mimosas, but presently, I can’t imagine my life without them. I especially enjoy brunch because it makes me feel less guilty for imbibing during the early hours of the day. Brunch booze is classy. So yeah, brunch on vacay is a must.
We met up with a couple of Cassia’s comrades, and started brunchin’ away. I wish I had photos of the brunch, but honestly a combination of hunger and absent mindedness didn't allow me to yell “HEY, DON'T TOUCH YOUR PLATES. I NEED PHOTOS OF EVERYONE’S FOOD FOR MY BLOG.” Kind of annoying trying to live life and create content at the same time. So yeah, no pics of food, but here’s a pic of my husband and I looking cute instead.
Time for some culture. This museum is huge and full of many colorful, vivid exhibits and displays that both adults and children can surely enjoy. Kids will especially like the expansive dinosaur exhibit - it's in my plan to take Bella the next time I visit. You can easily spend the whole day here if you're not watching your time.
One of the exhibits that stuck with me was the 80th entry of CMOA’s Forum Contemporary Art Series by Deana Lawson (native of my hometown Rochester, NY). The exhibit will be on display until July 22, 2018 if you’re in the area. You can also search many of the photos on google to see for yourself, although the life size version in person is a much different experience.
There were varying opinions on the exhibit which includes photos of African Americans in their homes and I enjoyed reading the comments that were posted by visitors outside of the exhibit. From the exhibit itself “[Lawson’s] depiction of black bodies in intimate, often unseen spaces allude to notions of voyeurism, while challenging views on race and identity in the 21st century.”
Although I had mixed feelings about the exhibit, I appreciated visiting a space where race and identity can be explored through art.
2000's Top Hits Dance Party at Cattivo
So after a chic brunch, a thought-provoking visit to the museum, a stop at Giant Eagle to buy some allergy meds, a car wash, and a 3 hour nap, we decided to ratchet it up and go dancing.
It was odd getting dressed to go out at night, even though I did it all of the time in college. Not sure if that's due to motherhood or age. I'm not that old, am I?
I had a good night. Decent bar prices, pool tables, dance floor, and mostly good music. If I wasn’t aware of my age, going to a 2000's Top Hits party threw it right in my face. When’s the last time you heard D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” or JKwons “Tipsy” in the club? When’s the last time you did the chicken head, leaned with it, rocked with it, threw an imaginary ball in the air and caught it? Well I was doing alladat last Saturday and I was getting my entire life.
I’m not sure what it’s like on other nights, but I think out of everything, I most enjoyed the crowd. You know how sometimes you go to those nightspots where people just come to post up, look cute, and judge everyone else’s outfits? This was totally different. People were dancing, and having a good time. Everybody! It was just what I needed to reaffirm I CAN still hang. Kind of. Sort of. Okay, not really. We left before 2 a.m., but still I showed up, and showed out, and that's what counts.
Be sure to take note of Cassia's blue lip. I forced her to wear it, muahahaha. Also huge thanks to my husband, and Cassia's boyfriend, Chris, for putting up with our best friend antics! It was mostly Cassia and I dancing the night away, as they grinned and beared it. LOVE YOU, BYE.
Pittsburgh Strip District
Sunday morning, after drinking copious amounts of water, and somehow fulfilling another run on the hills, we ventured to the Strip District, also known as Pittsburgh’s Historic Market District. I wholly enjoy the strip’s eclectic, quirky vibe!
Here you’ll find street vendors selling everything from blood red oranges to Pittsburgh Steeler hats and shirts, stylish sunglasses, homemade candles, and the new craze: liquid nitrogen ice cream. There are plenty of restaurants and grocers to patronize. The gorgeous murals and brick buildings made for a scenic walk, and although I usually don’t care for crowds, this felt more like a fun street carnival and less a crowded public market.
Brunch at Kaya (On the Strip)
Okay so this time we have pics of the food.
Brunch was perfect. Tasty food and amazing drinks!
I’m a big fan of fish tacos, so that’s really the only thing I saw on this island-inspired menu. I skipped the mimosa this time and went for something more exotic called the “Red Sky at Night.” I also had a sip of Cassia’s Spicy Cucumber Margarita. Loving the fancy names, loving the fancy taste.
Foodwise, I had 2 dishes: my fish tacos, and some of my husband’s Tropical Paella. The tacos were just the right amount of fried fish, cabbage slaw, avocado and spice. In my opinion cabbage slaw tends to make everything better. I’m not entirely sure why someone who dislikes seafood would order paella, but my husband is one a of a kind. So in addition to my tacos, I had most of his scallops and mussels too which were flavorful and pretty filling.
R Wine Cellar – Urban Winery (On the Strip)
After walking around the strip for a bit, we stopped for some wine tasting because we are dedicated to culture and fine wine / they were offering 6 wine samples for the free. FOR THE FREE.
I appreciated the urban feel of this winery, and I will say my favorite wine was made with grapes from Lake Erie (Finger Lakes Wines reign supreme in my book, IJS).
Peace, Love and Little Donuts (On the Strip)
Okay, I lied, I really came to Pittsburgh for the little doughnuts. This place puts your favorite doughnut chain to shame. The plain doughnuts are made fresh, and then made to order. You want a vanilla cream doughnut with fruity pebbles on top? Watch them grab a doughnut, dip it in cream and cereal so fast you don’t even know what just happened. So many varieties to choose from. Maple bacon doughnuts, Mint Chocolate doughnuts, Coconut, Blueberry...
I ordered 12 and ate 5. No shame.
Just Ducky Tours at Station Square
Okay, so I’m going to be honest. This was my least favorite of the activities, but probably the most appreciated by my husband. Compromise! Everyone knows when you go on a trip with other people, sometimes you have to consider other people’s boring interests. LOL.
If you recall from my Miami post, I’m just not that into duck tours. The whole travelling around the city and then submerging into the water takes a long time. The narrators always tell horrible jokes that I laugh at, not because they’re funny, but because they’re so awful. However, Pittsburgh is such a big city with such beautiful architecture and well designed bridges that I feel I would’ve missed out on a lot of these sights had we not taken the tour.
Bonus, I got a chance to steer an authentic WWII amphibious vehicle! Okay hubby, not so boring after all!
I could write so much more about this trip, but I shared MY main highlights! Pittsburgh is a city worth checking out.
So to wrap on how to live your best (vacay) life in Pitt:
- Have a local best friend
- Run, walk, and explore the hills!
- Hit up the musuems
- Party a bit
- BRUNCH again
- Visit the Strip
- Taste some wine
- Eat doughnuts
- Take a Duck Tour and volunteer your steering skills!
Any places I missed that you think I should check out on my next visit? What cities do you guys visit when you have 2 days to spare?