Destination of the Week: Pittsburgh
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In light of the amazingly low $137 roundtrip fares between the west coast and Pittsburgh on Delta from earlier this week, we decided to head back to my college town for today’s Destination of the Week.
Pittsburgh International Airport is located about 16 miles west of downtown. It operates 155 non-stop flights a day to 37 destinations, and is serviced by over 12 passenger carriers including Air Canada, JetBlue, American, Southwest, Delta and US Airways, which used to have a hub there and now operates a much smaller operation.
While Oneworld and SkyTeam flyers might find more limited availability on their carriers of choice, and generally will find flights to other airlines’ hubs like Dallas on American and Atlanta on Delta, they will find some interesting options as well such as Delta’s direct flight from here to Paris on a 757 (which is rumored to be taken over soon by Air France).
Southwest loyalists will find flights to over 30 destinations from here, including Los Angeles, Austin, Boston and Ft. Lauderdale. Star Alliance flyers have a lot of options on member airline US Airways, though the airline has de-hubbed the airport post 9/11, so many of the flights on the airline from here head to its other hubs including Philadelphia and Charlotte where passengers can connect to more international flights.
PIT has free WiFi, so bring your iPad to surf the web while you’re transiting through here.
The Doubletree is located in Pittsburgh’s central business district.
Doubletree Pittsburgh Downtown: Offering warm chocolate chip cookies at check-in, the 308 rooms at this property range from standard double guest rooms to three-bedroom suites. They have the most one-bedroom suites of any hotel in the Golden Triangle and all rooms come equipped with LCD TV’s and WiFi access. There is a business center, a 24-hour fitness center, and an indoor pool on property. On-site dining includes The Bigelow Grille restaurant serving American cuisine. The hotel provides complimentary shuttles throughout downtown Pittsburgh as well. Rates in July start at $189 a room, or 35,000 Hilton HHonors points since it’s a Category 5 property.
There are several other limited-service Hilton group properties in and around the city and by the airport as well.
Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport: If you were lucky to get in on Delta’s fare sale and just want to overnight at the airport for mileage running purposes, then be sure to check this hotel that’s connected to the airport. There are 336 newly renovated guestrooms including 21 suites, all with Hyatt’s Grand Bed, 32-inch LCD TV’s, iPod docking stations and turndown service. The hotel’s Olive Press Restaurant features a variety of dishes on the menu from light fare, prime steaks to seafood and some local favorites. There is a 24-hour StayFit gym, a heated indoor pool and whirlpool. The hotel also provides a free shuttle to shops and restaurants in the local area up to seven miles. The lowest rates we could find in July were $149 a night. This is a Category 2 hotel, so free night redemptions require 8,000 Gold Passport points for standard rooms and 12,000 for suites.
Complimentary breakfast included for all guests at the Hyatt Place Pittsburgh North Shore.
Hyatt Place Pittsburgh North Shore: Located in the North Shore, the rooms here offer Hyatt’s Grand Bed, 42 inch plasma TV’s, and complimentary hotel-wide Wi-Fi Internet access. They also provide a complimentary breakfast Kitchen Skillet, featuring breakfast sandwiches, waffles, french toast, pancakes and oatmeal. The hotel also has a 24-hour StayFit gym and an indoor pool. Rates in July start at $180 a night. This is a Category 2 hotel, so free night awards require 8,000 Gold Passport points.
Pittsburgh Marriott City Center: This hotel features 400 newly redone guest rooms and suites with HD flatscreen TV’s and high-speed internet access. The hotel has a concierge level with lounge serving complimentary breakfast and hors d’oeuvres during the week. The hotel also has an indoor pool, fitness center and sauna. The hotel’s restaurant, Steelhead Brasserie and Wine Bar, serves American fusion cuisine. Rates in July begin at $169 a night. This is a Marriott Category 5 property, and requires 25,000 Marriott Rewards Points (20,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.
Lobby area at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel.
Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel: Located in the iconic Fulton Building, this boutique hotel has 291 guestrooms. The guestrooms have all-white bedding, 37-inch flatscreen TV’s, complimentary internet access and the bathrooms have marble vanities. There is also a concierge floor with a lounge serving a full English breakfast, snacks throughout the day, hors d’oeuvres and dessert. The hotel’s restaurants include Braddock’s American Brasserie and Braddock’s Street Side Grill. Rates in July begin at $179 a night. This is a Marriott Category 6 property, and requires 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points (25,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.
The Courtyard Pittsburgh is located in the heart of Downtown.
There is also the Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown in the cultural district, which is a Category 5 hotel requiring 25,000 Marriott Rewards Points (20,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night.
Crowne Plaza Pittsburgh South Located seven miles from downtown in the South Hills area, this hotel boast 179 rooms all with free WiFi. There is an outdoor heated pool, a 24-hour fitness facilities, complimentary business center and PJ’s Grille and Bar. The property is also near Pittsburgh’s Light Rail Transit system making it convenient to head into the city. Rates in July start at $155 or 25,000 Priority Club points per night.
Other Priority Club options include the Holiday Inn at University Center which is 25,000 Priority Club Points a night and the Holiday Inn Express Pittsburgh-South Side which costs 20,000 Priority Club Points per night. There are also a bunch of other Holiday Inn’s in and around the city.
Sheraton Station Square Hotel: Pittsburgh’s only riverfront hotel has an open six-story atrium lobby and 399 guestrooms featuring Sweet Sleeper Beds. There is a a club floor with Club Lounge offering complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverage options to club level guests and SPG Platinum members. The hotel has a fitness center, indoor pool and whirlpool as well as the casual Trackside restaurant. Rates in July start at $159 per night or 10,000 Starpoints per night since this is a Category 4 hotel. This can be booked using Cash and Points for 4,000 SPG points and $60. Of the two SPG hotels in Pittsburgh, I prefer the Station Square Sheraton- I always get upgraded and I find the location to be better than downtown, which is desolate and weird at night.
Exterior view of the Westin Pittsburgh.
Westin Convention Center: Located in downtown Pittsburgh, this property has 573 guest rooms and 43 suites featuring standard Westin amenities such as the Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath and complimentary high-speed internet access. The hotel has a 9,000-square-foot Westin Workout gym with steam room, sauna and indoor lap pool. Dining options include Penn City Grille and The Original Fish Market. The hotel is also connected by skywalk to the 1.5-million-square-foot convention center. Rates in July start at $150 per night or 7,000 Starpoints per night since this is a Category 3 hotel. Cash and Points is also available for 2,800 SPG points and $45.
Fairmont: Pittsburgh’s premier luxury hotel is located right in the heart of the city near PNC Park and downtown. It has 165 rooms, 19 one-bedroom suites and 1 Presidential Suite. Standard Fairmont rooms start at a spacious 430 square feet and contain 42-inch flatscreen TV’s, high-speed internet access, work desks with office amenities and ergonomic chairs. For casual dining, there’s the lobby lounge and restaurant, Andy’s, while Habitat is the hotel’s fine-dining outlet and serves locally sourced ingredients in international dishes. There’s also a 6,000-square-foot fitness center. Rates in August start at $349 a night, or 35,000 Fairmont Rewards points for a standard room.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Pittsburgh is kind of like Los Angeles in that it has a bunch of different neighborhoods sprawled out and there isn’t very good public transportation, so I’d recommend renting a car. Beyond that, there’s not much else similar to LA! Kidding – sort of. Pittsburgh is a very Midwest-feeling city with super friendly people, and it’s generally very affordable. Don’t expect world-class shopping and Michelin-starred dining, but you will be surprised by all Pittsburgh has to offer if you just give it the chance.
In no particular order, here are some of my recommendations of things to do and see, though mind you I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh in over 7 years, so please feel free to chime in with your thoughts! Check out Eatpgh.com, which has a much more up-t0-date perspective on ‘Burgh dining than I do. Also, Pittsburghers have a unique dialect, so brushing up on Pittsburghese is always recommended.
1. Go to dinner on Mt. Washington, which has great views of the city. Monterey Bay Fish Grotto has great seafood and is probably my favorite, though I’ve also had good meals at Georgetown Inn and Lemont. Take the famous Duquesne incline up from Station Square for a full-fledged Pittsburgh experience.
2. Visit the Andy Warhol Museum. Kill two birds with one stone and do happy hour there on a Friday for their “Good Fridays” event and get half-priced admission.
3. Go out for dinner and drinks in the South Side. The South Side is the bar neighborhood and kind of reminds me of Hoboken. My favorite restaurants: Mallorca for Spanish (where I had my graduation dinner) and Nakama for Japanese.
4. Pittsburgh is a huge sports town, so going to a Steelers game is an experience you won’t forget and Pirates games are a good, cheap way to spend an afternoon.
5. Take a road trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house, which is one of his masterpieces. Built over a natural waterfall, it’s a National Historic Landmark and amazing to see, even if you aren’t a huge architecture buff. Splurge on the $110 sunset tour for unique access and the ability to take pictures in the house.
7. Take the kids (or yourself) to the Carnegie Science Center for 5 floors of science exhibits. They also have the largest movie screen in Pittsburgh and are currently showing the Dark Knight Rising.
8. Pittsburgh is the Three River city (Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny) so get a different view by kayaking up the Allegheny with Kayak Pittsburgh.
9. Catch a show. Pittsburgh has a number of different theaters and usually has Broadway shows in town- at a fraction of the NYC price. Check out the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to see what events overlap with your visit.
10. Do a TPG college tour in Oakland, which is the neighborhood dominated by the University of Pittsburgh, my alma mater. While a lot has changed, some of my favorite old haunts are still alive and well – for dinner check out Fuel & Fuddle for pizzas and beers or Mad Mex for ridiculously strong margaritas and decent Mexican. Most restaurants offer half off food after 11pm for all of you night owls/drunk college students. Cap off the night with $1.50 drafts (which used to be $1 during my Pitt days – darn inflation) at Hemingways where you may still find several of my photos on the wall. Primanti Brothers is a Pittsburgh institution, known for their huge sandwiches that feature coleslaw and fries, but honestly it was never one of my favorites. On a more academic note, walk around the campus and check out the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning- the 42 storey, 535 foot Gothic structure in the middle of campus. Each room is dedicated to a country/heritage and some are pretty interesting- there are guided tours or you can just view them online.
Other restaurants that came highly recommended were: Cure, Salt of the Earth, Legume and a French bakery La Gourmandine.