36(ish) Hours in Pittsburgh, PA
I've always wanted to live one of those New York Times "36 Hours In..." articles. You know, where the author lands in some exotic/semi-exotic locale and absorbs the entire city's delights with the effortless aplomb of a jet set socialite, dashing from hidden bakeries to up-and-coming neighborhoods to quirky galleries, as if money and time were mere playthings to be indulged in, then tossed away. And all that in only 36 hours!, you marvel as the author concludes that City Not On Your Radar is now The Hippest Place in North America.
What they don't talk about in those NY Times articles, of course, is how wrecked you'll feel when your flight touches down at 6 am on Eastern Time after only 4 hours of airplane "sleep." How you'll barely be able to drag yourself to a decrepit cab and nearly get carsick enduring the hour-long journey from Pittsburgh airport to Pittsburgh city. (Seriously, Pittsburgh, wtf.) How you'll curl up in your friend's bed after she leaves for work to "rest your eyes" only to sleep for an hour and a half, then sleepwalk to the living room intending to start the day, then proceed to sleep sitting up for another two hours during a torrential thunderstorm. How at noon, you'll splash some water on your face and fall into an Uber to commence your day of Pittsburgh museum adventuring.
Soooooo if you haven't figured it out before, I'm a total travel overachiever. It seems reasonable to me (before doing it, obviously) to bang out four Colombian destinations in five days. Or most of Sri Lanka in ten. Or all of Pittsburgh's museums in one afternoon. (Hey, I think NY Times travel editors would be impressed.) With four museums to knock off my list, I started at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaurs/trip over groups of families and field trips. I then headed into the Carnegie Museum of Art to take in the large collection of European and American art, surveying the past few centuries. And then, with a few hours before meeting my friend Jocelyn after work, I ubered to the exceptional Andy Warhol Museum and explored all six floors, learning about his life and art. I didn't make it to the Frick Museum, so, um, I guess I'll be coming back some day, Pittsburgh.
After finishing at the Andy Warhol Museum, I ubered to meet Jocelyn at the agency where she works, a very cool creative-innovation-tech-oriented shop called Deep Local. It's located in Pittsburgh's Strip District, an (you guessed it) up-and-coming neighborhood where restaurants, offices, and shops have sprung up in old brick warehouses along the Allegheny river. We headed out to Smallman Galley for aprés-work wine, then to Apteka for vegan Hungarian food served in a chic, minimalist space in Bloomfield.
The next day, after brunch at The Vandal, we hopped in the car and drove two hours south to tour Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water, his architectural masterpiece perched over a gurgling stream. We coughed up the $30 entrance fee to learn about his inspiration for the house, see its many intriguing features, and learn about the family who commissioned the house
When I told people I was making a trip to Pittsburgh, I got one of two responses: "why?" and "oh, I've heard cool things about Pittsburgh these days, sounds like it's pretty hip." There is no greater stamp of hipster approval than for an Ace Hotel to open in your fair city; nothing can cement its supercool status more solidly. And indeed, the Whitfield restaurant at the Ace was oozing hipness, starting with our disaffected, bored waiter. The hotel is located an old YMCA, where they've even kept the indoor basketball court almost intact so it can be used as a space for large gatherings, and used vintage photographs from the Y in the '40s, '50s and '60s to adorn the walls. After dinner, we took a walk to explore the nearby Shadyside neighborhood, then had a cocktail at Kelly's Bar & Lounge, an old diner with vinyl booths and strong drinks.
And then it was Sunday, my last full day in Pittsburgh. Jocelyn and I headed to The Porch at Shenley for brunch, then to the Cathedral of Learning, a giant, 42-story building constructed to look exactly like a cathedral but dedicated to education. While many floors are offices for the University of Pittsburgh, several rooms are set up as traditionalclassrooms of various cultures and eras from all over the world. We toured these, then headed to the Museum Factory, a contemporary arts museum housed in — you guessed it — an old museum factory, featuring mostly large-scale installation works.
That night, we had margaritas and tacos at Round Corner Cantina, took a walk around the (name) reservoir, and, exhausted, called it a night: I had a plane to catch the next morning and it had been a very full 36 hours in Pittsburgh. (Technically more like 72, but unless you're the editors at the NY Times, who's counting?).