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The Best Things to Do in Pittsburgh

Home to the Steelers and formerly the heart of the American steel industry, Pittsburgh is sometimes overlooked for Philadelphia. However, there’s no real reason for that. Pittsburgh, the City of Bridges, is a haven of secret bars, reformed redbrick factories, and legions of museums filled with local and natural history. While it might not seem so from a distance, Pittsburgh is a hip and creative town that could rival the best of what Portland has to offer. Be it indulging in juicy cheesesteaks, brewery hopping, or admiring Dippy the Dinosaur; there are tons of things to do in Pittsburgh.

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01Visit Mister Rogers at the Heinz History Center

The Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh

The death of Mister Rogers left a huge gap in the hearts of all Americans, young and old. Although everybody's favorite neighbor might be gone, his legacy remains stronger than ever at the Heinz History Museum in Pittsburgh. Visit the fourth floor of the expansive building to see Mister Rogers' neighborhood with original props and items from the television set. Among the props such as the Great Oak Tree where Henrietta Pussycat and X The Owl live and the original living room set, there's also a life-like figure of Mister Rogers himself. Sweater, khakis, and all.

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02Have a Happy Meal at the Big Mac Museum

However much we now talk about the dangers of fast food, the Big Mac is an American institution. Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Pittsburgh is McDonald's Big Mac Museum. This one-of-a-kind museum has just about everything a McDonald's lover could ever wish for, from the world's tallest Big Mac statue to a play space for the kids. Not only that, but true Big Mac fans can pull up a pew beside a bronze bust of the man who invented America's favorite sandwich, Jim Delligatti, and tuck into a tasty Big Mac.

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03Dare to visit a curiosity shop

Curiosity shops and oddities emporiums might not be for everyone, but morbidity connoisseurs will strike gold with a visit to downtown PGH. The Weeping Glass in Allentown offers Tarot readings, unique pieces of art for purchase, and even monthly "Death Parlors" where you can learn about tales of ghosts and murder. Another of Pittsburgh's morbid gems is Trundle Manor. Although it seems like a regular house from the outside, it contains much more. From coffins, taxidermy, old medical devices, and more, the wicked-minded will find everything they need in Pittsburgh.

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04Relish in some Pittsburgh street art at Randyland

Randyland is a public art gallery, unlike any other in the United States. What began as a house purchased on credit while waiting tables, Randy Gilson has transformed his home into a colorful, living work of art. Dedicated to bringing happiness to his neighborhood, Gilson's 'Randyland' is a hotbed of unique, outsider art that can brighten up the dreariest of days. As well as the murals providing dozens of Instagram-ready backdrops, practically everybody who visits Randyland leaves in a much better mood than they arrived in. To tell the truth, it's hard not to.

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05Pop into the Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol might be synonymous with Campbell's soup, New York, and his Factory, but the inspirational pop-artist was a Pittsburgh native. Because of that, it's only fair that the Warhol Museum is based here, and any visitors will tell you there's no better location for it. Exploring Andy Warhol's legacy and sharing his story from beginning to end, the museum also has the largest collection of Warhol's art on the planet. Many of the exhibition rooms also resemble the Factory, giving visitors the chance to feel part of what would go on to become a counterculture arts movement. Furthermore, budding artists can also try out some of Warhol's painting techniques.

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06Learn to paddleboard

Kayaks stored under a bridge for recreational use bgwalker / Getty Images

Have you ever been paddleboarding? Morein, did you ever imagine you could learn to paddleboard in Pittsburgh? Well, you can, and now you know, so it's time to try. Pittsburgh is actually a paddleboard paradise, but if you don't know how to do it, it can be quite intimidating. Luckily, Pittsburgh has a host of spots where you can have your first paddleboard experience. Not only that, there's a bunch of companies that can teach you how to do it.

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07Take the family to Kennywood Amusement Park

Kennywood Park is Pittsburgh's best amusement park, and it's been going for 120 years. What started as a trolley park in 1899 is now America's finest traditional amusement park and a great day out for the whole family. Kennywood is in West Mifflin, which is just a 12-mile drive from downtown Pittsburgh, and therefore super easy to get to and from. You can buy day passes and not even worry about when you have to leave. Some of its most notoriously fun rides include the Black Widow, the Sky Rocket, and tons of smaller rides. There's even a Kiddieland for the little ones.

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08Support writers and books at the City of Asylum

Books are never as good as they are when bought from independent book stores, and the City of Asylum is Pittsburgh's main draw for all keen readers. Found on the North side of the city, City of Asylum is anything but your average independent bookshop. On the contrary, the shop provides a thriving community of writers and readers while also offering a sanctuary for writers to continue doing what they love to do in a time when most of us are reading our things online. The shop also hosts hundreds of events from readings to musical performances and more. If you're in Pittsburgh for any amount of time, City of Asylum is definitely worth the visit.

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09Chow down on world-famous fried oysters

The 'Original Oyster House" storefront

The Original Oyster House is the oldest bar and restaurant in Pittsburgh. For almost 150 years, Pittsburgh residents have been heading to this historic landmark for the best-fried oysters in town - if not the state. The Oyster House is also a PGH tradition, with those who move away from the city still ruminating on the establishment for years to come. Providing fresh-from-the-line fish for impeccable prices, you'll be doing harm to yourself if you don't try this Pittsburgh institution at least once.

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10Explore the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

If you want to learn more about natural history, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is your go-to gallery. The museum is home to an extraordinary collection of items and artifacts, all used to widen a visitor's knowledge of evolutionary progress, science, and conservation. Once you engage in the experience, you will become more excited about science, nature, and the world around you. Learn more about biodiversity or escape to the stars or another galaxy at SkyWatch, located in the Buhl Planetarium and Carnegie Science Center.

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11See the menagerie at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Would you like to say hello to snow leopards or red pandas in the Asian Forest or check out the lions and elephants in the African Savanna? How about getting up close with sharks and penguins or becoming acquainted with polar bears and otters? For a true family-fun adventure, you don't want to miss a visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. The facility, which is home to a kid-friendly petting zoo, and tanks that hold stingrays, provides a habitat for over 400 species of animals, some of who are endangered or threatened.

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12Do some indoor birdwatching at the National Aviary

You can birdwatch anytime in Pittsburgh at the National Aviary, which represents the largest indoor aviary in the U.S. and the only one given a National designation by Congress. You can find the bird building at Allegheny Commons Park, located on the north side of the city. Approximately 500 birds call the aviary home, some of which are listed as endangered or threatened.

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13View Pittsburgh's lights from atop Mount Washington

If you want to see Pittsburgh in all its glory, you cannot miss a trip up 367-foot high Mount Washington, a natural site that sits across the "Mon" or Pittsburgh's Monongahela River. Take the Duquesne or Monongahela funiculars to get to Grandview Overlook and other lookout sites at the popular local attraction. Trek the trails at Emerald View Park or visit Point of View Park, known for its George Washington sculpture that features the first President and Guyasuta, the Seneca tribal chief. The site is also known for its seafood and Italian eateries.

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14Climb up Canton Avenue - the steepest street in the US

Located in the Beechview neighborhood, Canton is one steep street. Although the short, one-tenth-mile thoroughfare is not lengthy, it features a 37-foot gain in elevation for every 100 feet walked. Pittsburgh's Dirty Dozen bicycle race takes cyclers over Canton - that is if they make it over the incline. About half the cyclists give up the battle after attempting the climb 3 or 4 times.

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