Thursday, July 9, 2009

neighborhoods are the essence of pittsburgh

1. Recently a coworker said that the two biggest draws for out-of-towners are Fallingwater and the Warhol Museum. And, in fact, friends visiting from Portland, OR this weekend are at Fallingwater today and want to go to the Warhol Museum tomorrow.

2. A post on Darcey's blog about restaurant options in San Francisco made the Pittsburgh cheerleader in me come out in full force and remind her and Rachna that there are a variety of restaurant options here. I said that on Craig Street alone, there are two Indian restaurants (both with awesome lunch buffets), Thai, Middle Eastern, Italian, French (crepes), American sandwiches and wraps, Chinese, and raw food/vegan all in just a few blocks.

These two things led me to this post as a reminder to everyone about Pittsburgh's 88 (or 90, depending on who you talk to) neighborhoods. Pittsburgh's greatest asset is its neighborhoods, each with its own unique flavor and character. Before I ever started promoting neighborhoods as my last job, I loved exploring them. Sure, everyone knows the Strip District is the open-air market district and that Bloomfield is Pittsburgh's Little Italy (right?), but how many people know about all the many city steps all over the city that are fascinating to explore? Or that in the Spring Hill neighborhood there's a cemetery that has views of the city that rival Mt. Washington's? Or the fascinating architecture in Lawrenceville, like the old Stable Building, Engine House, and Ice House? Or about Penn Avenue's resurgence as an arts district? Or Friendship's residential streets lined with old, stately, beautiful Victorian-era mansions?

Many visitors coming to Pittsburgh choose only to go to its most well-known destinations. Great, fine. Absolutely go to the Warhol Museum! But visitors lose out when they don't explore the neighborhoods. Yes, we are taking our friends to the Warhol (for a beer-tasting event!) but we're also going to explore the nearby Mexican War Streets and Allegheny West, which have some of the most beautiful residential streets in the city.

OR, visitors to Pittsburgh will choose very "safe" activities, like going to Station Square or Shadyside where there are known chain restaurants and public parking lots. Nothing against either of those--they have their place in the city too--but the result can be a very packaged and sterile experience that lacks the authenticity that makes Pittsburgh so great.

So, here is my plea. If you live here and haven't explored Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, what are you waiting for? If you need guidance, check out the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Tours website, which has suggested itineraries for touring seven really awesome neighborhoods. (Rachna, check out the food tour!) If you have out-of-towners visiting, don't just give them sterile experiences they can have in any city. Take them into the neighborhoods, and they'll be wowed.

The neighborhoods are the essence of Pittsburgh. Please support them!

Photo from the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Tours site of Who Knew? Retro-Mod Decor shop in Lawrenceville.