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Blog: Paige Beal on top ticketed attractions in Pittsburgh

Ask a Pittsburgher to name the top ticketed attractions in the city and predictably you'll hear "Steelers" or "Pens" as the quick response.  However the real attendance toppers illuminate the uniqueness of Pittsburgh's rich and conveniently located entertainment offerings. 

The Pirates lead off the top five on the list followed by Kennywood our national theme park treasure and the world class Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. The Penguins are fourth in attendance, docked next to the Gateway Clipper Fleet of boat tours that capitalizes on our picturesque waterfront.

These five ticket front runners are followed by the Carnegie Science Center and then finally the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh position. It's interesting to note that the Carnegie group moves into third if you combine the Carnegie Science Center numbers (711,700 ) with their sister Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History (386,300).  
Quite often these and other top area attractions like the Pittsburgh Symphony, Children's Museum, Heinz Regional History Center and the National Aviary are overshadowed by our sports fan passion and media coverage of our renowned sports teams. 

One of the indicators used to earn Pittsburgh top placement in Forbes 2010 America's Most Livable Cities  is the Arts &Leisure ranking.  It's telling that Pittsburgh has the second highest Arts & Leisure rank of all the top ten cities proclaimed most livable. 

The array of offerings inspires participation from all types of arts enthusiasts.  For classical drama, musical and arts performance lovers the Cultural District attracts over 2,000,000 patrons annually, offering a cultural variety unmatched by many U.S. cities. Luxurious venues like the Benedum and Heinz Hall transport audience members into the rich, velvety ornate world of the traditional theatrical experience with the Pittsburgh Symphony, touring Broadway shows, dance performances  and Pittsburgh Opera fare. 

Contrast this with lively street party singles atmosphere of the downtown Gallery Crawl featuring open house at 22 venues, live entertainment, and gallery art extraordinaire like Bill Vorn's robotic works "Red Light" and "Hysterical Machines." Or consider the incubator style of the New Hazlett Theater or Quantum Theater's non theater productions in places like the old Brewery or Frick Park.   Pittsburgh Public Theater, City Theater, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical are just a few of the other live performance options.  No wonder American Style has featured Pittsburgh in the top 10 midsize cities arts destinations in both 2010 and 2009.

Family friendly entertainment abounds with the same extensive variety of options. Pittsburgh parents can engage with their kids at the Pittsburgh Zoo, in the cavernous Carnegie dinosaur exhibit, or with interactive displays at Carnegie Science Center and SportsWorks.  For pure fun Kennywood and Idlewild continue to offer a refreshingly traditional theme park experience.

The new Consol Energy Center and Stage AE have enticed more performers from Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney to Pittsburgh's own Girl Talk to add the 'burgh to their touring schedule. In fact, according to Live Nation's 2010 Live Entertainment Year in Review Pittsburgh led the nation with an 18% increase in ticket sales last year.

What's unique about Pittsburgh entertainment is not just the breadth and depth of these entertainment assets but also their easily accessible locations most within minutes of downtown.  Many, such as PNC Park, the Warhol Museum, and all of the top theater venues are just blocks from each other - proximity not lost on the growing residential downtown population. 

It might be a surprise to Pittsburghers that their feathered friends at the zoo outperform the Pens in attendance, but it's a welcome surprise that illustrates an unparalleled diversity of arts and attractions. 

Attractions                      Attendance

Pittsburgh Pirates           1,750,000
Kennywood                     1,300,000
Pittsburgh Zoo and
PPG Aquarium                1,010,238
Pittsburgh Penguins          888,653
Gateway Clipper Fleet       800,000

From the Allegheny Conference:

Paige Beal is associate professor in Sport, Arts and Entertainment Management at Point Park University School of Business.You can read her blog here.

Photograph copyright Annie O'Neill Photography
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