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Date Night in Pittsburgh

Biking in Emerald View Park
Biking in Emerald View Park
Sometimes a girl needs a little excitement.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy take-out and a Netflix marathon as much as anyone else, but every so often the romance of a bottle of Chardonnay and six Dr. Who episodes just doesn’t cut it.
 
That’s when you need a date night plan. There are so many ways to take advantage of what Pittsburgh offers that, at times, it may seem a bit overwhelming.  But don’t fret; there are some activities that can be counted upon to entertain time and again.
 
Think outside the Box… or Just Outside
Since the first moment I met my current boyfriend mountain biking, I have been sold on the romantic power of the outdoors. Taking advantage of the region’s waterways, trails and green spaces is one the easiest, most satisfying and budget friendly ways to go out in Pittsburgh.
 
Due to their accessibility and variety, I have a soft spot for the five regional parks: Frick Park, Highland Park, Riverview ParkSchenley Park and Emerald View Park. Between them, they host massive acreage, beautiful wooded biking and walking trails, swimming pools, lawn-bowling, tennis courts, soccer fields, track and field areas and ice skating. You could spend your whole life with the first person you take to the parks and still not have enough time to enjoy all they have to offer.
 
But you don’t necessarily have to retreat into the serene seclusion of a park to use Pittsburgh’s natural beauty as a romantic catalyst. You can paddle out onto the storied three rivers with Kayak Pittsburgh in a single or tandem kayak, or bike along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. If you’re worried about lugging around biking gear, rent bikes at Golden Triangle Bike Rental, drop right onto the trail and pedal off into the sunset.
 
For those outdoor enthusiasts looking to venture beyond the City limits, any of Allegheny County’s nine parks offer idyllic beauty and ample opportunities for romance.  If you’re ready to spend more than a day with your date, consider tackling all or part of the Great Allegheny Passage which extends from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.. Alternatively, take a few hours and head to Ohiopyle State Park or the Laurel Highlands to explore some of the nation’s best hiking, camping, mountain biking and whitewater rafting.
 
My recommendation: Heading outdoors is refreshing, invigorating and at times, awe inspiring. No matter which natural environment you choose to visit, pack a picnic and let sunshine and the beauty of the natural world do the romantic heavy lifting.
 
Hungry for Love
One should never underestimate the amorous power of an excellent meal. With the region’s gastronomic variety you’ll have ample opportunity to stray from the standard dinner date format. Exploring the totality of dining options would require a guide of its own, so it might be best to narrow down your dining date options by timing.
 
If you want to kick-off your tryst early, head out for brunch. There’s much to choose from, but my personal favorites include the famous hotcakes at any of Pamela’s Diner’s six locations, the very European crepes at Crepes Parisiennes in North Oakland or Shady Side, and the veggie frittatas at Quiet Storm in East Liberty. Split an extra-large stack of hotcakes or connect over a Nutella-stuffed croissant.
 
Evening dining options are even more diverse and can be particularly romantic if paired with dessert. For example, follow up a locally sourced Italian dinner at Stagioni with hand-dipped chocolates and an exotic milkshake at the Milkshake Factory in Southside, or head over to East Liberty and dig into Spoon’s cutting edge dinner options and grab a Chocolate-Raspberry cupcake from Vanilla Pastry Studio.
 
If you want a food-centered date activity, sign up for an ethnic cooking class with Dorothy Tague in Garfield, or spend the morning sharing an enormous breakfast and learning to bake your own bread at the Enrico Biscotti Company in the Strip District. These hands-on foodie inspired happenings take mealtime bonding to the next level without making your kitchen look like a war zone.
 
But what is eating without drinking? For the sophisticated lover of adult beverages, classy libations abound. Get to know the region’s craft breweries at Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week in mid-April or check out one of the many beer tasting events on Craft Pittsburgh’s Events Calendar. Don’t like beer? No problem. The Pittsburgh Whiskey and Spirits Festival, held annually in the fall, makes a great date option for spirits aficionados. Additionally, our region is home to many excellent, local wineries. Events like Uncork the Alleghenies can provide scenic tours of some of the area’s best vineyards, replete with tastings, food and entertainment. You and your partner can sip wine riverside within an hour of downtown Pittsburgh.
 
My recommendation: If you want dining to be the central activity of your romantic outing, put some energy into picking a meal that will appeal to your partner’s deepest culinary desires. Do a little research about what they like, be adventurous and don’t forget dessert.
 
Creative Rendezvous
Pittsburgh is an arts and culture mecca.  With over 120 fine art museums and galleries in the metro area, the region hosts enough artistic diversity to suit everyone’s taste. For date night, the art scene is best explored through art that encourages interaction. 
 
The environment at the Warhol Museum's Good Friday events, which feature half-priced admission to the museum, a cash bar and occasional live music, film, and performances, is a good place to start. If you’re looking for a hands-on experience, head to an ArtLab at the Mattress Factory. ArtLab events allow visitors to participate in a range of art-making activities designed to reflect the creative process of the Mattress Factory’s in-residence installation artists.
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Join scores of hip art lovers for a very cosmopolitan exploration of downtown Pittsburgh’s most vibrant arts scene during Unblurred: First Fridays on Penn. On the first Friday of each month, galleries in the Penn Avenues Arts District open their doors and share glass art, dance, sculpture, clothing, paintings, clay, spoken word, a music and even yoga. What could be more romantic than a leisurely stroll surrounded by art and music?
 
Well, maybe only one thing. Though not technically art, I think getting up close and personal with the stars is pretty creative. On clear Friday evenings, invite your partner to view the heavens at the Carnegie Scenic Center’s Observatory Skywatch Friday Evenings. You can sit back and let the Science Center’s experts guide you through the constellations for a stellar evening that won’t break the bank. The whole celestial experience costs $1.
 
My recommendation: Art and culture can be as cerebral or as experiential as you want it to be. Whether you want to explore the work of the masters at the Carnegie Museum of Art or get into the mix yourself, let your inhibitions go and explore new perspectives. Open mindedness is very attractive.
 
The Power of Performance
If you were to develop your own dating motto, I might suggest, “When in doubt, see a show.” Hitting the theater and concert scene is a classic dating move, and one for which Pittsburgh provides an almost endless variety of options.
 
The Pittsburgh Theater Calendar and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust provide information on all the foremost venues, and the numerous Broadway musicals, acclaimed plays, major comedy shows, big time concerts and incredible dance performances in town.  These “must see” acts always make impressive date options and rarely fail to win the night.
 
However, they are not the region’s only options for a great show. Productions at the Quantum Theatre provide novel theatrical experiences set in unusual venues that transport the audience into the scene, while the Pittsburgh Irish Classical Theatre, housed at the Stephen Foster Memorial in Oakland, earns its critical acclaim with excellent productions year after year.
 
The shows needn’t always be formal, either. I’m pretty sure that laughing together is good for romance, so I suggest checking out the affordable and hilarious Pittsburgh Improv-Jam at the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret and the Wunderstudies: Improvised Musicals at Steel City Improv. Tickets to both are $5 or less.
 
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Opera offer up classic and contemporary musical masterpieces, while live music venues like Altar Bar in the Strip District and Club Café in the Southside feature a large diversity of performers, from up-and-coming local artists to national headliners. For a more intimate musical experience, hit up the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy or get involved in Pittsburgh’s thriving Salsa community. Visit Salsa Pittsburgh to check out everything from Salsa instructors and classes to weekly Salsa clubs and spice up your dance moves with some Latin flavor.
 
My recommendation: Let the allure of lights, music and drama take center stage as you and your date enjoy the best entertainment that Pittsburgh has to offer. Maybe if you’re brave or immune to public humiliation, you could even get in on the show and tell a few jokes or spin on four inch Salsa heels.
 
Your Options are Limitless
Don’t be afraid to be a tourist in your own city. Exploring the “sights” might give you the opportunity to see the city, yourself and your partner in a whole new light. Take the incline up to Mt. Washington, spend the day at PNC Park, take a couples yoga class, play kickball, see an indie film or buy some baked goods at the farmers market. Have fun. Netflix will be there when you get back, I promise.
 
 Photographs copyright Brian Cohen
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