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Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen.
Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen. | Show Photo

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The Lazy Person's Guide to Pittsburgh Tours for Out of Towners

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No matter where you live, taking out-of-town visitors for a tour of your town is part of being a good citizen. It's more important in Pittsburgh than in most cities, since Pittsburgh is still trying to shake off its past as a smoky mill town. I take thousands of out-of-town visitors around Pittsburgh every year, though not in the way you might imagine. I'm a romance novelist, and my books are set in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh offers unending inspiration for writers, from its gritty past to its diverse neighborhoods to its sparkling skyline. There's always a street or a bar or a vista that will draw unsuspecting readers in and turn them into ambassadors for our city.

But I've done enough of the usual sort of tour to know it's time to shake things up. So I've created the "Tour for the Lazy." You can do it from your car in under two hours. And if you're lazier than that (don't raise your hand--just grunt), you can do it in three minutes via video.

Here we go. Buckle up.

> Andy Warhol's grave. "Why the hell is Andy Warhol buried in Pittsburgh?" will, of course, be the first thing out of the mouth of your out-of-town visitor (OOTV) when you mention it, but the sight of the headstone decorated with Campbell's Tomato Soup cans in this unremarkable suburban cemetery will get him juiced for what's to come.

> The amazing inclines. And, no, I don't mean the funiculars running up Mt. Washington. I mean the take-your-breath-away-if-you're-not-expecting-it hills that make it seem like your car will topple over backwards. Potomac Avenue, just after it crosses Banksville, works well on the unsuspecting for this.

> On-street trolleys. Only the best places have them. Perhaps you've heard of a little town called San Francisco?

> Our one-of-a-kind entrance. Shoot through the prosaic charms of the Fort Pitt Tunnel and tell your OOTV to be prepared to be knocked off his feet, well, seat.

> Sports history. I'm not a huge sports fan so I consider a careless wave in the direction of the stadiums, a mention of six Super Bowls, three Stanley Cups and, oh yeah, our very own minor league baseball team as you cross the bridge and head down the Tenth Street Bypass enough.

> The rivers. An amazing gift that really shaped our history. Point out that Meriwether Lewis purchased and first launched the pierogies that carried the Lewis and Clark crew from the downtown shore in Pittsburgh. St. Louis? Ha! It all started here.

> The 16th Street Bridge. Armillary spheres and water horses. Does it get better than that?

> The Strip. Nowhere, not even in Paris, will you find such a wide assortment of specialty and ethnic food stores in such a concentrated space.

> Polish Hill. Charming homes perched on a hill with an amazing view of the city. Stop at the corner of Brereton Street and Herron Avenue to see the domes of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at eye level.

> The Cathedral of Learning. It's the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere, and when ground was broken on it in 1926, it was to be one of the tallest buildings in the world. Pigeons drop like giant balls of hail during the spring when the nesting pair of peregrine falcons that live at the top return.

> The Carnegie Museums. Libraries weren't Andrew Carnegie's only gift to the world. The building's northwest corner is where Jennifer Beals leaps into the arms of Michael Nouri at the end of my favorite ode to Pittsburgh romance, Flashdance. Park at the bus stop on the northeast corner and let your OOTV dash by the Henry Moore sculpture to peek at the twin portraits of Carnegie done by Warhol. Two Andys for, at most, the price of a parking ticket.

> August Wilson's boyhood home. The place where the man whose Pittsburgh Cycle of plays wowed critics and won two Pulitzer Prizes grew up is in sad shape, but remind your OOTV that Pittsburgh made up for it by being home to the majestic August Wilson Center for African American Culture downtown.  

> McArdle Parkway. Drive across the Liberty Bridge and up the only road I know that puts the tops of an entire city's worth of skyscrapers at eye level. Point out the Gulf Tower, with its weather beacon, the Grant Building, whose top blinks "Pittsburgh" in Morse code and Pittsburgh's paean to both glass and castles, the PPG Building.

> The Duquesne Incline. Let your OOTV pop up and down while you gun the engine. Remind him to enjoy the picture display of other funiculars and to take in Pittsburgh's smallest museum (and the only one open late at night), which shows the Incline's inner workings.

> Washington and Guyasuta. With its stunning view of the Point, Point of View, a statue of important allies in the French and Indian War, is a fitting place to end the tour.

Watch the tour video here.

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Gwyn Cready was a brand manager in Pittsburgh and is now the RITA Award-winning author of three novels. Her most recent book is called Aching for Always.












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