It’s moving season, and with how much I’ve been writing about saving to buy our own home, I thought I’d put together a little something along the lines of a Pittsburgh Welcome Guide for those that are relocating to the Pittsburgh area from a native’s perspective. I’ve lived in the suburbs and the city. I’ve lived in other parts of the country and moved away for a while. But this city keeps me coming back, and at this point in my life has convinced me to stay. When you’re new in a place, figuring everything out can be overwhelming. Here are some of my top tips for all the new Pittsburghers out there!
GPS: Don’t Do It
Pittsburgh is a great city, but it’s an old city. While some people consider us mid-western culturally (I sure don’t, but we’re not exactly North Eastern either,) our road system is more akin to those of North Eastern cities. They just kind of happened. They appear to have no master plan. You won’t find a grid system or too many true, square blocks.
Generally in these situations you’d pull out the good old GPS, right? Don’t. At least not if you’re driving in the city itself. Do it the old-fashioned way and ask someone for directions. The first reason for this is that we have A TON of city steps. For a long time (and for some, this still holds true,) they were vitally important to getting around. So important, that they got labelled with street names. Which is all fine and good until your GPS tells you to turn down one of them. Which it will.
Another reason is that sometimes it just can’t keep up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed the 7th Avenue Exit when I’m heading north on 579. It’s not even labelled 7th Avenue. It’s labelled Consol Center/ Centre Ave. But my GPS calls it 7th Avenue, and only tells me to turn there about three seconds after I’ve passed it. My recent dependence on GPS has caused my commutes to be longer because of errors like these, and I actually know the general area that I’m heading since I’ve been here a while. So as a newcomer, I’d turn it off and ask for directions.
I drive around a lot for work. I live in the city, and commute to suburbs in every which direction. If you’re suburb-bound and still trying to figure out which one is the best match, let me just say that the commute to the northern suburbs (generally referred to as the North Hills, not necessarily referring to the one school district up there by the same name) is far and away the best. Not only is it not as jam-packed as the other highways, but it’s the only highway that has an HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane. Yes, there’s still traffic. But no, it’s not nearly as bad as heading any other direction out of downtown.
General Freeness You Should Know About
Pittsburgh has a lot of cool things to do that are totally free. I blog about them a good bit, so you can follow along or search the archives if you’re looking for more detailed, time sensitive stuff. But these are the two biggest day-to-day things you should know if you’re settling in.
Number one is that city parking is free on Sunday. I try to do my shopping on these days because of it. It also makes it a great day to go out and visit different museums, sites, and other attractions.
Number two is regarding our museum system. If you are a student, you can get free or reduced admission to almost any museum in the area (and we have a lot of them.) If you or someone in your household is disabled, it’s worth getting an Access card. (They’re issued by the state if you get any benefits, and are also available to those receiving other kinds of welfare.) Access cards give you reduced admission (generally $1-$3 total per person) to a number of museums like the Carnegie Art & Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, Children’s Museum, and The Andy Warhol Museum. (Note on that last one: the 7th floor is not a good idea if you’re bringing children.)
Becoming a Native
There are some things you should know if you want to acclimate to the culture here. They’re general tendencies that you may adopt yourself, but you’ll definitely notice other people have them.
- We’re ketchup snobs. We can taste when places refill those Heinz bottles with off-brands.
- We obviously and unequivocally love our sports teams. I have respect for you if you can live here and maintain your old allegiances, because it is difficult, and you won’t get a whole lot of love. And our teams are just flat out amazing. Steelers games are expensive. Hockey games are next. Baseball is the cheapest major league sport to go watch, but ticket prices have started to creep up as our team has exited their twenty year slump. It’s an exciting thing to watch, but if you want to do it for a little less, I’d advise checking out the Bucaroos Club. Having kids has some benefits.
- Primanti Bros is our restaurant of note. You’ll find some satellite sites in the suburbs, but the original is in the Strip District. The pros of not going to the original is that they’re polite at the satellite locations. Not so much in the Strip. It’s a part of its charm?
- Speaking of the Strip, it’s a cool place to go shopping for fresh ingredients and good food. There’s a little bit of everything from fresh meat (notably Wholey’s) to international spices. Do it at least once. After one time, I bet you’ll be coming back.
I definitely didn’t cover everything, but that’s a good place to start. So if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments! Welcome to Pittsburgh, and I hope it treats you as well as it has treated me!
I miss Primanti’s. People look at me weird out here when I try to explain that coleslaw and fries and fried eggs are really better when they’re on the sandwich, instead of next to it.
I was hoping you’d see this one! And only in Pittsburgh…. 🙂
You always make Pittsburgh sound so awesome, Femme! 🙂 What I miss most about where we came from is the food. We lived near Utica, NY, and the food there is amazing. I haven’t found good substitutes here yet. If I ever go to Pittsburgh, I’m definitely going to comb through your site first for your tour guidey goodness! 🙂
Can’t say I’ve ever made it to Utica unfortunately…is it at all like the finger lakes with a ton of fresh and organic stuff? That stuff always gives me a high. You better get in touch if you’re ever coming to the Burgh!
Oh, you KNOW I will. 🙂 No, Utica isn’t really anything like the finger lake region. But it does have an amazing array of deliciousness. There’s this one pizza place called “Laurey’s” that I went to for decades! I have never had pizza anywhere else like it. If you ever go that way, you have to stop in. The guy that runs it has a surly demeanor, but he’s actually quite nice, and it’s worth it for that pizza! I REALLY want some tonight! 🙁
Sounds a lot like Primanti’s!
My cousin lived near Pittsburgh a few years ago and we spent a day exploring. It was a lot of fun. I lived in Ann Arbor about 15 years ago and loved it. There is something about living in a city that I love. Now I’m married to my childhood sweetheart and live in the town I grew up in that has less that 3,000 people in it!
Very cool! Did you guys do the inclines? 3,000 people….if I were from there I guess I’d be used to it! Are you guys happy there?
No but I wish we would have. We mainly stuck to the museums, things my Grandmother could easily do with her walker. Yeah it’s one of those towns where “everyone knows your name”…and your business. That 3,000 was a typo it should have read less than 2,000.
In our town rush hour traffic is 3 Amish buggies and a car…or tractor. The stores are still closed on Sundays and if your child gets sick in the middle of the night you can still call and talk to the doctor at his home. Now that I have two small boys I like living here a lot better. However, a part of me still wishes I could escape and live in a big city.
I feel like if I ever get around to moving, it’ll be to Pittsburgh. It just seems like such a fun city. The no GPS thing might destroy me though, I’m already a pretty awful driver.
It really is a fun city, and we have something for seriously every age group. Lots of culture. Little crime for a city of its size, anyways. And the GPS thing is frustrating me! When I first moved back here, my friend had one and we got sent down city steps left and right. Now I started becoming addicted to mine, and it’s a shame, because I’m a better navigator than it is. I need to just always turn the dang thing off.
Pittsburgh is a fun city with amazing food. Last time I visited, everyone thought I was making fun of the accent. Not so much, that’s just how people from Minnesota talk 🙂
Too funny! Honestly I haven’t ever really noted a similarity between the two.
I am seriously thinking about moving to Pittsburgh!
If you ever do, Lizzy, I’m serious about fielding questions! Ask away!
Thank you so much! I was actually born in Pittsburgh, but my family moved when I was four and never came back.
I started researching affordable urban areas, and Pittsburgh seemed really great.
A born yinzer! We definitely have some great housing options. You may like this post for starts: https://femmefrugality.com/2014/10/4-affordable-pittsburgh-neighborhoods.html
Thank you so much for posting this! I cannot believe how affordable housing is.
I’ve been dying to get to Pittsburgh! Would love to hear some other recs for new tourists.
I’m on it Christina. Give me a couple-a few weeks, but I’ve got a post coming for you. 🙂
I would love to visit Pittsburgh one day. If I were to ever move there I’d keep all of my old teams! I would not become a fan of the local teams. LOL
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