Pittsburgh, USA: The Golden Triangle

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Locals call their downtown district the Golden Triangle. It’s a walkable terrain through historical architecture, European-style piazzas, and landscape vistas at the confluence of three rivers. Pittsburgh is still largely undiscovered on the tourist circuit, maybe because it is kinda hard to get to, or because lodging and parking are both expensive and cumbersome. Whatever the reason, I like to visit and continue exploring a city that I lived in for eight months. 

Roberto Clemente Bridge
Birmingham Bridge over the Monongahela River.

Downtown offers several notable free amenities for visitors from out of town. First of all, anyone can get two hours of no-cost WIFI. If you are arriving on the Greyhound, head west on Liberty Ave for about three blocks and check out the local chain of Crazy Mocha to get your bearings through the maze of one way streets and dizzying alleys. The Golden Triangle is not built on a grid, and its location along the three rivers and in the hills can get you lost. The second best thing about downtown is the free public transportation within the Golden Triangle, with four stops at Gateway, First Avenue, US Steel Tower, and Wood Street Station. 

PPG Center
PPG Place Building in downtown Pittsburgh, founded as Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in 1883.

Need a place to stay? Pittsburgh offers one licensed Hostel called South Side Traveler’s Rest. It is an easy walk across the Monongahela River on Liberty Bridge to the First Avenue subway station, or follow Boulevard of the Allies a bit further west to arrive at Point State Park and Market Square. However, when I tried to arrange a stay with them, they were booked four months in advance. Word might be spreading about Pittsburgh. 

The city does have one other “hostel,” but it is non-licensed and I had a pretty sketchy experience trying to arrange for a few nights stay back in 2015. The owner was a man who insisted on reviewing my Facebook page prior to agreeing to give me accommodation. I am not on Facebook, and I tried to negotiate with him by texting a photo of my California state identification so that he could run a background check or whatever he wanted to review on my Facebook page. He was not amenable to this, and after a few email exchanges, it became apparent to me that he was only open to accepting young impressionable female guests. Be careful about non-licensed hostels in Pittsburgh. 

Folk Musicians
“Liberty Avenue Musicians” at 947 Liberty Ave by sculptor James Simon.

Other important points to consider before arriving in Pittsburgh is that traffic is an increasingly frustrating cluster. Traffic lanes end abruptly with no warning; many roads are one-way, single lanes teetering over steep mountainsides; and the weather is terrible for about half the year. The gentrification and the rapid growth of the population since Google opened a corporate office in 2014 means that the locals are rightfully pissy about out of state vehicles clogging their already limited infrastructure, so don’t take bad attitudes personally. All these extra vehicles also mean that parking is a nightmare. I opted for $40 valet parking at my hotel, and it was a worthwhile investment to have a safe place for my car to hang out overnight. After storing my car, I transported myself on foot, metro, and bus. Travel light cause the more stuff you pack, the more you have to drag around behind you.

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