Pittsburgh: Why It's Cheap to Travel North in Winter
There’s something exciting about spontaneous trips; the idea that you can go from not having plans next weekend to booking an entire trip in a city over a thousand miles away. And you thought it’d be a good weekend if you grabbed brunch Sunday. This was probably my quickest turnaround on a trip, at all of ten days ahead of time, for flight, hotel, everything. Turns out, Pittsburgh in January isn’t the most sought out travel destination, and that makes everything's really cheap, like, really, really cheap.
For those based in Austin, you may know that a) we have a fantastic little airport, and b) we have both Frontier and Allegiant flights available. I hadn’t flown “budget” airlines before, but the flights were actually not as bad as I imagined. Sure, the seats didn’t lean back (on the plus side, no one could lean back into you), and they didn’t provide free snacks (are peanuts really worth $100), but everything else felt very similar. Nonstop to Pittsburgh, round trip, good flight times, right after work on a Friday: 107 bucks. Not bad at all!
To the city of Pittsburgh, your airport is pretty cool too! Not like looks cool, but very functional cool, with I’ll take any day of the week. What do you guys do with the hundred gates up there? The flight arrived at like 9:30p, so I didn’t get to much that night, beyond grabbing dinner. Dinner, though, was noteworthy, noteworthy enough to get a shout-out: Central Diner & Grille. It was open late, fairly new from the looks of it, had an amazing selection, and was very affordable. If I was one for Yelp reviews, this would be where I throw in all five stars! I was telling myself afterwards: “Really need to find a place like this nearby in Austin!”
Remember how I mentioned Pittsburgh in January wasn’t exactly a prime travel must-see? Well, Saturday proved why. It stayed about 33-34 degrees with a drizzle/rain that persisted most of the day; at that point, it might as well snow. Due to this, we ended up in the Carnegie Museums for a portion of the day, which wasn’t a bad thing; the museums were fantastic! Both the Natural History and Art portions were packed full of amazing goods: gems, dinos, other animals from all over, lights, a Van Gogh, and a wall of chairs. No, there really was a wall of chairs (thought I forgot to photograph it; maybe it wasn't real).
After our three hours in the comfortably temperatured museum, we headed outside, into the drizzle, and explored both the University of Pittsburgh’s and Carnegie Mellon’s campuses, taking refuge in every coffee shop along the way, as is tradition on a freezing cold day. Not traditional, we headed through Schenley Park, which, while researching things to do, I read as “beautiful 460 acre parks carved out in the center of Pittsburgh,” and not the much more accurate “freezing dead winter wasteland with paths that go on forever through forests of bare trees and little sunlight.” It was cold, and not the ideal January thing to do.
It’s at this point I should probably mention that this was a massive football playoff weekend: Seahawks @ Falcons, Texans @ Patriots, Packers @ Cowboys, and Steelers @ Chiefs, in that order. No, I didn’t need to look that up; I watched all four, and I remember silly stuff like that. That’s apparently a major problem for any January travels I embark on. I told myself I would only watch a couple games, but due to the weather, watching football inside sounded way better than literally anything outside, so that’s exactly what I did. It also didn’t help that I was still getting over a cold. Go to Pittsburgh they said, you’ll want to go explore the city they said.
Watching the Steelers game in Pittsburgh was fun though; it’s such a sports city, it’s amazing. On the morning news Sunday, the weather segments weren’t about Pittsburgh, they all focused in on Kansas City and the ice threat there. This was a city that had its priorities straight. Going back to the game, we found this neat little local restaurant and bar called Buffalo Wild Wings, and somehow, I’m not sure how, found a table (I think there was one left). We proceeded to eat wings, watch the Steelers kick field goals all night long (they won 18-16, on six fields goals; still not looking this stuff up, yes, I have a problem), and eat more wings. Can’t go wrong with BWW; sorry haters.
Overall though, I really liked Pittsburgh! I think we got off on the wrong foot; it was cold, I had a cold, and my Texans lost. I was tired, and I knew that, but I tried, and I think I saw what Pittsburgh really had to offer; there was a lot more I wanted to see. There was a charm in the Steel City, and you could really tell it had that history and cherished it. I hope to revisit one day, hopefully during sometime nice, like the fall (it’s always the fall). Until then, it’s onto the next stop: Washington D.C.!