Looking for ways to spend one day in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? Here’s your detailed guide to one of the most underrated cities in the country.
I grew up in Pittsburgh and spent decades exploring every corner of town, so I can provide all the highlights of this Midwestern city, from tourist attractions to local favorites.
Pittsburgh isn’t just about steel and touchdowns these days. It’s also about jaw-dropping views from Mount Washington, getting lost in the quirky world of Andy Warhol, and exploring the famous three rivers from the seat of a kayak.
This itinerary includes a couple of “choose your own adventure” sections. One day in Pittsburgh isn’t a lot of time to see everything, so in a couple places, I’ve provided multiple options for that time slot. Pick the one you like best.
Related Reading: Check out my viral post about the things I like best about my hometown: 66 Things I Love About Pittsburgh.
Quick Summary of My One-Day Pittsburgh Itinerary:
1 Drive through the Fort Pitt Tunnel
2 Breakfast at Pamela’s
3 Walk around the Strip District
4 Explore the Andy Warhol Museum
5 Choose One: National Aviary or Heinz History Museum
6 Have Lunch at Primanti Brothers
7 Take a Walk to Point State Park
8 Kayak on the Three Rivers
9 Choose One: Phipps Conservatory or Nationality Rooms
10 Go Shopping and Have Dinner in Lawrenceville
11 Attend a Pirates Game at PNC Park
12 Ride the Incline to the Top of Mount Washington
13 Go Bar Hopping on the South Side
Quick Note About Getting Around Pittsburgh
This guide assumes you’ll have a rental car, but a lot of the itinerary is walkable. You can also get around via Uber, public bus, and the small Downtown subway line, called “The T.”
If you are driving, keep a close watch on that GPS, because Pittsburgh is known for having weird street and highways that can even confuse long-time residents, largely because of its hills, which prevent the typical grid street design.
One Day in Pittsburgh: Morning
Drive Through the Fort Pitt tunnel into Downtown
If you’ve never been to Pittsburgh before, and you have a rental car, I strongly recommend driving into Downtown via the Fort Pitt tunnel for your first trip into the city. They say, “Pittsburgh is the only city with a front door,” and this tunnel is basically the door.
You’re driving down a boring highway (Route 376) for several miles from the airport, and then you go through the tunnel, and… BAM!
You emerge on the other side on a bridge with a spectacular 360-degree view of Downtown directly in front of you, the North Side to the left, and the South Side to the right.
It’s an incredibly cool sight, unlike any other city entrance in America. Just be careful not to get too distracted by the amazing view while you’re driving!
Enjoy Breakfast at Pamela’s
Bust out those elastic waist pants because we’re heading out for breakfast at Pamela’s, a legendary Pittsburgh diner known for their to-die-for hotcakes. The Pamela’s version of pancakes is different from anything you’ve experienced before.
Thin, crispy edged, and so light they practically float off your plate, they’re more like crepes than traditional fluffy pancakes.
The hotcakes are rolled up with your choice of filling inside, like strawberries and brown sugar. I suggest the Chocolate Chip Banana Hotcakes.
If Pamela’s is too crowded, try nearby DeLuca’s Diner as a great backup option.
Walk Around the Strip District
Pamela’s is located in the famous Strip District of Pittsburgh, so after stuffing your face, walk off some of those calories. This vibrant neighborhood is a one-stop-shop for all things Pittsburgh.
Make sure to swing by Wholey’s Market, a local institution known for its fresh seafood and bustling atmosphere.
Pop into Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, where shelves are stocked with Italian specialties, or Grandpa Joe’s, a candy shop store brimming with vintage candies and more than 200 flavors of soda.
The Strip District boasts an impressive number of stores selling merchandise for all the Pittsburgh sports teams, especially the Steelers and Pirates. And it has a number of gift shops to take home a souvenir.
This area gets very crowded and busy on weekend afternoons, but if you come around 9 am, just as many stores are opening, it will be much more relaxed.
Explore the Andy Warhol Museum
Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the vibrant world of pop art at my absolute favorite museum in the USA – the Andy Warhol Museum.
It’s a treasure trove of Warhol’s iconic works, from his well-known Campbell’s soup cans to his celebrity portraits.
This seven-floor gallery space, located on the North Shore, is the largest museum in North America dedicated to a single artist.
Tickets are $20, and you’ll probably want to arrive right when they open at 10 am, in order to leave as much time as possible in your day. Don’t forget to check out the museum’s store for some quirky Warhol-inspired souvenirs.
Choose Your Next Stop: The Aviary or a Sports and History Museum
If you’ve got time to sneak in one more attraction before lunch, I recommend either the National Aviary or the Heinz History Center, a Smithsonian institution.
Just a short distance from the Warhol Museum, you’ll find the aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit zoo in the United States dedicated exclusively to birds.
From playful African Penguins to the majestic Andean Condor, the aviary is home to more than 500 birds across 150 species from around the globe.
You might even get an opportunity to feed a flock of Rainbow Lorikeets. With an entrance fee of $17 for adults, this is an affordable experience for all ages.
Alternately, if you grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, then you’ll be delighted to step into the whimsical replica of the show’s set at the Heinz History Center. You can see the iconic living room and King Friday’s Castle.
The History Center also houses a museum within a museum: The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Here, you can relive the glorious moments of the Steelers through exhibits showcasing their six Super Bowl wins.
This place is a must-visit for anyone wishing to delve deeper into Pittsburgh’s culture and history.
Lunch Time And Afternoon Activities
Have Lunch at Primanti Brothers
What better way to satisfy your hunger than with Pittsburgh’s most iconic sandwich at Primanti Brothers?
This legendary sandwich is piled high with grilled meat, coleslaw, tomatoes, and, yes, French fries, all stuffed between two slices of Italian bread. It’s been a staple of Pittsburgh cuisine since the 1930s.
Primanti’s has locations in both the Strip District and Market Square. The Strip District location is the original, but the Market Square location is good because it allows you to see another cool town square in the city, and it’s closer to our next stop.
Take a Walk to Point State Park
After a hearty lunch at Primantis, take a leisurely stroll down to Point State Park. This park is not just a green oasis in the heart of the city, but also a landmark where Pittsburgh’s three rivers, the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio, converge.
There’s a fountain at the point. This is the confluence! It’s the perfect spot to soak up the awe-inspiring views of the waterways and the city skyline.
While you’re there, make sure to visit the Fort Pitt Museum located within the park. This historic museum provides insight into Pittsburgh’s early history, and the vital role it played in the French and Indian War. George Washington spent time at this very spot!
Kayak on the Three Rivers
If you’re up for a more active adventure, how about a kayak ride on Pittsburgh’s iconic Three Rivers? Venture Outdoors makes this experience accessible to everyone.
They provide kayaks for rent at an affordable price, starting from $16 an hour. This is your chance to see the city from an entirely new perspective. It will be one of the most memorable experiences of your one day in Pittsburgh!
Choose Your Next Stop: International Rooms or Plant Life
Depending how quickly you’ve been moving through the day, there may be time for one more stop before dinner.
Go to the Oakland neighborhood, home of the University of Pittsburgh, for either the Nationality Rooms or Phipps Conservatory.
The Nationality Rooms are housed in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. These are themed rooms, each representing a different country.
Imagine stepping into the Early American Room, styled like a mid-18th century log house, or exploring the Yugoslav Room, featuring a traditional Slavic hearth.
Perhaps you’d prefer the grandeur of the French room, designed to resemble the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors? Each room tells its own story, inviting you to embark on a cultural journey across continents without even leaving the city.
The alternate option is to take a detour into nature at the Phipps Conservatory. This flowery paradise has been open since the late 1800s, making it a historic gem in Pittsburgh’s crown.
Within its Victorian glasshouse and outdoor gardens, you’ll discover a vast array of rooms, each dedicated to a different plant theme.
Step into the Palm Court with its towering tropical plants, marvel at the exotic species in the Orchid Room, or see the pitcher plants and flytraps in the Carnivorous Plant Room.
Evening Activities in Pittsburgh
Go Shopping and Have Dinner in Lawrenceville
If you’re in the mood for some retail therapy followed by a delicious meal, Lawrenceville is the place to be. I used to live in this neighborhood, and it was always fun, but it’s gotten ever cooler in the years since I left!
Start your shopping spree at Wildcard, a quirky, one-of-a-kind boutique brimming with unique Pittsburgh-themed gifts and intriguing curiosities. It’s open until 6 pm.
Next, pop over to Mello & Sons, where you’ll discover an eclectic mix of vintage goods and modern treasures. It’s open until 6 pm also.
And don’t forget to visit the Clemente Museum. This intimate museum is a tribute to the legendary baseball player Roberto Clemente, offering a glimpse into his remarkable life and career.
Now, let’s talk about food. Lawrenceville boasts a plethora of fantastic eateries. Umami serves up mouthwatering Japanese izakaya-style dishes, while Piccolo Forno offers traditional Tuscan cuisine in a cosy, rustic setting.
If tacos are your thing, Condado Tacos has a vast menu of customizable options that will tantalize your taste buds. Last but not least, consider Industry Public House, a hip gastropub known for their craft beers and innovative cocktails.
Attend a Pirates Game at PNC Park
Next on your Pittsburgh adventure, how about a visit to PNC Park? Ranked by many baseball fans as the most scenic ballpark in America, this is an experience you won’t want to miss even if you’re not a die-hard baseball fan.
Nestled on the North Shore of Pittsburgh, the park offers breathtaking views of the city skyline, the Allegheny River, and the Roberto Clemente Bridge. Baseball season runs from April to September. Even though the Pirates usually aren’t very good, this ballpark is an attraction by itself.
Ride the Incline to the Top of Mount Washington
Ready to experience some of the most stunning urban views in the country? Your next stop in Pittsburgh should be a ride to the top of Mount Washington on one of the city’s historic inclines. It’s an experience you can enjoy after dark, as both inclines run late.
Pittsburgh is home to two of these unique transportation systems: the Monongahela and the Duquesne Inclines. For just a few bucks, you can ascend the steep slopes of Mount Washington and be rewarded with panoramic views of the city’s nighttime skyline, plus its rivers and bridges.
There are a couple of overlooks atop Mount Washington that offer some of the best views and photo opportunities in Pittsburgh!
Go Bar Hopping on the South Side
When the sun sets, it’s the South Side’s turn to shine! Another of my former neighborhoods, the South Side is full of legendary bars of all kinds, from divey joints to places that are a little more trendy and upscale.
But not too upscale — this is the South Side, after all, an area with working class roots that remain to this day.
Start your night at Jack’s, a classic Pittsburgh watering hole where the drinks are strong and the atmosphere is always welcoming. Jack’s is open 365 days a year, so it should be on your list if you’re visiting on a holiday and want a place to grab a beer on Easter or Christmas.
Then head over to Mario’s, a lively spot known for its energetic crowd and great music. Looking for something a bit more exotic? Head to Tiki Lounge, with its Hawaiian-themed decor and delectable tropical cocktails.
And let’s not forget about Dee’s Cafe, an iconic dive bar where I spent my hipster years drinking cheap beer, shooting pool, and playing ping pong long into the night.
Other Options for a 1-Day Pittsburgh Itinerary
Here are a few more options you may want to work into your one day in Pittsburgh schedule.
-Walk around the baseball and football stadiums on the North Side. Both PNC Park and Acrisure Stadium (formerly Heinz Field) have numerous statues of former players on the sidewalk. There’s even a Mr. Rogers statue!
-Visit Rivers Casino, next to the stadiums. This casino helped to partially fund the sports stadiums. Try to hit it big!
–Carnegie Museum of Natural History. This is one of the most popular museums in Pittsburgh, full of exhibits about dinosaurs, fossils, wildlife, and more.
-Pittsburgh Zoo. An institution for decades, the Pittsburgh Zoo is open year-round. It has the usual exotic big game animals, plus an aquarium with penguins, sea turtles, and more.
-Schenley Park. This large park in Oakland is a good place for people-watching, picnics, or playing frisbee golf.
-The Mattress Factory. Stop in to the Mattress Factory to find yourself a comfortable new mattress for years of solid sleep. Just kidding! The Mattress Factory is actually a trendy art museum, ideal for fans of the Warhol Museum.
A Few Additional “Local” Activities
If you’re really trying to live like a local in Pittsburgh, consider some of these.
-Walk around Squirrel Hill. Have coffee at 61C Cafe and check out the Avalon Exchange thrift store.
-Sing karaoke at Nico’s Recovery Room in Bloomfield.
-Play ping pong at Gooski’s dive bar in Polish Hill.
-Grab a Reuben sandwich at Big Jim’s in Greenfield.
-Grab a slice of pizza. Pittsburghers argue about which place has the best pizza, but some favorites include Mineo’s, Vincent’s, Aiello’s, and Fiori’s.
-Visit Kennywood, one of the top amusement parks in the country. Get the potato patch fries!
Got any other suggestions to add to a Pittsburgh one-day itinerary?