Weekend in Pittsburgh

Posted on 09/22/2013 in misc

We drove up Thursday, stopping at Fallingwater on the way. My GPS took us up over a mountain on a barely paved road, but since we were only 5 miles from Fallingwater I just went with it. If I try that in December they may need to rescue squad to save us. It was an interesting road, but fun to drive on a pleasant fall afternoon. Fallingwater was awesome. It's definitely a must see if you are ever in the Pittsburgh area. That was my first time in a Frank Lloyd Wright house and I certainly have a greater appreciation for his genius after seeing the house up close.

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Since we were staying near the airport west of the city and were approaching from the southeast, we went straight into town for dinner at Hofbrauhaus, which is modeled after the beer garden in Germany that shares its name. Good German food paired with traditional German beer, what's not to love?

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After dinner we wandered around Station Square a bit - which is just a collection of chain stores and restaurants on the river. However, you can catch the Incline there to get to the top of Mt. Washington overlooking the city. It's a sublime place to enjoy a meal or a drink on a comfortable evening.

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We started Friday at The National Aviary. I thought it was a bit of a letdown. You can see everything there without rushing and take in a couple of feeding demos in less than 90 minutes. Unless you are an avid bird watcher type you can probably skip The National Aviary.

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After lunch at local sandwich shop and a walk around the Mexican War Streets neighborhood, we headed out to the Bayerhof Museum. The museum is just the 19,000 square feet home of the late Chuck Brown, a rich industrialist in Pittsburgh who died in the late 1990s and collected a lot of stuff in his mansion. The focus of the tour is his collection of 18th century mechanical musical devices, all of which were very cool. The house also comes complete with an observatory located above the master bedroom, and 3 secret passages hidden behind Scooby-Doo doors in bookshelves and walls. The house also features 11 wet bars and 1 indoor pool. It sounded like Chuck fancied himself as an east coat version of Hugh Heffner. The tour was really interesting, although a bit long at 2.5 hours. 90 minutes would be perfect.

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After dinner at a sports pub near the stadium we made my first visit to PNC Park. The stadium is spectacular, with great view lines, comfortable seating, and a team headed for the playoffs. That said, the Pirates blew the game in epic "Red Sox" like fashion. With 2 outs and a 3 run lead in the top of the 9th, the SS fielded a routine grounder and instead of making an easy throw to first to end the game, he threw the ball into the Reds dugout, allowing the runner on 2nd to score. The Reds proceeded to score twice more to tie the game and then win it in the 10th.

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We woke up Saturday AM to pouring rain which didn't let up until late afternoon. Luckily, we had seen that possibility on the forecast so we planned all indoor activities that day. We spent the first half of the day at the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History. We didn't get to at least a third of the exhibits. The natural history side has a fabulous collection of dinosaur fossils, an extensive collection of gems and minerals, and dozens of large taxidermy specimens. I know taxidermy is out of style today, however all these specimens were 100+ years old and when they were collected the only way most people in Pittsburgh were going to see a bear was to see one stuffed, in a museum.

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We also visited the Andy Warhol museum. I was a little concerned that it might be too avant-garde for my wife. It turned out she enjoyed it more than I did. I thought it was over priced for what you get there. Prior to visiting the museum we stepped into a pub around the corner for a snack. It was the local Ohio State alumni hangout. I was not amused.

I learned on this weekend that my wife has made it {redacted} years and has never set foot in a casino. So we stopped by The River Casino in Pittsburgh, which is your typical Midwest casino populated by local rednecks, tourists, and sad looking senior citizens. We were only there an hour, just long enough for Michelle to play the slots and decide that casinos are over rated. ( I could have told her that!). We lost \$2.85 in our hour there, and the people watching was definitely worth that much. We saw a young couple arguing about whether the guy has a gambling problem and we saw a couple balancing their checkbook at a slot machine, presumably figuring out how much more they could put in to the machine that night.

As Saturday was her birthday we splurged on dinner and went Cajun at NOLA on the Square. They served us 5 lb seafood gumbo dishes that I almost hurt myself trying to finish as I felt guilty leaving any food behind when it was that good, and that expensive. I did leave a good bit of rice behind, because I'm not exaggerating about the 5 pounds. Well, not exaggerating by much.

For dessert Michelle wanted cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory, which turned into quite an adventure as the 2.2 mile drive took 30 minutes because my GPS was perpetually confused by the many roads in Pittsburgh that run parallel at slightly different elevations. We took the "scenic" route at least twice each day due to GPS not knowing what road we were really on. Pittsburgh is a great city, but it is worse to drive in than Boston. And driving in Boston sucks!

On one of those scenic detours we found ourself on E. Carson Street, which had the highest concentration of bars I've ever seen. There must have been 40 or so bars and pubs in a 10 block stretch, and they all looked fairly busy. I was impressed. Any city that can support that size of a bar district (and these were all local looking places, not tourist traps) is my kind of town.

Well played Pittsburgh, well played.

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