Witnessing a Renaissance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

February 6, 2013

in Pennsylvania, USA

My first trip to Pittsburgh was most likely long before I could even say the word ‘Pittsburgh’.  As a baby born west of the city in a small, steel-mill town called Steubenville, Ohio, I am quite certain that my parents took me into Pittsburgh at any given opportunity.  But shortly after I was born, we fled the Ohio Valley and wound up in various locations across the United States and Europe.  However, holidays and family gatherings always led us back to that football-crazed area of the USA.

Traveling back to the area as a kid growing up mostly in Virginia always perpetrated the most confusing of thoughts being created in my head.  Part of me wanted to live in the area to be closer to my grandparents and extended family.  But mostly, I secretly thanked my parents for fleeing the area.

Pittsburgh was depressing.  The buildings were grey and drab.  The skies seemed to clutch onto clouds in such a manner that I wondered if the sun was even allowed to shine in such a place.  I would gaze to the right hand side out of the car window and check out Three Rivers Stadium as we were going over the Monongahela via the golden Fort Pitt Bridge and think to myself that I hated this city during the day.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I got the treat of coming into the city at night.  When we entered the city late at night I remember getting butterflies in my stomach as I knew that nothing in this world could compare to the beauty of Pittsburgh at night.  Sure, I was just a naive child with such thoughts, but I knew they were justified.  For all of what Pittsburgh lacked during the daylight hours, it surely made up for at night.

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Years went by and those trips through and to Pittsburgh continued to happen.  And each and every year, something new popped up in the area to make me think, “Wow, this city is really turning itself around…”  The shopping got better, Three Rivers Stadium was demolished and made way for Heinz Field and PNC Park (which was bittersweet for many Pittsburghers), and new areas around the city began undergoing renovations.  But most importantly, jobs returned to Pittsburgh.  What was once globally known as the steel-mill capital was now becoming a force to be reckoned with in the banking and healthcare industries.  But one thing that didn’t change, thank goodness, was the butterflies that Pittsburgh gave me when I saw her at night.

At age 21, this Virginia girl officially became an Ohioan (again).  I moved to southwestern Ohio, which was only a four hour drive (with my lead foot) to Pittsburgh.  Since my grandparents were still living west of the city, I visited as frequently as I could.  And every single time I visited them, I made sure I took that little drive into Pittsburgh to see the city.  But something strange happened in the process.  I began getting those butterflies I had received upon seeing the Pittsburgh skyline at night…during the day.

Every time I went into the city I began discovering something new.  I discovered I could actually enjoy french fries on a sandwich at Primanti Bros.  I discovered the diversity of Pittsburgh and its immigration history through the Strip District, or even from indulging in Ethiopian cuisine in East End.

I discovered that, hands down, the most loyal people in the United States live in the Pittsburgh area.  And if you don’t believe me, go to a Pittsburgh Steelers game.  But don’t you dare wear anything purple or orange.  And if you can’t make it to a Steelers game, you are almost guaranteed to find a Steelers bar filled with fans of the franchise in any city in the US.  Or in the world, for that matter.  The Steelers craze has even taken over Rome, Italy.

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Before my life got turned around and I ended up in Norway, I was actually searching for jobs in Pittsburgh.  I felt, despite having never truly lived there, at home in the city.  I grew used to GPSs never being able to keep up with Pittsburgh’s curvy roads and the crap weather this area of the country delivered to its inhabitants.  I even thought it was semi-normal to only be able to purchase beer at a distributor due to crazy Pennsylvania beer laws.  It turns out I’m not the only one who has an affinity for all things Pittsburgh.  Have you even seen how many movies have been filmed in Pittsburgh in the last few years?  You’d be amazed if not.

Andrew Carnegie once said “Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out“.  While it took my emotional attachment to the city a little longer to build and strengthen, it is there and our bond will never be broken.

Pittsburgh was once a thriving place to live.  And then it became a depressing place to live.  And currently, it is continuously being ranked as one of the best cities in America to live and work in.  The only factor that could have played such a huge role in the renaissance of a major city is the perseverance of the people that live there.

Bottom line:  Visit Pittsburgh. 

And if you don’t do it for any other reason, do it for the two million people that live in the area who never gave up on Pittsburgh when the rest of the nation did.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

kelly February 6, 2013 at 3:58 am

My mother grew up outside of Pittsburgh so we used to travel there twice a year when I was growing up. Pittsburgh was the biggest city I had been to and I thought it was awesome. I loved going to Kennywood and Pirate’s games and I saw my first dinosaur bones at one of the Carnegie Museums. I haven’t been there is ages but I still have found memories!
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Megan February 7, 2013 at 3:56 am

i used to go to kennywood in the summers when i visited my grandparents! i loved it! i remember the roller coaster that took you right to the edge and it scared the crap out of me!

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Alex @ ifs ands & butts February 6, 2013 at 10:08 am

One of my friends goes for work a lot and he always complains about how dreary it is, but he’s also there for work. Anywhere people are super loyal to a location, you know there’s something special there. That’s how I always feel about Texas :)
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Megan February 7, 2013 at 3:56 am

yea i guess if i was doing work travel id feel the same! it really is cool though….i promise!!

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lindsey February 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm

this post makes me so happy and homesick at the same time!! you did such a wonderful job capturing the essence of Pittsburgh. There is nothing like going to Heinz Field for a big game. The energy in there is insane. And don’t get me started on a warm summer’s night at PNC Park! :) I might be biased, but I think it’s a pretty spectacular place.
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Megan February 7, 2013 at 3:57 am

haha you’re no more biased than i might be ;) i freaking love it. and its funny because any other city ive been to i have met people that live there that hate it. ive never once come across this in pittsburgh. not ONCE.

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I’ve been a couple of times and really enjoyed it!

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Megan February 7, 2013 at 3:58 am

thats awesome! glad youve enjoyed your trips there andi!

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Liza in Ann Arbor February 6, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Awww…this is like a love note to Pittsburgh. My dad grew up about an hour east, where the beautiful Allegheny Mountains begin. I went a lot as a child also and my dad still retains his “Pittsburghese” accent (i.e. “warsh” instead of “wash”, “keller” instead of “color”). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that beautiful night view, but I will say that it reminds me of coming over the hill in Kentucky on I-75 north and, boom, there’s Cincinnati. My heart skips a beat every time!
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Megan February 7, 2013 at 3:59 am

hahha ohhh warsh. my grandparents always said it and my sisters and i would always tease them for it. that or saying ‘yins’. (i grew up with ‘yall’ in virginia). i love that you mentioned going into cincy from KY on here! i lived in that area for the last 8 years prior to moving to norway and i feel the same way! pittsburgh is still my favorite, but i really love going through cincinnati too!

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Larissa February 7, 2013 at 12:36 am

Will have to check it out someday, that is a pretty awesome skyline. I actually spent a lot of my childhood summers on the exact opposite side in Philadelphia. Is it weird that I almost just tried to compare Pennsylvania to a country? Think I’ve been in Europe too long.
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Megan February 7, 2013 at 4:00 am

haha no its not weird at all considering i do the same. :) ive been to philly a lot to having grown up on the east coast, but i think that philly and pittsburgh couldnt be more different. and i think youd be more of a pittsburgh girl ;)

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Sylvia February 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Oh… my… God… that first photo… I’m almost breathless!!
Never really heard anything of Pittsburgh, except the name, so this was very fun to read. :D
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Megan February 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

it is a stunning place…it really is! if you ever find yourself in the US you need to make sure you check it out!

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Janniann February 8, 2013 at 9:46 am

I was born in Pittsburgh, raised in Pittsburgh and retired to Yuma, Arizona 20 years ago. I return to the ‘burgh every year and still get goosebumps when I come through the Fort Pitt tunnels and the City greets me. Love ‘ya Pittsburgh and love ‘ya Steelers !!

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Amy February 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

I know the feeling Janniann, I love the view as you get out of the tunnels. When I drive friends from the airport I make sure they are looking up and get the camara ready. It is a great welcome.

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Megan February 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm

i agree with you both! i remember the first time i took my boyfriend through that tunnel and couldnt even drive straight because i was so excited to show off the city. i even made him film it haha! :) i swear i think it is dangerous though because for the first 5 seconds after coming out of the fort pitt tunnel i lose my breath and have no idea how i see or concentrate on anything except the beautiful skyline :) thanks for your comments!

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Carla February 9, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Like the writer I am not originally from Pgh. When I 1st moved here from CT I was depress to not see the sun come out (very cloudy city & gray i though). Also as the writer writes things started to happen to the city it started to awake from it’s depression & bless us with a beauty Smile.

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Megan February 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm

thanks for the comment carla! it is good to know that i wasnt alone on this. its amazing to see a city transform right before your own eyes. the locals always knew it was special…it just took a little more for me to realize how amazing it was. i cant wait to travel back!

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Joy Hart February 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I love Pittsburgh! Believe it or not — my husband and I moved our family here in August 2011 from sunny So. California. Life has not been the same since and don’t believe we’d ever go back to California. It truly is a blessed opportunity to raise my 12 and 16 yr. old in a city rich in history and down-to-earth & friendly people. We cross the Fort Pitt Tunnel and Bridge on a daily basis, and it still takes my breath away each time. Just recently learned about the “Pittsburgh Left” and yeah… I still shake my head each time someone does it even with a cop car around – but just one of the quirky, endearing things about Pittsburgh’s locals. There are still so many things/places yet to be discovered and we are enjoying every moment. Love your post!

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Megan February 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm

that is so cool that you uprooted everyone from so.CA to pittsburgh and are loving every minute of it! its so funny that my parents moved our family out of the area and i would have given up everything to have moved there as an adult once i got to know the city and appreciate it more (somehow ended up in norway instead haha!). its one of a kind, as are its people!

thanks so much for sharing your story and love for such a great city! it just makes me yearn to get back there immediately! :)

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Andrea February 10, 2013 at 9:02 am

I’ve only been to Philly but looks like there’s so much more of Pennsylvania to explore!
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Megan February 13, 2013 at 3:56 pm

ohhh you have to check it out one of these days….you really would enjoy it if you went! the place has so much personality.

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Jeremy Branham February 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I’ve heard Pittsburgh is a great city :) I hope to visit this year and catch a Pirates game!
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Megan February 13, 2013 at 3:56 pm

i hope you can too!!! :) i dont think youll be disappointed by this city.

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Michael Pearce February 12, 2013 at 10:13 am

I love the city of Pittsburgh and try to get there every year. Saw snow for the first time there in 2011. I consider it my second home and being a Steeler fan helps a lot with that too. I live in Nassau, Bahamas but I am a Pittsburgher at heart. Its a great city.

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Megan February 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm

that is so great that you have so much love for this place! it’s exactly how i feel! thanks for your comment :)

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Julia of Nowhere to Go but Everywhere March 1, 2013 at 2:44 am

As a Pittsburgh girl, born and raised, can I just say that you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head? Wow. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a description of my beloved ‘burgh that was quite as accurate as this. The city really is a cultural gem, even more so as the years go by and the art and restaurant worlds begin to explode downtown. I left 4 years ago, but every time I see that skyline as I drive through the Ft. Duquesne bridge I feel those same butterflies.

I also adore the Ethiopian cuisine that is blowing up in the east end! And, so glad to see you included the loyal nature of the Pittsburghers. We’re many things, good and bad, but I’d like to think loyal is our strongest characteristic :)

Beautiful post, Megan. It really warmed my heart and made me miss my city. Go Steelers!
xx Julia
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Erika April 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, but this makes me want to go! That picture at night is stunning! And it also goes to show you that a place is made of people… and some places can’t be broken if people fight for it enough! :)
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