Due to the fact that Pittsburgh's setting straddles multiple river valleys, the hills surrounding the city enable you to get some excellent city views. A previous post by Dave DiCello covered some of his favorite vantage points of the city. I agree with all of those spots, so I will include them in my list, in addition to a few of my own favorites that are seldom mentioned. There are so many different angles to get excellent views and photos of the city. I've identified more than 25 different places (in no particular order) that you need to check out. This post will feature the first 9, but be sure to stay tuned for the remaining must-see views soon!
- The Lower Hill District
- Frank Curto Park
- Mt. Washington
- Point State Park
- West End Overlook
- Sheraden: Brunot Road Overlook
- Cathedral of Learning and Oakland
- Oakland's Schenley Park
- The City's Bicycling and Walking Trails
We will start off with one of the best, yet often overlooked area, the Lower Hill District. The area of the former Civic Arena gives breathtaking views of the city skyline. When the old arena was planned, one of the concepts of the design was a retracting roof to enable spectacular views. When the roof was open, it provided a dramatic view of the Pittsburgh skyline, then dominated by the Gulf and Kopper's Buildings. When the arena first opened with its original tenant (the Pittsburgh Civic Light Orchestra) on Jul 4 1962, Carol Burnett put on one of the opening shows for the arena. She joked about the then-new facility, saying "It'll be a pretty nice place when they get the roof fixed." Future performers, including Leonard Bernstein, were harsher critics of having the roof open, and this novelty would eventually fall out of favor at the arena. While the arena is now long gone, the spectacular views of the skyline remain.
Frank Curto Parkcan be found on Bigelow Boulevard westbound, right after you pass through Polish Hill and before you hit Downtown. This location provides a dramatic view of Downtown, the Strip District, North Side, and Lawrenceville.
In addition to the scenic views, you are almost certain to run into some wildlife. I have seen turkeys, deer, groundhogs, different birds, squirrels, and more, visiting us as we sightsee at the park. This spot also holds the distinction of being the first project of what would eventually become the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, an organization formed to improve the living standards of Pittsburghers. The conservancy has gone on to create, preserve, and protect some of Western PA's most important regional assets, including Ohiopyle, McConnell's Mill, and a number of other lands that became state parks. The conservancy also aided Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, one of his most famous architectural works. The organization's success with Frank Curto Park, their first major project, began a tremendous legacy that has continually improved Western Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh's most famous scenic vistas can be found upon Mt. Washington. This vantage point is known worldwide and it gives one of the most complete views of the downtown area. Additionally, it is home to the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, two of the best places to soak in views of the skyline. No matter how many times you go up Mt. Washington, you will be sure to see something different every time. Variations in the time of day, weather conditions, the city's events, and more contribute to the dynamic views that you see here. My wife and I had our first date here, and it consisted of riding up the Mon Incline, walking across Grandview Avenue, and going down the Duquesne Incline, all on a blustery February evening. The walk across the top is roughly a mile long, and beautiful views of the skyline are seen in nearly every spot.
Point State Park is a place that has always served as a gateway and hub of activity for the city. It sits at the confluence of the city's three rivers, and offers broad views of the Golden Triangle. Throughout the grounds of the state park you can see the outlines of two forts that were erected at the Point during the French and Indian Wars. In 1754, the French built Fort Duquesne, and in 1758, after the British defeated the French, Fort Pitt was built by the British. Off to the right in this photo, you can see the Fort Pitt Museum and the Fort Pitt Blockhouse. Dating back to 1764, the Blockhouse is believed to be the oldest building in the city of Pittsburgh and west of the Alleghenies, though this is a debated topic. The history alone is worth a visit to the point, but the vistas of the city make this place that you must visit.
Located in the Elliott neighborhood of the city, the West End Overlook provides one of the most expansive views of the entire city skyline.
This is a somewhat hidden and unofficial viewing area, but if you enjoy visiting the West End Overlook, this place is a must. It provides a view of North Side and Downtown from further down the Ohio River. This is right on the edge of Pittsburgh city limits.
Throughout Oakland, you are likely to be within feet of seeing the Cathedral of Learning.The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning is the tallest building dedicated to university education in the western hemisphere. The Cathedral's first three floors have thirty different classrooms dedicated to some of the cultures that have contributed to the growth of the city and the University. The Nationality Rooms are open to tours and even hold classes at the University. The lobbyof this Late Gothic Revival building, known as the Commons Room, is three floors tall and offers tremendous views. It often hosts nationality festivals, college functions, and more. The 36th floor is the highest floor open to the public of any building in the city of Pittsburgh. Right near the building are the world-renowned institutions such as the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, the Oakland branch of the Carnegie Library, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Carnegie Mellon University, and more.
The best way to see everything that Oakland has to offer is to simply take a walk through the neighborhood. On the Friday night of Pitt's homecoming weekend in the fall, they shoot fireworks off of each of the tiers of the building. If the Pitt football team wins, you will see the dazzling orange victory lights on top of the building.
The jewel of Pittsburgh's park system, Schenley Park, is a paradise of its own. Schenley Park contributes to Pittsburgh's ranking as one of the most forested cities in the country. According to the US Forest Service, 42 percent of the city is covered in forest. Large hillsides that were once logged during the days of heavy industry, have since regenerated and create an urban oasis. Schenley Park is one such place to check out this beauty. Terrific views of the city are found at both Schenley Oval and Flagstaff Hill.
The Three Rivers Heritage Trail, Eliza Furnace Trail, and South Side Riverfront Trail, are Pittsburgh's main riverside bicycling and walking trails. These trails cover most of the riverfront areas in the city and provide endless opportunities for people looking to get great views of the city. These trails provide pedestrian and bicyclist access to many bridges that you would typically miss. The Hot Metal Bridge Pedestrian Walkway is part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and it provides a view of Downtown Pittsburgh from upstream on the Monongahela River.