Student Guide to a Pittsburgh Vacation

As spring just barely starts to emerge, this time of year we could all use a little something to help us shake the winter blues.

Spring break is just around the corner, but this year, you don’t need to head to Miami or Cancun to enjoy your time off. There’s plenty of fun and action right here in Pittsburgh. For out-of-town visitors and Pittsburgh-area students choosing to stick around, we made a list of the city’s treasures for you to explore over break.

Strip District

Whether you have yet to visit “The Strip,” as locals like to call it, or you have been many times before, there’s always something new to discover. You’ll be shocked by how much action can fit within a narrow, one-half mile strip of land. It is home to a large assortments of ethnic grocers, fresh food vendors, boutiques, coffee shops, dive bars, dance clubs, restaurants and more. 

  • Stop by an art exhibit at the Society for Contemporary Craft or get your history fix at the Senator John Heinz History Center, the largest history museum in Pennsylvania. 
  • Indulge in The Strip’s well-known international food scene with cuisine representative of destinations including Korea, Argentina, and Italy. 
  • Pro Tip: Visit on a Saturday morning when the neighborhood is at its peak energy.

South Side 

Every spring break needs a sprinkle of night life, and there’s no better place to find it than Pittsburgh’s South Side. The South Side has the city’s greatest concentration of bars, restaurants, pubs, and night clubs, making this neighborhood a top pick for those looking for an entertaining night on the town. 

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Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium 

Take a tour of the Asian Forest, trek through the jungle, and see tropical aquatic life at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see one of only six major zoo and aquarium combinations in the United States. 

  • Explore 77 acres of park packed full of fun experiences and unique sights. The park is home to more than 4,000 animals representing 475 species, including 20 threatened or endangered species. 
  • Gain a new appreciation for wildlife with a scenic bird’s-eye view of the African Savanna before heading over to the Water’s Edge where you can enjoy the company of a lively polar bear. 
  • When planning your trip, keep an eye on the zoo’s schedule because they often hosts special events.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens 

Spring break is all about breaking out of your regular routine for a breath of fresh air. Here in Western PA, March taunts us with the thought of spring right around the corner, though the weather is still pretty gloomy. The good news is, at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, you can celebrate beautiful greenery all year around. 

  • Make your way over to Schenley Park, situated in Pittsburgh’s lively Oakland neighborhood, to experience Phipps’ historic glasshouse and vibrant botanical gardens. 
  • Transport your senses to brighter days with breathtaking seasonal flower shows and exhibits, innovative sustainable architecture, green rooftops, art collections and more.

Pens Game 

Pittsburgh is known as one of America’s most popular sports cities. In fact, Expedia Canada named Pittsburgh one of the top must-visit hockey destinations across the U.S. and Canada. Pay homage to the city’s iconic sports heritage with a trip to see the Pittsburgh Penguins play at PPG Paints Arena. Things are really heating up as the Pens get closer to the playoff season. Don’t miss your chance to watch a team that has consistently held their place at the top of the NHL and participate in a passionate crowd of fans. Throw on a jersey, grab a beer, and get your tickets (in no particular order).  


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Arcade Comedy Theater 

Warning: this one may cause difficulty breathing due to excessive laughter. Head downtown for a night of laughs at the Arcade Comedy Theater, our favorite place in Pittsburgh for all things comedy. 

  • Enjoy stand-up, improv, sketch comedy and more for a night packed full of quirky entertainment. 
  • The theater lives in the heart of the Cultural District which already offers plenty to explore.
  • When you walk inside, you'll notice the venue is arcade themed, and they even have free old school games like Centipede and Ms. Pac-Man for guests to enjoy. 
  • The goal of the theater is to make the Pittsburgh community better through comedy and to provide an interactive space for all participants, both on stage and off. 
  • Stop in on a weekend, bring your own six-pack or bottle of wine (or both?), sit back and enjoy the show.  

Brewery Tour

There are dozens of breweries scattered throughout Pittsburgh, old and new, each bringing something fresh to the table. Many before have embarked on a quest to find the best ales, lagers and stouts in town, yet it has proved to be a journey that never ends as Pittsburgh’s breweries continue to multiply. 

  • City Brew Tours can help you navigate your way through this lively scene with a group of others determined to taste their way through the delicious taps and food this city has to offer. 
  • If you’d prefer a more causal beer experience, we recommended making your way along the North Shore. Southern Tier, Allegheny City Brewing and one of Pittsburgh’s earliest pioneers in the American craft movement, Penn Brewery, never let us down.  

Relax and Unwind

Spa Day

Getaways are all about rejuvenation. This spring break, you don’t need to go any further than one of Pittsburgh’s many luxury spas to lift your spirits and let go of stress. We recommend visiting Peace, Love and Zen in Pittsburgh’s youthful East Liberty neighborhood. What better place to partake in a little self-care than at a 100% women owned spa? This spa is most well-known for its Himalayan Salt Cave. Immersing in the mineral-rich air is believed to improve breathing, soothe skin and boost the immune system. There’s no doubt that spending 45 minutes relaxing in the warm, orange glow of the salt cave will make you feel refreshed. 

Hot Yoga

Relax your mind and your body at one of Pittsburgh’s many yoga studios. Hot yoga can sound intimidating, sweaty and well, anything but relaxing… but if you haven’t tried it before, we recommend giving it a shot. 

  • Amazing Yoga, with locations in Shadyside, Wexford and South Side, is one of the city’s most distinguished studios. Their mission is to offer a welcoming home for anyone aspiring to feel the happiness of yoga and meditation. Capture the essence of an island yoga retreat, and sign up for a session. 

Shopping

Lawrenceville is one of the largest and hippest neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. There are always new boutiques, taprooms and cafés popping up around Butler Street, so much so that you could spend an entire day browsing even just one end of the neighborhood. In Lawrenceville you can shop:

  • Clothing
  • Home Goods
  • Unique commodities like greeting cards, hand blown glass, and even teddy bear repairs. 

For souvenirs we recommend stopping by Wildcard and The Candle Lab, or, if you’re looking to score the latest trends, check out Pavement, Vestis and No. 13 Boutique. Wherever you end up, you’ll see that every shop embodies a unique brand offering a new experience every time you walk in the door.

Make your spring break one for the books! Relax and unwind in Pittsburgh, and return to class feeling refreshed and ready for next semester!