For the greater part of the 20th century, Pittsburgh had long been associated with steel, so much so that the city’s football team is named for the industry. Site of the infamous Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, Pittsburgh is a city that has successfully reinvented itself again and again over the last 250 years.
This September, right about when the leaves begin to change colors, Pittsburgh, specifically Pittsburgh International Race Complex, will become known as the host city for the 2023 NASA Championships.
Anyone who has ever driven Pitt Race will tell you what a marvelous track it is. Anyone who has ever visited the area can tell you there’s a lot more to it than steel and Super Bowl Championships, something the Steelers had more of than any other team till the New England Patriots tied them in 2019 with six wins apiece.
If you are going to the 2023 NASA Championships — and you should register right now — we have found a few of some of the most interesting things to see and do in the greater Pittsburgh area. Whether you take time before or after the event, be sure to see one or more of the following attractions.
Steelers Hall of Honor Museum
Yes, yes, we know we said Pittsburgh is about more than just its football team, but when a team has been so good decade after decade, with only three coaches in most of our lifetimes, it really begins to become more of a dynasty than a team.
The Steelers play in Acrisure Stadium, which is where the Steelers Hall of Honor Museum is located. Dedicated to the standouts throughout Steelers history, the Hall of Honor Museum is home to nearly 50 inductees in a 10,000-plus-square-foot facility. Fans and foes alike can learn more about the franchise and see rare artifacts from the team’s long history in the steel city. Portions of the proceeds from the museum go to the Art Rooney Scholarship fund.
The museum is open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be open on all Pittsburgh Pirates games during the 2023 season. The Pirates play just next door in PNC Park, and there are lots of great bars and restaurants between the two stadiums on the “North Shore,” so named for its location on the north side of the Allegheny River.
The Andy Warhol Museum
Andy Warhol was long known for his lavish lifestyle, and his showings and galleries in New York City. What is lesser known is that Warhol was a native of Pittsburgh, home of The Andy Warhol Museum just a block away from PNC Park on the North Shore.
Home to the largest collection of Warhol art and archives in the world, The Andy Warhol Museum houses seven floors and underground levels filled with rotating exhibitions that showcase Warhol’s work and work from other artists.
The museum is arranged from the top floor, with Warhol’s earliest works, through the 1960s, 70s and 80s on the middle floors. The third floor features the archives study center, with the second floor reserved for the special exhibitions gallery. The first floor entrance space sets the tone for the rest of the museum.
When you finish your visit, you can stroll around The Pop District around the museum. An initiative of The Andy Warhol Museum, The Pop District seeks to transform “the North Shore through the power of arts, creativity and economic development.”
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
For racers whose nests are not empty and who bring children with them to the track, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh provides innovative and inclusive museum experiences “that inspire kindness, joy, creativity and curiosity for all learners.” If you’ve ever been to a really good children’s museum, like this one, you understand that those learners also can be adults.
NASA racers are like big kids, anyway, but the museum offers lots of temporary and permanent exhibits, including what it calls the “garage,” a two-story space filled with interactive exhibits that roll, spin, bounce and fly. With lots of hands-on components, the garage includes a Rube Goldberg music machine, newly designed vehicles with roller-blade wheels that your kids can test on a 37-foot test course. It even includes a race track you can custom build.
Also located on the North Shore in the Commons, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Penn Avenue runs from the heart of downtown along the southern shore of the Allegheny River and into Pittsburgh’s famous Strip District. The Strip District also includes Smallman Street to the north and Liberty Avenue to the south. If you’re a foodie, this is the place you want to visit. The Strip District has everything from Vietnamese pho, coffee and mezcal to burgers, candy, Italian food, meat and fish markets, grocers, produce stands, local bakeries and sidewalk vendors. There are also wineries and live music venues to explore.
So named because it’s a narrow, half-mile strip of flat land between the Allegheny River and the Hill District, the Strip District was where George Westinghouse invented air brakes and AC current. Nowadays, it’s a hipster and foodie haven that must be experienced on any trip to Pittsburgh.
Bicycle Heaven Museum
You might find this hard to believe, but Pittsburgh is home to the world’s largest bicycle museum. Voted the No. 1 museum in all of Pittsburgh, the Bicycle Heaven Museum has been featured in the New York Times, the London Telegraph and other publications worldwide.
The museum has rented some of its exhibits for use in movies such as “A Beautiful Mind,” “Super 8,” “Fathers and Daughters,” and “Fences.” Bicycle Heaven even has Pee-Wee Herman’s bike from the movie, “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure!” The museum also has on display the Bowden Spacelander, the first fiberglass bike ever made, and one of the most sought-after bicycles, one of nearly 6,000 bikes on display. Admission is free and it’s open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voted one of the top 10 sites in the world for viewing a cityscape by USA Today, the Duquesne Incline is a funicular that ascends the steep hillside on the south side of the city, where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers converge to form the Ohio River.
The site of an old coal hoist, the Duquesne Incline rises from the banks of the three rivers, and has been in operation since it opened in May 1877. Originally a way to connect the city to the farmland atop Mount Washington, the Duquesne Incline climbs 400 feet in elevation on nearly 800 feet of track up a grade of 30.5 degrees — about the same as the high banks at Daytona International Speedway — at 6 mph. Open 365 days a year, the Duquesne Incline costs just $5 for round trips for adults, and it offers reduced rates for children and groups.
Even if you’re not a fan of architecture, you have no doubt heard of Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably the most influential architect in American history. Nestled into the woods of Mill Run, about an hour and a half southeast of Pitt Race lies Wright’s residential masterpiece, Fallingwater. It’s a bit far to include in your NASA Championships travel plans, but an experience you’ll remember forever.
A National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Fallingwater was completed in 1939, commissioned by the Kaufmann family on 469 acres they owned in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. The family insisted the home be built near the waterfall on Bear Run Creek, which runs through their property. Wright being Wright, he built the home on the hillside and atop the waterfall, using reinforced concrete for the cantilevered terraces and native sandstone quarried from the Kaufmann’s land. Wright also included a stairwell from the main floor of the home to the water below.
Guided tours require reservations. Despite its remote location, Fallingwater is a popular destination, and tours are booked well in advance. If you want to see this masterpiece, book your tour early. More than 6 million people from around the world have toured the home, which Travel & Leisure magazine touted as, “one of 12 landmarks that will change the way you see the world.”
Great list! A game at PNC is a must as well!