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Weekend Mag Cover Story: Between the Madness

Believe it or not, there's more to Pittsburgh than Panthers and hardwood courts. Primanti's sandwiches, Carnegie dinosaurs, The Strip, and the view from Mount Washington are just a few of the attractions. Here's an out-of-towner's guide to what to do, ...

Friday, March 15, 2002

Compiled by Sarah Billingsley, John Hayes, Scott Mervis, Chris Rawson, Mary Thomas and Barbara Vancheri

The city's major entertainment districts, located a short ride from the hotels surrounding Mellon Arena, provide distractions ranging from the universally familiar to places that are distinctly Pittsburgh.

PREMIERE ATTRACTIONS

The Dinosaur Hall at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. (Bill Wade, Post-Gazette)

The granddaddy of Pittsburgh museums is the Carnegie Institute, founded in 1895 by industrialist Andrew Carnegie for the people of the city where he made his wealth. The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, in Oakland, are known for collections ranging from dinosaurs to contemporary art purchased from the prestigious Carnegie Internationals, from the outstanding Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems to elegant art deco panels from the Normandie ocean liner. Current exhibitions address "Evolution's Big Bang," "Works on Paper" and "Architecture + Water" in the Heinz Architectural Center. 412-622-3131.

One of the busiest places in town this weekend is likely to be the UPMC Sportsworks at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side. Sportsworks features more than 70 interactive experiences, allowing visitors to -- virtually -- cruise down Olympic bobsled runs, hang-glide over the Grand Canyon, shoot hockey pucks at a goalie, design a roller coaster and much more.


 
 
St. Patrick's Day
& Weekend

To all of the great Pittsburgh destinations showcased here you can add the myriad St. Patrick's Day celebrations spanning the tournament weekend. Find out more details, starting with the annual St. Patrick's Day parade beginning tomorrow at 10 a.m. Downtown, at our special report on the festivities.

   

 

The Science Center offers interactive exhibits, a Miniature Railroad Village, an Omnimax theater currently showing "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure" and "Everest," laser and planetarium shows, and tours of the U.S.S. Requin Submarine. 412-237-3400.

Another component of the Carnegie, The Andy Warhol Museum, is within walking distance of Downtown, a block across the Seventh Street Bridge. Displays range from the floating Silver Clouds room to the current exhibition of Andy's collecting interests including 19th-century American furniture, American Indian art and cookie jars. 412-237-8300.

The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center has a special exhibition, "Hidden Pittsburgh A to Z," which reveals the city through photographs and rare historic objects. It's at 1212 Smallman St. in the Strip District, itself a cornucopia of ethnic food retailers and restaurants. 412-454-6000.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens opens its Spring Flower Show tomorrow. (Douglass Oster/Post-Gazette)

Care to stop and smell the flowers? Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens near Schenley Park in Oakland offers 13 rooms of gardens in its historic glasshouse. Tomorrow, it opens its "Spring Flower Show: Colors of Sunlight," featuring thousands of springtime florals. 412-622-6914.

Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium, a 77-acre facility in Highland Park, is one of only six major zoo and aquarium combinations in the country. It is home to thousands of animals representing hundreds of diverse species. Attractions include Asian Forest, African Savannah, Tropical Forest and Kids Kingdom. 412-665-3639.

Pittsburgh Children's Museum, at Allegheny Center on the North Side, features Kids' Climber, a baby play area, multimedia studio, a 1920s Pittsburgh marketplace and special events. 412-322-5058.

Also on the North Side is the National Aviary, home to more than 600 exotic and endangered birds in natural and interactive habitats, including biodome rainforest exhibit. 412-323-7235.

The rivers. They're not just to look at. But since you probably don't have a boat handy, you can sail them on the Gateway Clipper Fleet at the Station Square dock. It offers river cruises with dining and entertainment. 412-355-7980.

OTHER HOT SPOTS

The Waterfront: Before or after a movie at the Loews Waterfront, you can browse through stores like Barnes & Noble, The Gap, Limited Too, Target and Dick's Sporting Goods, have dinner at the very hot Cap City Diner or Bravo! Italian Kitchen or work off some aggression with games at Dave & Buster's. If you're driving from Downtown, take the Parkway East (376) to the Squirrel Hill-Homestead exit and follow the Homestead signs. You want to cross the Homestead High-Level Bridge and turn right about three-quarters of the way across. To leave the Waterfront, you need to access the bridge from the other side of the complex; you cannot come back up that same ramp and make a left turn onto the bridge.

The Strip District: Located just east of Downtown, along Smallman and Penn avenues, it's a lively entertainment mecca at night, and on weekend mornings it's a bustling wholesale district with fresh produce, offbeat stands and shops and plenty of places for coffee and brunch.

The Shops at Station Square: The restored railroad station just across the Monongahela River on the South Shore offers shops and restaurants, from casual to the luxurious Grand Concourse, home to one of the city's biggest Sunday brunches. Call 412-261-9911.

Duquesne Incline: Located on Carson Street on either side of Station Square, this tourist fave climbs 400 feet up Mount Washington for a stunning view of the city. Call 412-381-1665.

PNC Park: The home of the Pirates is not open for tours right now. But you can visit the statues of Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell and the three restaurants: Outback Steak House, Atria's and Vincent's Pizza. It's just across the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the North Shore.

Pitt campus: Where does Brandin Knight take his classes? Probably in the Cathedral of Learning, the towering Gothic centerpiece of the Oakland campus. You can go inside and tour the Nationality Rooms on the ground floor. Another point of interest is theSoldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, across the street on Fifth Avenue.

Point State Park: The Point, at the confluence of the three rivers Downtown, is a beautiful place for a quiet walk. Tucked into the park is the Fort Pitt Museum, presenting exhibits on the area's historic connection to the French and Indian War.

Other parks: Schenley Park in Oakland and Frick Park in Squirrel Hill/Regent Square feature lovely walking trails (though Schenley's are little dug up in places right now).

AFTER DARK

The phrase "Strip District" has nothing to do with bumping and grinding. In the past 10 years, the narrow strip of street grids southeast of the Allegheny River has grown from a sleepy produce import zone to an entertainment destination populated with dance clubs and rock 'n' roll venues, mostly on Smallman Street and Penn Avenue.

Find the Strip's hippest, most progressive DJs at the alien-themed Area 51 (412-434-1144) and neo-chic M (412-261-4512). Bar Pittsburgh (412-201-4606), Headliners (412-247-9800) and Club Millennium (412-281-6100) are more mainstream. Shake your groove thing to tracked '70s disco at Have a Nice Day Cafe (412-201-1200), or to a dy-no-mite live disco band, House of Soul, tomorow at Rosebud (412-261-4512). Karl Mullen fronts one of Pittsburgh's best local original bands tonight at Rosebud. Nearer to Downtown, Sports Rock Cafe (412-552-1000) speaks for itself, the Boardwalk (412-281-1588) is a floating barge of dance clubs and eateries, and Valhalla (412-434-1440) brews its own in a cool, jazz restaurant.

Rock Jungle gets wild after dark. (Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

Across the Monongahela River, the South Side bristles with a less corporate night scene concentrated on or near East Carson Street. Technically, the South Side starts at Station Square, where Rock Jungle (412-765-2200) packs in the dance crowd;Philthy McNasty's (412-566-3666) serves beer and sports TV on tap; and this weekend Chilli headlines a standup gig at The Funny Bone (412-281-3130).

The South Side is busier between 12th and 23rd streets, where tons of clubs, bars and restaurants line Carson for nearly a half mile. The city's newest music showcase, Club Cafe (412-431-4950), spotlights local Celtic rockers The Wild Geese tonight, and national groove hipster Ben Arnold Band tomorrow. Lots of Pittsburgh rock at Nick's Fat City (412-481-6880): Friday, Brownie Mary and New Invisible Joy; Saturday, Sauce.

Still stuck on bumping and grinding? Take a peek at Club Elite (412-281-7703) Downtown and Bare Elegance (412-232-3211) in the Strip.

FUN FOOD, FINE DINING

In Pittsburgh, you can always count on two things: friendly service and hefty portions. There are plenty of places where the out-of-towner can have a good meal and a true Pittsburgh experience. For instance, forget the side dishes: We Pittsburghers pile our fries and coleslaw on our sandwich. Try a Primanti's sandwich, in Oakland (412-621-4444), Downtown (412-261-1599) or at their open-24-hours-a-day Strip District location (412-263-2142).

You don't know Pittsburgh until you've had a Primanti's sandwich. (John Heller, Post-Gazette)

Also in the Strip District is Roland's Seafood Grill (412-261-3401) and Lidia's Pittsburgh, offering updated Italian (412-552-0150). At Kaya (412-261-6565), match Caribbean fare and tropical tapas to fruity rum drinks, or absorb the ambiance of Rome at Enrico's Biscotti Company (412-281-2602) for some of the best breads, pizzas and sweets in the Tri-State area. Get your sausage and flapjacks at DeLuca's (412-566-2195), Pittsburgh's favorite breakfast.

For swank Downtown dining, hipsters hit the restaurant or hot bar at Palomino's (412-642-7711) for simple American food influenced by the dishes of Spain, France and Italy or Opus (412-992-2005) in the Marriott Renaissance Hotel for an impressive wine list and romantic, curvaceous booths. Fresh, fusion-style fish can be had at the Steelhead Grill (412-394-3474) and aged beef at the emperor of all steak houses, Morton's of Chicago (412-261-7141). For eclectic Downtown fare, try funky American at Soho (412-227-0990), quick Cuban at Kenny B's (412-201-1626) or the tasty Tex-Mex stylings of Southwest Bistro (412-261-8866).

In Oakland, there are plenty of quick-fix ethnic restaurants, such as Mad Mex (412-681-5656), Prince of India (412-687-0888) or the pan-Asian Spice Island Tea House (412-687-8821). And when the Pitt basketball players want a hotdog, they most certainly head for the O on the corner of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street in Oakland.

Hop a neighborhood over to Shadyside's Walnut Street for My Thai (412-688-0729), Thai Place (412-687-8586) or La Feria (412-682-4501), serving Peruvian food.

Lastly, Pamela's, with locations in Shadyside (412-683-1003) and Oakland (412-683-4066), has lines as long as DeLuca's; her giant, crispy-edged pancakes, rolled around strawberries, brown sugar and sour cream, provide a sugar high for the rest of the day.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS

Pittsburgh has a varied trio of professional theater offerings this weekend. Downtown at the O'Reilly Theater, the biggest company, the Pittsburgh Public (412-316-1600), presents a thoughtful comedy about marriage, Donald Margulies' 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning "Dinner With Friends." Nearby, over on the lively South Side, the more intimate City Theatre (412-431-CITY) has another recent off-Broadway hit, a comedy mystery with several twists, David Lindsay-Abaire's "Fuddy Meers," as well as Jilline Ringle's immensely popular "Mondo Mangia." In the other direction, across the river on the near North Side at the Hazlett Theater, Starlight Productions is doing a rare revival of Eugene O'Neill's New England tragedy, "Desire Under the Elms."

CATCHING A MOVIE

Yes, you could go to the movies anywhere, anytime, but you won't find a megaplex like the Loews Waterfront in every downtown or mall parking lot. The $22 million theater, which opened in May 2000, has a whimsical design -- a blend of squat, golden Moroccan columns, hand-cut tile and old-fashioned scrolls outside -- and 22 screens inside. You can buy tickets for the plum, leather-like seats in the balcony. You also can buy a beer (age permitting) or food from the upstairs restaurant or downstairs concession counter. The theater is part of a sprawling shopping and dining district (see Other Hot Spots).

If you want to catch a movie and don't want to leave Downtown, the Harris Theater at 809 Liberty Ave. is showing "The Way We Laughed," a winner at the Venice Film Festival.

GETTING AROUND

Spend five minutes on a curb with your hand in the air and you'll realize that Pittsburgh is not a taxi town. They're here, but you have to call them, except at a few stations outside the biggest hotels (Yellow Cab, 412-665-8100; Peoples Cab Co., 412-441-3200; Checker Cab, 412-381-5600). Pittsburgh's Downtown subway system proudly and at no cost zips riders to all of four -- count 'em, FOUR -- stops, before shooting overland to the South Hills. Busses are slightly more convenient, and a new nightlife shuttle system offers an alternative to the DUI bust. For details, call 412-442-2000 (weekdays 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

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