When I told people I was planning to spend a month in Pittsburgh, anyone who hadn’t been there seemed a bit baffled. And I can’t say I blame them. Before I visited, Pittsburgh fell into a list of mid-sized U.S. cities that seemed fine but that I’d never really had any compelling reason to think about: Indianapolis, Cleveland, Detroit… etc.
These are places that exist, where people live, and where stuff happens — possibly even interesting stuff. But none of those cities have an aura of “cool” or “interesting” about them (no offense, y’all). And Pittsburgh totally fell on that list for me until some friends moved there a few years ago and invited me out to visit. (Well, I invited myself, but they were good sports about hosting!)
On my second visit to Pittsburgh over Labor Day of 2018, said friends started encouraging me to add Pittsburgh to my short list of cities to consider for relocation. I dismissed the idea at first, but then they brought real estate prices to my attention…
Y’all. Pittsburgh is SO AFFORDABLE. Like, you can get a totally decent duplex in a nice part of town for $200k. And you might be like, “well, yeah, there’s a reason for that. It’s Pittsburgh.” But Pittsburgh was ranked the No. 2 Most Liveable City in the US last year. It’s pretty walkable. It has seasons. It’s got art and theater. And did I mention it’s affordable?!
So. I considered it. And since my sage elder brother suggested that I should see places at their worst, I opted to spend January in Pittsburgh. While the weather was unseasonably warm the first week of January (sunny and in the 40s and 50s), the end of the month brought the polar vortex and I got to experience -19°. So, I got a pretty good range.
And I liked Pittsburgh. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. It’s still on the list for consideration. I stayed in a great Airbnb in Highland Park, (which is a cute, residential neighborhood in the East End of Pittsburgh). I found a great bakery (Food Glorious Food), some cute coffee shops, and a killer Indian food lunch buffet (People’s Indian – $9 lunch buffet!). I spent a month without a car and got around without much trouble. I met cool people. I got to enjoy the snow. And I learned that I’m perfectly fine with temperatures above 0°. Negative temperatures? Not so much. I think Minneapolis and Chicago are definitively off my list. But I quite like playing and running and walking in the snow.
I’d done a lot of the touristy stuff on previous visits (the Andy Warhol Museum and the National Aviary, for example), but there’s definitely touristy stuff to do. I did go see some theater (some good, some bad). I could have gone to see sportsball if I’d wanted to (if I do move to Pittsburgh, I will definitely get into hockey!). And I found enough good food.
It was a good month. And even if I don’t end up moving there, Pittsburgh was well worth spending a few weeks exploring. It might not be the most glamorous place in the U.S., but it’s got character. It’s a charming combination of midwestern politeness and east coast assertiveness.
I don’t know that Pittsburgh is where I’ll end up calling home, but I’m glad I went. It definitely won’t be the last time.