For our son’s 10th birthday, we thought it would be great to surprise him with a father-son trip to Pittsburgh to tour his favorite team’s stadium and watch the home opener. There were so many places to see and things to do in Pittsburgh, but how do we plan and where do we start? First step~ review the game schedule and purchase the tickets. Be sure to research tickets on multiple sites. Ticketmaster is not always the best deal, albeit secure and reliable. When planning a trip around a game, ensure the site is legit. Stubhub.com, owned by eBay, is an online marketplace which provides services for buyers and sellers for sports tickets. We have purchased basketball tickets same day as the event on Stubhub.com for 40% cheaper than purchasing at the arena.
The first African-American opera company in the U.S., National Negro Opera Company, was founded in Pittsburgh. If you enjoy theater, try visiting the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Quantum Theatre, the Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh, and the early music ensemble Chatham Baroque.
Pittsburgh’s art museums include the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the Mattress Factory. If you are a sports buff, the Carnegie Science Center and associated SportsWorks has interactive technology and science exhibits.
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side includes a planetarium and interactive exhibits for children. Children may want to visit the Pittsburgh Zoo or the PPG Aquarium.
Enjoy gambling? Pittsburgh is home to one of the several state licensed casinos. Rivers Casino is located on the North Shore along the Ohio River, just west of Carnegie Science Center and Heinz Field.
If you are a reality show fan, you may be interested to know that Lifetime’s Dance Moms, is filmed at Pittsburgh’s Abby Lee Dance Company. Major films such as The Dark Knight Rises were filmed in Pittsburgh. The Burgh has teamed up with a Los Angeles based production company and has built the largest and most advanced movie studio in the eastern United States.
Touring the Stadium
Heinz Field opened the 65,050 seat facility in 2001. Since that time, Heinz Field has provided behind the scenes view of the Steelers football team to thousands of fans. Check out the view of the city’s unique skyline and Point State Park from the South Plaza within the stadium. The tour includes a behind-the-scenes look into the FedEx Great Hall, Clubs, Luxury Suites, Press Box, Field, and South Plaza. Tours are offered during the months of April – October every year. Tours are not conducted during the winter months due to the weather.
If you don’t know for sure what day will work best, Heinz Field offers walk-up tours. The walk-up tour is designed for groups of less than 10 people. Walk up tours are offered:
April and May – Mondays and Fridays – 12 noon only
June through August – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – 10 am and 12 noon
September and October – Mondays and Fridays – 10 am only
The tour is 90 minutes long and $8 for adults or $7 for kids. Ages 4 and under are free.
The visitor’s locker room is part of the Heinz Field tour. During the tour, they allowed us to walk through the locker room and take pictures. It was really cool to see where the visitors go when they play the Steelers. The Steelers emblem is FORBIDDEN to walk on. During the tour they will tell you the story of how people have been physically removed due to stepping on the emblem.
History of the logo~ The Steelers logo was originally introduced in 1962 after the “Steelmark”. The logo includes the word “Steelers” surrounded by three asteroids. The original meaning behind the asteroids were, “Steel lightens your work, brightens your leisure, and widens your world.” The colors actually represent the ingredients used in the steel-making process: yellow for coal, red for iron ore, and blue for scrap steel. The team was given permission to add “ers” to the word steel in 1963 after a petition to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
The Steelers are the only NFL team to have its logo on one side of the helmet, which is on the right. Longtime field and equipment manager Jack Hart was instructed to do this by Art Rooney as a test to see how the logo appeared on the gold helmets. A year later, they switched to black helmets for contrast.
The Steelers are one of only two teams in the NFL to have the players’ uniform numbers on the front and back of the helmets.
Forth Step~ After researching things to do, decide where to stay.
We stayed at Station Square “the square” and didn’t need to rent a car as the Gateway Clipper (ferry to the stadium) is located within walking distance. There are restaurants, strip malls, hotels and lots of shopping nearby.
Station Square is considered to be one of Pittsburgh’s most popular tourist attractions. Pittsburghers would argue that the Square is a trendy place for dining, nightlife and entertainment in the burgh! It is an easy place to find your way around when visiting from out of town.
Things to do at the square~ check out the Fountain at Bessemer Court which features hundreds of multi-colored water jets soaring in the air as you listen to music. Take a journey in a World War II amphibious vehicle on land and water with Just Ducky Tours. Ever tried a Segway? Check out Segway in Paradise Tours. If historic cable car tours is your preference, head to the top of Mt. Washington on the Duquesne or Monongahela Inclines and take in views of city’s skyline.
The Gateway Clipper Fleet
Right from the hotel, you can catch the Clipper!!! What better way to get pumped up for the game than to sail around with a group of Steeler fans! As you sail along the river, the Clipper is a party boat filled with Steeler fans and offering drink specials. The Gateway Clipper Fleet is made up of five riverboats tours the three rivers year-round. The Clipper is fully equipped and staffed for any size dinner. They offer many types of sails: Specialty cruises with dinner dances, sightseeing, specialty entertainment, one-day vacations and charter cruises.
Game day shuttle service is the easiest way to get to PNC Park and Heinz Field. The shuttle service operates for all home games for the Pirates, Steelers and Panthers. While on the short cruise, sit back, relax and listen to the Captain as he points out landmarks and tales of past and present.
If you prefer a dinner cruise, sip wine as you sail the three rivers. You may choose from Chicken & Ribs Dinner, Oldies Dinner-Dance and lots more including the Captain’s Dinner Dance Cruise.
The Strip District, named for it’s one-half mile of narrow strip between the Allegheny River and a mountain, is filled with all kinds of restaurants. The Strip District is known for its reasonable prices and impressive selections. The Strip includes shopping, ethnic grocers, produce stands, meat and fish markets and sidewalk vendors. Take in the wonderful aromas of fresh-roasted coffee and freshly baked bread while walking around. The Strip is considered by locals to be “pure Pittsburgh”. On The Strip you will find Primanti Brothers signature sandwich shop, Senator John Heinz History Center, ‘Burgh Bits & Bites food tour, Society for Contemporary Craft and Lydia’s Pittsburgh Restaurant.
Walking distance from the stadium you will stumble upon Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36. They offer gluten free and kids menu options. Grille 36 has been voted Pittsburgh’s best sports restaurant every year since it opened, displaying a sports entertainment experience and wonderful, upscale bar food selections. Grille 36 has 50 state of the art high definition flat screen televisions and a dynamic audio system. Expect to find every major sporting event possible while dining. Most of all, it is the home for everything Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Panthers and Pittsburgh! Look around and you will find personalized autographed merchandise from The Bus. Grille 36 offers patio seating with views of Point State Park, Mount Washington, the Pittsburgh city skyline, Heinz Field and of course The Three Rivers. You must try the famous succulent 36 ounce bone in NY Strip Steak. Guess how many beers are on tap?? You guessed it! 36 beers on tap, 36 exceptional bottled beers from around the world, 36 great wines and 36 of the most unique martinis. If dining for a special occasion, don’t forget to order a slice of b-day cake with the famous 36 made out of whipped cream.
Whenever we mentioned that we were going to Pittsburgh, everyone said you have to try Primanti Brothers! Primanti Brothers, founded in 1933, is a chain of sandwich shops. They have locations throughout Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and its surrounding areas. There are three located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The chain is known for its signature sandwiches of grilled meat, an Italian dressing-based coleslaw, tomato slices, and French fries between two pieces of Italian bread. What’s not to love??
The original shop is located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, Joe Primanti, born in suburban Wilmerding, Pennsylvania, invented the sandwich during the Great Depression. His brothers, Dick and Stanley, later joined him. The Primanti’s originally opened their sandwich diner at Smallman Street and 18th Street in the Strip District and served the late-night and early-morning workers who were unloading fish, fruits, and vegetables. Since they stay open past 2 a.m., Primanti’s is a popular place for crowds to hang out after the bars have closed.
Lastly, if you are celebrating a special occasion at the game, consider sharing with the world on the jumbrotron. It’s free!!! We were able to have our son’s birthday announced on the jumbotron at Heinz Field! Call 412-697-7600 Monday morning at 9 a.m. (EST) prior to each Steelers home game to add a birthday wish to the list. Leave the name of the birthday boy/girl and a contact phone number. Be sure not to use a nickname as it will not be accepted. There isn’t a guarantee that your name will make it on game day as they only take the first 25 names on Monday morning. We were calling at 3 a.m. HST. Good luck!!
5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine