Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pittsburgh: Bridges, Sandwiches, and the Most Beautiful Park in Baseball


Before I go too deeply into recapping our Victoria Day weekend in Pittsburgh, let me first point out that I may not be your ideal travel consultant. We went, ostensibly, to see Travis Snider and the Pittsburgh Pirates1 play in PNC Park, widely considered one of the best stadiums in baseball.

Were I asked to report on the nightlife, I'd probably respond that we went back to the hotel after the game, and found Law & Order on either USA or TNT.

Were I asked if we met any interesting people, I could respond that Pittsburgh - like much of southern Ontario - respects a good Shirt Off'er day in May, but that we people watched from a distance.

At the end of this post, you may well ask, "Why would I go to Pittsburgh?", and I would say because it's a very pretty city, is very accessible, does in fact have a gorgeous baseball park, and has a surprising number of landscape photo opportunities.

Anyway:

After a quick stop in St. Catharine's for a HTZ-FM Front Lawn Friday with Biggs & Barr, we began the trek to Pittsburgh. It took us 7 hours, including St. Catharines and a gas stop, but we were, unfortunately, 15 minutes late for the beginning of the PNC Park tour which we were attempting to get to. Luckily, our hotel was across the street from the stadium, and the tour operator was kind enough to intercept us on his way.

If you go to Pittsburgh to see the park, try your best to take the tour, as it leads you through the clubhouse - we didn't get it go as it was a game day - into the dugout and onto the field, and up into the press and luxury boxes. It also helps to have a tour guide like Dave, who was awesome (and only made a little fun of us for being late).

We actually went to two baseball games - I initially got tickets to Saturday's A.J. Burnett bobblehead game, but when Penguins tickets turned out to be $100 for obstructed view seats, we decided to catch Friday's game as well for free t-shirts.2 As an added bonus, as we were standing in line for the tickets, a couple wandered up and asked if anyone wanted free 300 level tickets that they couldn't use. Right place, right time.

There is really not a bad seat in the park, they do all-you-can-eat games every game, the view of and breeze off the river is fantastic, and the crowd seemed to be pleasantly bereft of hipster douchebags. Plus, we even saw a few Jays caps wandering through the stands - which makes the hipster douchebag thing even more surprising.

Then there's this wonderful thing on Saturdays where the team is available for photos. The crowd gathers on the warning track, and the team walks around meeting and greeting the fans and taking pictures with them. Megs even got a picture with Travis, although that will not be getting posted.

Outside of the games - they were both evening games, so we had lots of time to kill - we had a good walk around the city, ate a Primanti Brothers sandwich, visited the Andy Warhol Museum as well as the ToonSeum. Where the ToonSeum was, basically, two rooms of comics which, while neat, would probably have better spoken to the tastes of artists, the Warhol Museum was pretty neat, even if it didn't feature much at all about his most famous works.

We took a cruise up and down the river and learned a little Pittsburgh history, including the history of the bridges, some of the buildings, learned some good ol' American trivia, and saw a Dawn of the Dead filming.

We started for home on Sunday morning, and stopped at the outlets in Grove City, which, to be perfectly honest, I would not specifically drive five hours to go there. I'm glad we worked it into a trip, because really, if not for the no sales tax thing in Pennsylvania, it's not that big a deal. That being said, we actually did buy a few things there, but we could have done that in Buffalonia.

We stayed overnight in Erie, had a nice helping of Olive Garden, and got home with a minimum of hassle at the border.

Overall, I thought the trip was absolutely wonderful, and even on the second day, I was still in awe of the park. I don't know if you could spend a week in Pittsburgh, but it's definitely a nice place to go for a weekend in May.

Thanks, dear.



1 - John McDonald, unfortunately, was on the disabled list
2 - Which turned out to be a good idea. Even though the Pens won, so did the Pirates, in walk-off fashion, and we saw Pedro Alvarez homer into the river

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