So what are 'Burghers' favorite diversions in the summertime? An unofficial poll reaped plenty of blog fodder from my friends and colleagues. I feel a top ten coming on.....
10. Rita's: Yes, Rita's is a national chain, but we love our Rita's so much in the 'Burgh, that you can find a few that are open year round (East Ohio Street in the North Side for example). Some of us mark the beginning of summer not by a date on the calendar, but by the first Rita's ice we enjoy.
9. The Point at Fourth of July: We have established that Pittsburgh is the fireworks capital of the world, so you can imagine our Fourth of July celebration! Enjoying the sky show from the Point is the best seat in the house.
8. Spray Parks/Water Steps: The new spray park in Troy Hill has been a huge success, and a great way to beat the 'Burgh humidity (although nothing will help my hair I'm afraid). Crowds flock there on our hottest days since the ribbon-cutting in 2009. The unique Water Steps on the North Shore provide a stunning visual element to Riverfront Park, and you can relax by the pools of water and take in beautiful views of Downtown Pittsburgh. Of course, there are always the reliable public pools throughout the city. I spent many a summer day at the Schenley Pool while at Pitt, but there are numerous ones to enjoy!
7. Shopping: Yes shopping, but not just any shopping....The South Side Works is one of Pittsburgh's newest outdoor malls, and the stores and restaurants there are some of the best in the city (hellooooo Hofbrauhaus!). The greatest thing about outdoor malls (besides getting your shop on of course), is the fact that just when you can't take the outdoor heat anymore, a blast of cool air from one of the stores can be VERY welcoming!
6. Outdoor Eateries: After a long day of shopping and waterparks, nothing drives it home like an outdoor dinner. One of my favorite places to enjoy a good meal and the view? Harris' Grill in Shadyside! Their completely awesome bacon special aside (Tuesday is bacon night), Harris' has some really good eats and a great selection of beers. Did I mention the bacon?
5. Church Festivals: Walking through a carnival with a plate of Greek fries or a funnel cake?Heaven! (no pun intended...). The best are the Greek Festivals, all twelve of them, which are held throughout Pittsburgh from early May through August. The Oakland one has such famous eats, that local businesses can order from a take out menu! Although, the fries just don't taste the same at your desk.4. Enjoying the good old outdoors: Clearly, I am not the 'outdoorsy" type (as evidenced by the fact that, humiliatingly, shopping comes before this entry on my list), but I know some peeps who are, and hiking Frick Park tops their list, along with kayaking the rivers, which I have never done, nor, I am embarrassed to confess, know you even COULD do! I defer to the author of 10,000 Things I Love About Pittsburgh for his expertise on these matters. He bikes a lot. I mean A LOT. In the slopes. Which is amazing! Pittsburgh has a tremendous contingent of bikers, hikers and runners, all of who are far better than myself in the whole staying fit department. The point is, that if you, unlike me, don't have an unsubstantiated fear of dirt, and your dog escaping from her leash, then there is a lot to enjoy of the great outdoors in the 'Burgh. Ask the Working Class Zero. I will wave to you from the safety of my gated dirt free deck.....
3. Grilling: ......and before you think less of me, some delicious smells will be coming from that deck, tempting you to dismount from your bike and come over for some very unhealthy beers and burgers. We have mastered the fine art of grilling. I would grill lettuce if I though it would taste good. In my day job as a Real Estate Agent (I have mentioned that before, have I not?), one of the top ten questions I get from those shopping for a condo is "Can I put a grill out here?". And yes, it is a deal breaker! A lazy Saturday afternoon spent with family and friends over a grill is undeniably my favorite summer pastime.
2. Kennywood: You knew this one was coming.....Kennywood generally opens its gates in early to mid May, and has its last day of operation in mid September. So significant is this Pittsburgh landmark (it made its debut in 1898 as a trolley park), that it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Pittsburgh's tremendous topography has lent itself to the construction of some of the most famous roller coasters in the world, such as the Thunderbolt and the Jack Rabbit, both wooden coasters. The movie Adventureland was filmed in Kennywood, and the park was mentioned in the TV show CSI (fans will know that Gil Grissom is a coaster buff, and his character purportedly held the marathon record for riding the Steel Phantom). History aside, Kennywood is a blast. The place to be a kid for a day, or actually bring your kids for a day. Admission is under $35 for adults, and parking is FREE! ($6 for preferred). The park is a must-do if you are planning the ultimate Pittsburgh day.
1. The Regatta/The Vintage Grand Prix: A tie at number one. These two events are probably the most planned around in the 'Burgh. The lead up to the Regatta in the media is tremendous, and the actual event is breathtaking. It represents a rare moment of 'Burghers coming together and actually enjoying the rivers, which, sadly, is something I wish we did much more often around here. The Regatta is a whirlwind of water races, concerts, and fireworks (of course), and is centered around Pittsburgh's celebration of the Fourth of July (clearly a big holiday around here). This year's Regatta will be held July 2nd through the 4th, and it's free, free, FREE! Same goes for the Vintage Grand Prix Race, although please consider becoming a sponsor, as the proceeds go to two great causes. This year, the show and race will be held the weekend of July 24th at Schenley Park. The Marton clan will be there in full force, as it is becoming a bit of a family tradition. I secretly have little fantasies about souping up a car with the Daddy-o and racing the track someday. For now, I am content standing on the sidelines and trying to get a decent photo (shutter speed is key) of some of my favorites.
So there you have it, a top ten to keep you busy this summer. So many others should be on this list; browsing the new public market in the Strip District, going to a baseball game at PNC park, enjoying the view from Mount Washington, the lunchtime Market Square Concerts, the open air and FREE concerts at Hartwood Acres.....the list goes on and on! Happy summering!