Spotlight on an urban get away: Pittsburgh

Life took a funny bump in the road and I actually lived in Pittsburgh for about 3 months. I was just getting to know it and had barely scratched the surface when another blip in the Universe sent me to Connecticut. However, my son Dan ended up going to Carnegie Mellon University and lived there until recently , so visited often and had a chance to explore. People who live there or have lived there often rave about the city, and I have the impression that it is one of America’s hidden gems. When I was growing up it still suffered from its long history as a dirty place because of the steel industry, but those factories are long gone and Pittsburgh has really cleaned up her act.


We visited Dan last December and stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast that I can heartily endorse and recommend. The Inn on Mexican War Streets is located on West North Avenue across from Allegheny Commons North Park in North Side.

Located on Pittsburgh’s North Side, in the heart of the former City of Allegheny, the Mexican War Streets is designated both federally and by the City of Pittsburgh as a historic Victorian-era district. In 1848 General William Robinson, Jr. (later Mayor of Allegheny) plotted out the Mexican War Streets immediately following his return from the Mexican-American War, which annexed Texas and California. With patriotic fervor, he named the streets after the war’s battles (Buena Vista. Monterey. Resaca, Palo Alto) and military leaders (Taylor, Sherman, Jackson).


The land originally had been provided to General Robinson’s father in lieu of payment for services during the Revolutionary War. The area became run down as people moved out to the suburbs in the late 1880s-1930s but revitalization began in the 1960s and the area has a wonderful mix of homes of various styles built during the Victorian era.                                              

The Inn on Mexican War Streets originally was the Boggs mansion, a bigwig industrialist who also started a large department store. It has eight rooms and suites, ranging from $139 to $189 a night with discounts for multiple night stays. Breakfast is continental style with breads, bagels and cereals supplemented by fruit and yogurt. The hosts are gracious and inviting. They also provide space for catered parties of ten or more in their renovated carriage house.


This is a wonderful alternative to chain motels out in the suburbs or more expensive hotels in downtown Pittsburgh. We enjoyed walking around the corner to the Monterey Pub, a cozy British-themed pub complete with menu items like bangers and mash and wonderful ales and whiskeys. There are also some nice restaurants for dining right in the neighborhood.


We spent a few hours at the Heinz History Center. Located between downtown and the Strip District, this museum is a great introduction to the culture and history of Pittsburgh.  It currently has a special exhibit on Vatican art which requires an additional fee, but the permanent exhibits are worth visiting.

There are two floors related to sports in Pittsburgh. Of course we all know the Steelers, the Penguins and the Pirates, but the exhibit also includes other sports including golf, horse racing of all kinds, bocce, swimming, running and much much more. There are many interactive aspects which had the guys running around and enjoying their time there.

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, this museum is presented with high quality. The permanent exhibits are related to aspects of Pittsburgh’s history, including how it was involved in the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Heinz industry development in Pittsburgh, and role Pittsburgh played in the French and Indian War, part of the Seven Years’ War between England and France, and Pittsburgh over time and its cultural aspects.

One of my favorites, Mr. Rogers.


On Dan’s recommendation we ate lunch at Max’s Allegheny Tavern, a North Side institution. Located at 537 Suismon Street, it was established in the mid 1880s as a hotel with a dining room and bar. It became a speakeasy during Prohibition where beer and liquor flowed easily.  They still do!


The building has been restored and has high tin plated ceilings, lots of brick and woodwork. The menu boasts the finest in German sausages, great schnitzels, old world favorites and an extensive selection of Germany beer both in bottled and on draught. I ordered jaeger schnitzel as I remembered I really had enjoyed that when I was in Germany years ago and it was good. The breads were amazing, and everyone enjoyed their meals.


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