A College Hockey Fan's Guide to Pittsburgh
by Tony Jovenitti/CHN Reporter
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Pittsburgh isn’t particularly close to any of the Frozen Four teams, so most of you will be flying. Be aware that the airport is about 20 minutes west of downtown. There are buses that can take you into the city, but they can sometimes take more than an hour, depending on traffic. Cab fares are generally not that expensive, and your hotel may have a free shuttle.
If you rent a car or take a cab into the city, make sure you take I-376 to get downtown so you go through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. It’s a cramped tunnel from the Parkway West, but once you emerge on the other side, the city explodes into view. It’s worth it, even if there’s traffic.
Staying in Pittsburgh
The second weekend of April is a busy one for Pittsburgh. On top of the Frozen Four, the Pittsburgh Pirates play their first weekend series at home. Also, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a professional soccer team, opens their brand new stadium on Saturday night. So book your hotel soon.
Obviously, downtown near Consol Energy Center is the best place to stay to get to the games and the fan events. The entirety of downtown is very walkable, but the hotels are usually the most expensive.
Near the airport is College Hockey News' official sponsor hotel, the Embassy Suites, which still has space available.
If you go a little bit outside of downtown, you will find slightly cheaper accommodation, but still in a good location. The South Side houses most of the city’s bars. To the east is Oakland, home to the city’s universities. Station Square (restaurants, clubs) and the North Shore (stadiums, casino) are both just across the river from Downtown.
If you’re on a tighter budget, you can find cheaper hotels in the suburbs, or others near the airport.
Pittsburgh’s public transportation system is not very good. If you’re traveling between any of the few neighborhoods listed above, then the bus system is pretty cheap and quite efficient. But if you’re anywhere else, expect to take lots of cabs, or just rent a car.
What to do
When you’re not indulging in some hockey games at Consol Energy Center or the fan events around the arena, the city offers plenty of excitement.
First of all, College Hockey News, in conjunction with Long Trail Brewery, is hosting three parties around town:
• Wednesday — Hough's Taproom, 563 Greenfield Avenue, 7-10 p.m.
• Thursday — Sharp Edge Bistro, 922 Penn Avenue, 2-5 p.m.
• Friday — Pittsburgh Grill, 600 Grant Street, 8-11 p.m.
Then, there's all the rest, too:
• The Inclines — If you only do one touristy thing while in Pittsburgh, make sure you take a trip up one of the inclines. The near-vertical rail cars take passengers up the side of a Mount Washington. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city. In fact, you’ll be looking down onto the skyscrapers.
• Market Square — The city recently renovated this plaza in the heart of downtown, which features numerous restaurants and the PPG Place dancing fountains. Also, the next item on this list can be found here.
• Primanti Brothers — A trip to Pittsburgh without a Primanti’s sandwich is blasphemous. Every sandwich comes on local, handmade bread and is smothered in tomatoes, cole slaw and French fries.
• The South Side — This would be a nice place to hang out on Friday night or after the Championship Game on Saturday. The main strip of Carson Street features some night clubs as well as more than 80 bars. It can get pretty wild on the weekends. But the South Side Works, the newly developed area near the eastern edge of the neighborhood, features some more relaxed atmospheres with more upscale bars.
• Hofbrauhaus — If you like beer, live music and dancing on benches, this will be your favorite place in Pittsburgh. It’s located in the South Side Works, and it’s Oktoberfest every night here. It gets pretty crowded on the weekends, but that’s when it’s at its best.
• PNC Park – TripAdvisor recently named the Pittsburgh Pirates' stadium the best ballpark in America. For you New Englanders making the trip from Connecticut or Massachusetts, that might be hard to fathom, considering you’re used to Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium. But PNC Park is perched right along the Allegheny River with amazing views of the skyline. Combine that with affordable tickets, and it’s easy to see why PNC Park beats out the rest of the MLB. The Pirates play division rival Cincinnati on Friday night. And since it’s still April, Bucs fans still have hope, so the atmosphere will be top-notch.
• Museums, etc: If you enjoy more cerebral activities, then you may like a visit to the Andy Warhol Museum, the Phipps Conservatory or the National Aviary. The Carnegie Science Center is a great place to take the kids, and it’s located right next to Rivers Casino.
Pittsburghers love to talk to visitors. It doesn't get that many tourists, so it's excited to find some. Don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with a local, especially in a bar. They will gladly give you info on what to do and see around the city. Wear your hockey gear, and you’ll likely find someone who would love to talk pucks with you.
Perhaps Yale and St. Cloud State fans can talk to Pittsburghers about the great players the Penguins gave up to get Jarome Iginla.