Oh, you guys. This is a good one. Today, Pittsburgh local Katie is telling us about $2 per slice pizza, pay-what-you-can hostels and a free Cathedral of Learning AND a dinosaur statue dressed as Mr. Rogers AND a taxidermy museum. LET’S ALL GO IMMEDIATELY.
Hi! I’m Katie, and I’m a writer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I moved here in 2007 from Virginia, and my husband and I bought our first house here because we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. You can hear more about my exploits at my sites (for writing and self care), and I take a lot of pictures of Pittsburgh on my Instagram.
Cheap lodging in Pittsburgh
People in Pittsburgh are legitimately some of the nicest people I have ever been around. Which is good, because this city has a lot of Airbnbs, and they are going to be some of your cheapest lodging choices, especially if you want to be in the city itself. This cute room in East Pittsburgh has 155 4.5 star reviews and is only $29; this striped room is well-reviewed and $32!
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s $40 towards your first booking!
Not Another Hostel – donation based
So it does make me a little sad that Pittsburgh doesn’t have any traditional hostels. However, this awesome spot is very cool. Not Another Hostel has great reviews and is a donation-based housing alternative for travelers. See what I mean about nice people?!
Cheap food in Pittsburgh
Food Trucks! (About $5 per order)
Pittsburgh has become a major food truck city, and there’s no quicker or cheaper way to get a sampling of different tastes that capture the Steel City’s personality. Pittsburgh Taco Truck and the Mac and Gold Truck are definite favorites, and if you’re looking for a good hot dog, Franktuary has you covered. They are also very good about sharing their location so you can stalk them.
Capri Pizzeria (Pizza specials by the slice for less than $2 and a full menu of entrees under $10)
We’re also a big pizza/hoagies/wings city, and you have your pick of about fifty kabillion places that have decent offerings. I’m going to recommend this one, though, for the pizza, drinks and slam poetry Tuesday nights.
Conflict Kitchen ($7-8 per person)
For a truly unique ethnic food experience, head over to this food stand in Oakland. Conflict Kitchen has a changing menu based on dishes from countries with whom the United States is in conflict. There are events and information to raise awareness about relationships throughout the world between our country and others.
Pub Chip Shop ($7-8 per person)
Maybe you want to head to Carson Street for a bar crawl. Don’t go in for the billionaire bar food; instead, hit up the Pub Chip Shop. This UK-cuisine hole-in-the-wall has the most amazing savory pies and pasties. Split an order of mac and cheese, too…you probably won’t be eating for the rest of the day.
Pro-tip: if you see anything on a menu that is “Pittsburgh-style,” assume it has fries on it. Also possibly coleslaw. Maybe pierogies.
Cheap things to do in Pittsburgh
So there’s a reason Pittsburgh is a big vacationing town. In addition to the top-dollar attractions (the Cultural District or one of any sports games), there is a lot you can do for little or no money.
The Duquesne Incline ($5 roundtrip)
The first thing to do? Take a cable car ride up to Mount Washington. If you’ve seen any photographs of Pittsburgh, most of them were taken from this spot. Fun ride, gorgeous view, and a gift shop!
Downtown Pittsburgh (Free! And even parking is free on Sunday!)
Downtown Pittsburgh is a very walkable location; from the Allegheny River to the Monongahela is only about fourteen blocks at its longest. The Cultural District is great for people-watching, and then you can wander over to Point State Park to play at the iconic water fountain.
Then, there’s PPG Place for some amazing architecture (if you’re lucky enough to be in the area around Christmas time, you can also check out the gorgeous tree and ice-skating rink). If you want a bit of a hike, head along the river northeast to the Strip, which boasts farmers markets, a variety of stores, and streetside vendors that will make you feel like you live here.
The T (approx $3.40 full fare)
You can also hop on the “T” Light Rail and take out your compass. Will you head to the South Side, wherein Station Square holds the Fountain at Bessemer Court (free choreographed water shows every 20 minutes? You’d be surprised how hypnotizing it can be!)? Or would the North Side sound better with its artsy Andy Warhol Museum (go on Fridays for half-price evening tickets) and Rivers Casino?
If you’re around in the summer, stick your feet (or butt) in the Water Steps – a relaxing way to cool off. If you take the T further south, you can also see the final resting place of Mr. Warhol in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery, Bethel Park.
Oakland (Cathedral of Learning: free or $3 for tour; Carnegie Library: free; Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History Museum: half price after 3pm)
As for me, my go-to destination to drag guests is Oakland, the university district of Pittsburgh east of downtown. Here you can take your pick of many amazing sights: the Carnegie Museums (the Library, Museum of Art, and Natural History Museum, which all frequently offer free events and half-priced evenings), Dippy the Dinosaur, and the Cathedral of Learning (my favorite).
The Cathedral is actually a part of the University of Pittsburgh, and the main study hall feels like Hogwarts. Sneak on the elevator and head up to the 36th floor for a great overlook of the city, or take a tour of the Nationality Rooms.
Riverview Park (free!)
Pittsburgh also boasts a huge amount of space devoted to its public parks. My recommendation is Riverview Park in the North Side. Not only is it peaceful, but it’s also home to the Allegheny Observatory, where you can book free tours and get a look at the night sky. Show up at dusk and you can watch huge groups of deer grazing on the hill in front of the building.
Trundle Manor (donations or cool stuff, whichever you have)
I love this place. I took a taxidermy class in 2014, and the people there are kooky but really fun. This house in east Pittsburgh is home to a wild collection of taxidermy art and weird stuff. Tours are by donation.
Saint Anthony’s Chapel (donations)
Did you know that Pittsburgh holds the largest number of relics outside of the Vatican? Me neither! There are entire remains of saints located in this beautiful chapel, and you can visit for free.
Zombies! (Monroeville Mall: free; The Living Dead Museum and Gift Shop $3; Evans City Cemetary: free)
“What? A shopping mall? I can do that at home!” But can you reenact scenes from Dawn of the Dead, which was filmed there? No? I didn’t think so! If you’re a real zombie-phile, you can make a day of it and head north to Evans City, where there is a zombie museum and the graveyard featured in Night of the Living Dead.
This free museum is “dedicated to the advancement of knowledge relating to the complex interplay between culture, nature, and biotechnology.” That means some awesome specimens and exhibits showing how the world is changing.
Yinz come out soon and check us out, n’at! <- editor’s note: I had to Google this. It means “You should come visit our city and so forth.” Have a read through Pittsburghese.com!
Other Pittsburgh-ians! What did we miss? Tell us in the comments!