Growing up in northwestern Pennsylvania, I remember as a kid watching television programs and movies that were filmed in New York City. It seemed aside from the human characters that the city itself was a main character in each production.
It had things that I had never seen growing up in small town America.
One of those things was a subway. I thought that was the coolest idea ever and the concept of a city beneath a city was intriguing. I was an adult before I was able to take my first subway ride and it was in Toronto.
It was not until recently that I was able to ride on the NYC subway and discover for myself how mass transit in a mass population area really worked. It was a totally different experience and I was able to share it on a return trip with my children. But, New York City is very far away and extremely expensive. Not exactly a place for a day trip.
But, did you know that Pittsburgh also has a subway? I never realized this until one day I was driving through the area and noticed a sign that read “Subway.” It was not something I had noticed prior to my New York trip and probably because I had not yet trained myself to look for them. I just filed it away and thought that it would be cool to come back to ride it.
Well, flash forward a year and I am with my daughter in downtown Pittsburgh desperately searching for a parking space. After more than 20 minutes of driving around and around the crazy traffic and one-way streets, I remembered the subway.
So, after a quick search on my cellphone, we headed out of downtown to Station Square where there is a parking garage that is far less expensive then the lots in the city proper and seems to almost always have an open space.
After parking we headed across to get the “T.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I have seen the light rail system running around Pittsburgh above ground and I have heard of the “T” before, but what I did not realize is that this turned into an actual subway system under the city itself.
Complete with stations to access many locations that you may find difficult to park in.
So call it a great adventure, and let the kids in on the planning. Let them use their internet skills to map out your journey and take some ownership of the event. It will help get them engaged and it is much easier to ride the transit system in a metro area if you have an idea where you are going.
There are free popular apps for cellphones that will give you updated arrivals and realtime locations of your next train, Moovit is the one I like to use and it is fairly easy to search and find places to visit. You can purchase individual fares with cash to ride the "T" costing $2.75 or your can purchase a day pass for $7 and just hop on and hop off as you like.
While you are in the Pittsburgh area, check out the downtown. The city and the buildings are completely different from the street level on foot. You will see statues and memorials, shops and businesses you would miss as you are watching traffic and trying to not run over any pedestrians.
Robert Morris University put together a self-guided walking tour of downtown that you can access on your cellphone at rmu.edu/about/pittsburghwalk. You can access the audio files and the tour takes about an hour to complete beginning at Sixth Avenue and Grant Street in the park near the fountain.
For a quick trip, head over to Point Park to see the Block House. Built in 1764 it is the oldest authenticated structure in America west of the Allegheny Mountains. it was originally part of Fort Pitt and is now a national registered historic place.
If your trip is an adult only excursion, you can head to the Three Rivers Casino. But for a more family friendly trip, check out some of the local sights like the Heinz Museum, the Children’s Museum, the Carnegie Science Center or the National Aviary. Keep in mind most of these have an admission fee but are very worthwhile to visit and have a website for more information.
Where ever you chose to go, or however you chose to get there, you will find something to do that piques the interest of everyone in your group. Remember to do a little research ahead of time and plan your trip. Because even though not all who wander are lost, you can be if you get turned around in the tall buildings.