Moving to a new city, especially Pittsburgh, is an adventure filled with occasional uncertainty and constant curiosity. Usually, the only way to get familiar with your new city is through a “live and learn” process, but that can take years! Heartland Homes wants to help (anxious) newcomers with some insights from a local’s perspective–allbeit the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1. Forget Your Favorite Sports Team
Welcome to the City of Champions! Pittsburgh has an unparalleled loyalty to its sports teams: The Penguins, The Steelers, and The Pirates. You might be thinking, “Yeah right, I’ll never betray my hometown team.” But it’s only a matter of time until the contagious energy that consumes Pittsburgh when any of its prized teams are playing, home or away, effortlessly coaxes you into a becoming a loyal fan.
If you don’t realize that it’s a game day when you wake up, just take a step outside and you will see a black and gold jersey on nearly everyone you encounter. It’s easy to confuse this with any other day of the week when you will see a similar scene. Pittsburgh’s pulse is so connected with its sports teams that the attitude of the general population is greatly affected by a win or a loss on a game day. Here are some tips on living in a city that is obsessed with it’s teams:
- If a Pittsburgh team is opposed by a team that you’re rooting for, it’s probably best to stay home where you can avoid any altercations
- If it’s a game day, the city adopts a black and gold dress code. This dress code also applies when it’s not a game day.
- Tickets to any home games are expensive, and difficult to come by. If someone offers you free tickets, they really like you.
2. Prepare to Become an Amazing Driver
Your drivers ed course will be of no help in Pittsburgh! It requires natural talent to be able to navigate the maze-like roadmap that weaves through the city. If you’re new to Pittsburgh, expect to get lost frequently. One missed exit (trust us, it’s easier to do than you think) can put you on the opposite side of the city and add 10 minutes to your trip so be prepared by giving yourself a little more time than needed. Getting one’s bearings while driving downtown is no easy task. The triangular shape of the area can confuse even the most experienced navigator or co-pilot. One minute you’re doing just fine, then suddenly you’re on a bridge and headed through a tunnel that puts downtown out of sight in less than 60 seconds.
Oh yes, how could we forget the tunnels. There is an unexplainable force in the city’s tunnels that causes drivers to drastically slow down upon entering the tunnel. This results in major traffic jams that, in extreme cases, can last hours. Not to mention the countless bridges laid across the rivers, which have more lanes and available directions to go than anyone would prefer. Throw in an unexpected 3 ft. deep pothole every mile or so, and you have a pretty clear image of what driving in Pittsburgh is like. Now that you understand what you’re up against, here are some recommendations to better prepare you for the journey:
- Spend a day or two exploring the city without a destination to help familiarize yourself with road (and bridge) names. Don’t forget a GPS to get yourself back home at the end of the day.
- If you’re going somewhere you haven’t been in Pittsburgh, review your directions prior to your departure. Often by the time your GPS vocalizes the turn or exit you were supposed to take, you’ve already passed it. Being aware of sudden turns or quick lane changes will put you ahead of the game.
- Be cautious of one way streets. They’re everywhere.
- Avoid the parkway during rush hour at all costs.
- Beware of residential permit parking areas! The Pittsburgh Parking Authority is omnipresent and will write you a ticket in record time. Just be certain to read the signs twice before settling on a parking space.
3. Have a Drink!
USA Today published a study revealing that Pittsburgh has 12 bars per 10,000 residents, more per capita than any other city in the nation. In other words, drinking is a big part of Pittsburgh’s culture. No matter what night of the week it is, it’s likely that there’s a happy hour within walking distance of you. A Yuengling and a basket of fries might cost you $5.00 at the end of a long workday, and it’ll hit the spot every time. In addition to the multitude of bars in Pittsburgh, it also has quite a few hometown breweries and distilleries (too many to list here). Here are some pointers that will have you clinking glasses with the locals in no time:
- If you’re moving to Pittsburgh from out of state, beware of the unique liquor laws in Pennsylvania. Liquor can only be purchased from a state store (called “Wine & Spirits”) and cases of beer can only be purchased from a beer distributor, which means you’ll need to plan ahead. Pennsylvanian grocers generally do not carry alcohol, but this is gradually changing. If you’re unsure of where to go to get what you need, a Pittsburgh resident is usually happy to point someone in the right direction.
- Bars close at 2 AM in PA.
- Each neighborhood in the city offers a unique “going out” experience. Find the one that best suits you.
- Many bars throughout the city have game day specials, so go out to watch the game and take advantage of the deals!
4. Treat Yourself
Pittsburgh may not be the biggest or most expensive city in the country, but that’s exactly what makes it so special. Affordable is the keyword when it comes to living in Pittsburgh. Housing costs are low, allowing your money to go further. Don’t assume that because Pittsburgh is affordable, it doesn’t have its luxuries. In fact, quite the opposite. Because you’re not spending all of your money on your room and board, you can treat yourself to some of the finer things in life!
With its amazing restaurants, one of a kind boutiques and outstanding spas, this is a city that knows how to live the good life. Not all luxuries are costly, though. Pittsburgh has many beautiful parks and green spaces where you can spend the day being active by ice skating, playing golf, or participating in a tennis match. Sun bathing is encouraged, too. So go ahead and buy yourself that gym membership you’ve been talking about, or maybe season tickets to one of the many local theaters in Pittsburgh. You (and your wallet) will be thankful you did.
5. Explore the Neighborhoods of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is a city of many neighborhoods. Each one has its own qualities, and caters to a different crowd of people. If you plan to move into the city, either ask a friend about each neighborhood or explore them for yourself. It can take a lot of time to see what each community has to offer, but discovering each of them makes the experience of moving to Pittsburgh one of a kind. Just when you think you’ve seen the whole city, you stumble upon a previously unknown shopping district or a small group of restaurants tucked away in a neighborhood.
The best, and fastest, way to get familiar with all the neighborhoods is to choose a new destination each weekend and spend a day exploring the neighborhood. If you’re totally unfamiliar with the area, the map above can be a little overwhelming. Here, we’ll list the most popular neighborhoods that every new resident of Pittsburgh should become familiar with to get you started:
- Squirrel Hill
- Strip District
- North Shore
- Mt. Washington
6. Public Transportation Is A Last Resort
Okay, we’ll admit that we’re being a tad dramatic, but it’s hard not to hold a grudge after you’ve been left waiting an hour for a bus that never shows up. The truth is that the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s bus, light rail, incline, and paratransit services reliably get 215,000 daily riders to where they need to go! If it’s within your means, having a car in Pittsburgh is highly recommended.
Taxis in Pittsburgh are notoriously unreliable with wait times of up to an hour or more on rare occasion. This situation is improving, however, with new services like Lyft making their services available in Pittsburgh. If owning car isn’t in the picture don’t panic, here are some tips to help you get where you need to go using the city’s public transportation:
- Use a Maps application (Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc.) on your smartphone and select the public transportation option to get directions to your destination. This will tell you exactly when to expect the bus, and where to get on.
- Plan ahead! If you know that you’re going to be using Pittsburgh’s public transportation, reserve your taxi or look up your bus route ahead of time. This will help you to avoid wait times.
- Just because the buses say they run until 2AM, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be one on your route. In other words, have a backup plan to get home after a night out on the town.
- It’s not too easy to hail a cab in Pittsburgh, but not impossible. Your best bet is to call one of the city’s taxi services, or use their app. Be prepared with an address, because most services won’t accept an intersection as a pickup location.
- Have exact change for buses! You don’t want to pay $10 for a $2.50 ride because you can’t get change.
7. Learn Pittsburghese
The people of Pittsburgh have developed a special dialect, accompanied by an impressive original vocabulary, that might sound odd to a newcomer. The city’s own language has become known as “Pittsburghese” and it’s severely contagious. After spending a year in Pittsburgh, you’ll notice that your friends and family from out of state will comment on the unusual way you speak.
To see some examples of classic Pittsburghese phrases, click here. It’s recommended that you become familiar with at least some of the local language, because you never know when your boss might ask you to go to the “Gian’Iggle dahn’a street” for something. Characters such as Pittsburgh Dad are famous because of their perfect articulation of Pittsburghese. You’ll be speaking like a local before you know it!
8. Get to Know the Locals
Aside from its low cost of living, champion sports teams, and fascination with beer, the true charm of Pittsburgh comes from the locals. The people are what makes the city one of a kind. If you’re moving to Pittsburgh and want to fall in love with the place you’re going to call home, just spend some time getting to know the people who already do. The history of the city has cultivated a culture of people who are down to earth, hardworking, and kind.
The pride that “Pittsburghers” have in their city is what drives its continued growth. There’s a sense of community that is hard to find in a city. If you don’t make a conscious effort to join that community, it will likely be more difficult to fall in love with Pittsburgh, as so many have. Do some people watching, learn the language, and make some friends. You’ll be pridefully calling Pittsburgh home before you know it.
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