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City of Opportunity: Get to Know Pittsburgh

March 30, 2012

Where can you find a rich cultural heritage, the most die-hard sports fans in the nation, and tons of fun dining attractions all wrapped up in a friendly place with a small town feel? As most Yinzers (Pittsburghese-speaking residents) would tell you, Pittsburgh is the place to be. Its exciting variety of things to do combined with its affordability earned Pittsburgh the title of "most livable" city in the U.S. in 2011.

However, Pittsburgh didn't always exude this alluring charm. Once known for its thriving economy, stoked by ambitious industrialists like this university's founder Andrew Carnegie, an urban decline was set in motion by the pollution and job loss that ensued with the collapse of the city's steelmakers in the '70s and '80s. Despite the transformation that the city has undergone over recent decades, some still assume that Pittsburgh is surrounded by a cloud of black soot.

But to those who have lived in or visited the city lately, the truth is apparent that Pittsburgh has evolved and established a new reputation as a city known for superior medical care and eco-friendly green buildings. This change is due in part to the strong educational institutions and the "Renaissance" projects in Pittsburgh that promoted revitalization of the environment and urban infrastructure. In recent years, Pittsburgh has become the poster city for change.

One of the ways the city accomplished this was by promoting the arts. You can visit Pittsburgh's Cultural District, a 14-block area of downtown to see world-class performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre or Pittsburgh Opera. Or, if an interesting art or science lesson is what you crave, try the famous Andy Warhol Museum to see the Pittsburgh native's artwork firsthand and the Carnegie Science Center to see a movie in the Omnimax theater. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a National Historic Landmark, is also in the region.

As you are exploring the city you may notice how prominent the black-and-gold color scheme is. Pittsburgh is the proud birthplace of four professional sports: Steelers football, Penguins hockey, Pirates baseball and Riverhounds soccer. The famous Terrible Towel was a term coined in 1975 by Steelers sportscaster and writer Myron Cope for the towels waved in the air to rally sports fans and has been used by Steeler Nation to cheer on the team ever since.

Just as the Terrible Towel will always be an icon to the city, so will a few other famous products that were introduced in Pittsburgh. David L. Clark invented the Clark bar here in the late 1800s. His company, D.L. Clark Company, prospered and grew on Pittsburgh's North Side for 75 years. The world-famous ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Company began in Pittsburgh. The forever filling and flowing fluorescent ketchup bottle that lights up on the skyline has become a recognizable sight to any Yinzer.

Hungry yet? Pittsburgh offers appropriate dining options for everyone. While on East Carson Street try the fun and funky Fat Head's Saloon where you can get a headwich (a sandwich as big as your head). Or, ride Pittsburgh's famous Duquesne Incline up the steep hill to Mount Washington where luxurious restaurants such as the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto lie ahead. Called "one of the 10 most beautiful views in America" by USA Today Weekend Magazine, this romantic ride up the hillside puts you in the perfect nighttime position to view the city lights dripping onto the meeting point of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. It is also a tradition of Carnegie Mellon's Information Networking Institute to explore these rivers on a boat cruise during the students' orientation in the fall.

These various dining options, museums, theaters and sporting events are certainly enough to keep a person entertained. But, Pittsburgh's personality is not defined by these activities; it is defined by its people. The loyal, hardworking residents of Pittsburgh are truly what turned this once soot-covered city into the innovative and thriving destination that it is today.