Occasionally an adventure begins in a way that makes you know you’ll remember it for the rest of your life. The text I received on a Saturday evening was the beginning of one of those adventures.
“You are being kidnapped tomorrow morning at 5:30. Be ready…”
Good or bad, you know a text like that is the start of something big.
I didn’t even figure out where our destination was until the city swung into view. Bathed in the early morning light, it was such a striking sight. Abby had kidnapped me to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and had a full itinerary planned. I can honestly say that in all of my travels, I have never seen as much in a single day as I did in Pittsburgh.
Our first stop was the Strip District (thankfully not what I was expecting from the name) and breakfast. It was a beautiful explosion of street art and culture that combined in a way only Pittsburgh can deliver. And the smells…fresh bread from the bakeries, thousands of flowers that made me think of spring, roasted coffee people used to keep the morning chill away, and so many more. If you haven’t experienced early morning in the Strip District but get the chance, do yourself a favor and check it out. Our album of the Strip can be found here.
After stocking up on fresh bread and many (yet not nearly enough) other snacks, I was told to hurry up. Our next stop was soon to open.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Conservatories aren’t normally what I think of when I'm about to explore a city. Luckily for me, Abby knows me better than I know myself most of the time. I will admit I was a little dubious when we pulled up to the conservatory, even with how beautiful the exterior was.
As soon as I saw the first... (display? That doesn’t seem accurate exactly... Let's just call it what it was, even if it doesn’t do it justice.) … the first room with plants, I decided that conservatories will be my new “must see” on every visit to a major city. With entire themed rooms full of plants like orchids, desert flora, and bonsai trees, or a complete mini jungle exhibition, I could go on for days trying to explain how beautiful the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is, but instead I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I only regret that I can’t share how amazing the flowers smelled.
Pittsburgh's National Aviary is the perfect transition from the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and was my next surprise stop. If you have never been to an Aviary, let me tell you that it is nothing like the zoo. Most of the birds aren’t hidden away in an enclosure where you have to squint through glass to see them. Walking into the first room, I nearly got hit by a parrot “present” as it flew not 5 feet above my heat. The themed rooms you walk into contain probably hundreds of birds, and this next gorgeous guy almost walked across my foot.
While other travel buffs pride themselves in their abilities to find their way without a map, let me remind you that this is WanderLOST Travels, and "Lost" is in our name for a reason. Abby can own that she puts the "Lost" in WanderLost. Really, she gets lost a lot... So, there was a five minute stretch where we missed every exit trying to get across Pittsburgh. And yes, she was using a GPS.
Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Even though we were lost, we excitedly found our path to our next destination. Much to my surprise, the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History are connected. One line and two tickets and special exhibit passes later, we saw everything from a hall of statues, modern art, woolly mammoth bones, a grand dinosaur exhibit, and the best geology exhibit I've ever seen (which is saying something, as my degree is in Geology). Each museum deserves over a day of time for adequate exploration. Our gallery can be found here, here but these are a few of my favorites...
If you go to Pittsburgh, be sure to ride either the Duquesne Incline or the Monongahela Incline to get a panoramic view of the city. We opted for the picturesque Duquesne Incline and spent time enjoying the overlook deck and making friends with our fellow passenger. While the Duquesne Incline was built in 1877, the Monongahela was built in 1870 and is the oldest continuously operating funicular in the U.S. Each incline has a pair of counterbalanced cars attached to cables. These cables are attached to an engine at the upper station that requires minimal power to operate due to the counterbalance. Amazing stuff, physics. These inclines are the last survivors of the 17 total inclines that used to exist in Pittsburgh.
Randyland can only be described as what will happen if you give a man with 100 times the creativity I will ever possess access to a near limitless supply of paint. Check out Abby’s take on this amazing vision of a man called Randy.
Personally, I absolutely loved Trundle Manor, although Abby was nervous about what I would think. As Abby perfectly phrased it in her post, Trundle Manor is like stepping into a dark fairytale. By itself, the Manor is worth two or three visits, but going there directly after Randyland gave me whiplash in the best way possible. I loved seeing how amazingly talented people can create such completely opposite styles of art, but at the core of both styles, you can easily tell how skilled and passionate the artists are about their work. Meeting creators like the folks at Randland and Trundle Manor really reminded me to follow our own motto and find passion in the work and lifestyle we choose!
Our whirlwind tour of Pittsburgh just goes to show how much you can fit into a day with a little planning (Abby) and a touch of flexibility (me).
While we spent a lot during our trip, it was certainly less than many other trips where we've seen less. We wanted to give you an idea of how much our crazy day cost. It just goes to show you can have an amazing day with memories that will last forever even if you are short on time or money.
Mancini's Bakery - $6.00 (so. much. delicious. bread.)
Open Air Market at the Strip District - $18 for misc. goodies for our families (most made it home)
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: $15/person
The National Aviary - $14/person
Lunch - We packed egg sandwiches!
Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Carnegie Museum of Art - Combined tickets at $24.95/person (we also got passes for a special exhibit for this price)
Parking - $6.00 (most parking is free on Sundays, which is the day we went)
The Duquesne Incline - $5/person round-trip
Randyland - Donation (Suggested Donation $1/person)
Primanti Bros. Dinner - $7/person
Trundle Manor - Donation
Gas - ~$50
Total cost ~ $230 for the two of us, including our donations.
If you want to take a similar trip to Pittsburgh, you can see that steering clear of baked goods or going to fewer places will plunge the total cost to well under $100/person. It takes some serious planning and determination to get through a schedule like the one Abby created. Regardless, the memories we made during our crazy day in Pittsburgh are priceless.