Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pittsburgh Tailgate and Visitors Guide '09

The Pittsburgh Skyline

This is one of a series of tailgating guides for Big East football schools written by Syracuse fan and tailgate aficionado TexanMark. If you have any feedback or additional information you think belongs in this guide, please drop an email message to Mark by clicking here.

First Things First: Getting There

Pittsburgh is the most centrally located University among the football members. All teams’ fans (except USF) can drive to Pittsburgh in less than 7-8 hours. If you decide to fly to the Pittsburgh Airport. you will find it is huge and only 15 miles west of the stadium. If you decide not to rent a car there are several ways to get downtown. The official airport guide should give you more specific information. Southwest, Air Tran, Jet Blue, and USA3000 are some of the several discount carriers. US Airways still maintains a huge footprint in Pittsburgh but it has decreased (once the main hub of US Airways)somewhat in the last few years.Amtrak and Greyhound both have stations downtown not too far from Heinz Field and might be another good option for those who don’t want to hassle with driving or flying.

If you driving to Pittsburgh for the first time I would suggest you find a motel near the stadium and leave your car parked most of the time. Pittsburgh due to the topography and geography is very tough to navigate around. Apply the “K.I.S.S. Principle” (Keep It Simple Stupid) and you’ll do okay.

Heinz Field
The stadium as most of you know is shared by the Steelers and it is located across the Allegheny River from downtown in an area called the “North Shore”. The University is actually located a few miles away to the east.
A tour of the campus is a must and is well worth your time.

University of Pittsburgh Campus along Forbes Ave.

If you are visiting in September or even October (if the Pirates do well) you could get lucky and get the opportunity to take in a major league baseball game. The PNC is located about 1/2 mile east of Heinz Field.

Getting to Heinz Field

Directions to Heinz Field--from the Pittsburgh.About Website--this site offers a bunch of useful info.

Driving Directions to Heinz Field
400 Art Rooney Avenue
Pittsburgh PA

From the East:
Take I-376, US-22 and go West for 14.2 miles. Take Exit 1 to North Shore and I-279 North. Bear left on ramp at sign reading Exit 11B - North Shore.

From the North:
Take I-79 and go South to I-279. Follow I-279 to Exit 21 I-279 South to Pittsburgh. Take Exit 12 to North Shore.

From the South:
Take I-79 North to Exit 14 for I-279 North towards Pittsburgh. Follow I-279 through the Fort Pitt Tunnel/Bridge (Left Lane) to the sign reading Exit 11A, 11B PA-65 North to North Shore/Ohio River Blvd and US-19. Take Exit 11B - North Shore.

From the West and Airport:
From the PA Turnpike (I-76 East), take Exit 1A Rt-60-South towards Pittsburgh (Portions Toll), or from the Pittsburgh Airport follow PA-Route-60-South towards Pittsburgh. Continue to Pittsburgh following signs for US-22, US-30 and I-279 through the Fort Pitt Tunnel/Bridge. Follow I-279 through the Fort Pitt Tunnel (Left Lane) to the sign reading Exit 11A, 11B PA-65 North to North Shore/Ohio River Blvd and US-19. Bear left on ramp at sign reading Exit 11B - North Shore.

Heinz Field

Heinz Field Seating Chart Click to enlarge
This is a great place to start learning about Heinz Field.
This guide has laid out all your options and is the best source I found. Bottom-line: You usually need to have a season permit to park close to Heinz Field proper (for the most part). Pitt fans have told me sometimes you can get into a permit lot on game day in some season ticket permit lots with "ahh umm" shall we say a tip to the parking lot attendant and his lot buddies. I personally wouldn't recommend it but leave it to you. If you arrive early, a limited number of parking spaces around Heinz Field are available per game on a first come-first served basis for $12. There are also a few lots/parking garages that sell game day parking but they are located east toward PNC (Pirate's BB Stadium). If you are coming with a big group one option is to call the Pittsburgh Parking Authority and prearrange a rented lot, a Pitt fan said he arranged 30 cars for $300.

The following are suggestions if a large crowd is expected: If you are traveling in a smaller group I would suggest making a copy of this guide, print this map and arrive early (of course), and enter the Northshore Garage (Blue 10) $12, West General Robinson Garage (Red 5) $12 or Allegheny Center Garage $10. The "North Blue Canal" Garage/Lot is one block south of the Allegheny Center Garage but there isn't any link/info but it might be available. Okay now you are in a parking garage--how do I tailgate? If the weather is dry I suggest parking on the roof. Open flames are not allowed but you should be able to bring in subs/sandwiches/drinks and do a reasonable job. Another option is to locate empty space in a lot or grassy strip nearby. Lastly I suggest fraternizing with the enemy--there is usually a common bond of mutual respect and they may just either invite you to join them or give you tips where to setup. Who knows you might develop a network of opposing teams' fans and have your parking/tailgating worries taken care of. The Station Square Option (below) is a very good option for out of town visitors. Another option is to hunt around the Northshore for private lots. There are some private lots near PNC but can be expensive. If you arrive early try around Isabella Street just east of PNC or the area near South Commons (across Hwy 279) about 3 blocks north of PNC.

Finally TexanMark's secret parking location: I was invited to a tailgate in Lot 22 and was able to park one block away from the lot and about 4 blocks from the stadium. The lot was at the corner of Western and Alleghany. It was $10 to park and located across the street from convenience store. They double parked people so if you plan on leaving early allow yourself an exit. The only issue with this lot is tailgating didn't look promising unless it was just a couple of you. I arrived three hours early for a Noon kickoff and the lot only had a few parkers but attendance was around 25,000 that day. Other lots are running toward Ridge toward PNC. Another fan also suggested areas just north or possibly west of the Carnegie Science Science (located just west of Heinz Field) has spaces on a daily rate if you arrive early.

Sports Bar Alert!
Don't want to tailgate but looking for a place to have a meal and watch a few games on TV close by? Try McFadden's Restaurant and Saloon in the Equitable Building near PNC. Mullens Bar and Grill near PNC stadium. In the same location as the old Hi-Tops (closed due to cash flow problem), Mullen's (has several Chicago establishments) opened Spring 08. They promise good food and a young professional crowd. Looking for a close by Irish Bar? Try Finnegan's Wake. All should be decent home away from homes. I'd like to thank the Scout Pitt board for helping me with the parking section.

More options are below. If you (the reader) know of any good tailgate spots in private lots pass them on. I’ll need an address, cost, charity if any they support, and how many cars it can park and when does it fill up. Email me.

Heinz Field Parking Link for PDF Map

Station Square (Tailgate Alternative)

If you don’t need to tailgate in the traditional way, this might be your best option. It is going to cost you $10.00 for parking but it is a good deal if you plan to stay after the game. There are a ton of things to do in Station Square. You can even stay at the Sheraton during your visit.
The neatest thing is the ability to take a riverboat over to the game. It costs $10 roundtrip per person. Here is a decent overview of the Station Square in map form. I have been told Station Square's surface lots are disappearing but some are still available. Full scale tailgating is not going on here but I suggest you ask what they'll allow on game day.

Map of Station Square Area Click to enlarge

More Parking Options Including Downtown
More Heinz Field Parking/Tailgating Options can be found here. The Steelers provide this map of downtown lots for your situational awareness. The Robert Clemente Bridge on gameday is a huge pedestrian walkway on gameday. If you don't mind a walk downtown should provide several opportunities to tailgate in a lot.


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TAILGATE HAVEN--Total Tailgating Resource

Tailgate Haven is your total resource for setting up and managing your football tailgate online. Do you think the tailgate is sometimes just as important as the game? The goal of Tailgate Haven is to make your life easier by organizing your tailgate group; thus eliminating countless emails, text messages and phone calls about the current weeks tailgate information. The concept is simple but pure genius. You easily register by choosing your favorite team and picking a creative name for your tailgate group. Now log in and instantly each of your teams games becomes its own webpage with your team colors. Next, invite your friends to join your tailgate group and the site comes to life. In addition to this tailgate manager, every team has its own tailgate profile. Do you travel to away games? This is where you can find the best information on where to park, find extra tickets, where to stay, eat, party and golf. Navigate the city easily as you travel to a stadium for the first time.


For “out of towners” seeking convenience and don’t mind paying a higher price should check out the Sheraton at Station Square first (really nice if you want easy access to the Gateway Clipper). Be advised by the time you read this it is probably already too late to find a vacancy if the game is the same weekend as a Steelers game unless you get lucky.

Sheraton at Station Square located across the river from downtown

North Shore Lodging
The Priory Hotel is located on the Northshore near PNC Ballpark. It draws rave reviews by almost all. If you want a smaller boutique hotel, this is it.
The Priory Hotel

The SpringHill Suites by Marriott is located right next to the PNC stadium, and within walking distance to Heinz Field. It looks to be a very good option.

The Inn on Mexican War Streets (yes that is the name) is a B+B in a restored mansion. It is not far from Heinz Field.

There are several major hotels downtown I found using Google. Staying downtown over the weekend is often a good way to stretch your dollar. Many downtown hotels have weekend rates since their business stays are low over the weekend. The major hotel chains represented downtown were: Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton, Marriott, Omni, Ramada, Renaissance and Westin.

Staying a Few Miles Away Near Campus?
This website gives you directions to the Pitt campus.
The university recommends these places near the campus.
I see there is a Quality Inn nearby, a Holiday Inn Select, and the Wyndham Garden University Place also are close by. One thing must be noted about the Oakland area where the Pitt campus is located. This is an urban area with urban crime. When walking about, use common sense. If you want to stay on the southside The Morning Glory Bed and Breakfast surely will appeal to your spouse.

I’d like to thank “PittFan7” and my brother-in-law Don Lancaster for giving me the local insight as follows in this guide.
"Pittfan7" lists five places that you should look into for hang outs, bars, food, etc…

1. South Side which info can be found on Yahoo or Google and type it in as I wrote it. This place is every college guys dream; 70 some bars all on one street (East Carson Street) and all within walking distance. That street is called. This is one of the busiest streets on weekends. It has everything... Bars, Restaurants, Hotels, Movie Theatre, Grocery Stores, Shops, EVERYTHING!! Southside Works is a great starting point. A few restaurants to check out: Le Pommier, Dish Osteria, Mallorca, Gypsy Cafe and Abruzzi's. Lastly, Fatheads is a institution in Pittsburgh. It features truly great wings, mega varieties of beer and something called a “Headwich”. Review. If you are looking for a pool hall and bar try Dee's Cafe. Also, Shootz Cafe and Billards offers Pool and Big Screens.
Finally, something new to Pittsburgh and frankly to the rest of the US...a real German Beer House...The HofbrauHaus is in SouthsideWorks.

2. The Strip District (on the Allegheny River near downtown) offers lots of produce/artist's markets in the day time and night life/restaurants at night for the “Club” people that enjoy dancing. If you are looking for upscale Italian--you should try Lidia's. Several neat, original, must do eating places are in the Strip District. Sports Bar Alert: Sports Rock Cafe has a great reputation and delivers live bands on the weekends.

Map of the Strip District

3. Oakland which is where the Pitt campus is located. They have quite an array of entertainment. Good food not as many bars but a good college environment. Not technically Oakland, this Shadyside bar (Doc's Place) near the Pitt Campus has a great party rep. Sports Bar Alert: In ShadySide and your hungry for Wings, Ribs and Big Screen TVs try Buffalo Blues.

4. Station Square (mentioned above) has bars, clubs, food, hotels and the Gateway Clipper Fleet for river tours and concerts etc... You also have the option of taking the Monongahela Incline, which will take you to the outlooks of Mt. Washington, from which you and your main squeeze can have a romantic view of the city skyline. Also, awesome at night to take loved ones to. Another neat suggestion is to ride the Dusquense Incline and head over to some awesome restaurants. A few are very upscale and come highly recommended: LeMont, Tin Angel, Monterey Bay Fish Groto, Grandview Saloon, Cliffside,...If you want to stay and eat at Station Square the Sesame Inn has excellent Chinese/Asian Food.

5. Homestead Waterfront This area isn't quite the bar scene atmosphere, but it has a huge variety of entertainment. They have a huge outdoor shopping plaza, movie theater, a few bars here and there but a lot of bar/restaurants. Great food, comedy club, an overall great environment for fun.
If you want to eat near Heinz I can personally recommend one place I ate at. If you want your fill of the taste of Pittsburgh, try Peppi’s before or after the game for a great sandwich. SPORTS BAR ALERT: Dave and Buster's has an establishment on the waterfront.

6. The Northside is starting to add more restaurants. A couple (Mc'Fadden's and Finnegan's Wake) were mentioned above. Just a long field goal to the east of Heinz on Northshore is Calico Jacks, a lively place for sports fans and singles. Jerome Bettis Grille 36 is newly features steaks, sandwiches, 36 beers and other man food and is very close to Heinz. The Northside additionally has a fabulous German Restaurant located about 8 blocks from PNC. Max's Allegheny Tavern is well worth the trouble of finding a parking spot on the street to eat there. Penn Brewery offers fine a German restaurant. It is located about a 1/2 mile east of PNC.

My brother-in-law knows Pittsburgh and knows the great local food joints. He has shared a few of them with us.
Peppi's (927 Western Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15233, (412) 231-9029) This is a local chain that specializes in submarine/hoagie/hero/grinder type sandwiches, both hot and cold. This Peppi’s is located on the North Side about 2 blocks from Heinz Field. Go up the hill from Heinz Field on Allegheny Ave. When you reach Western Ave. (There is a 7-Eleven there.), turn right. Peppi’s is located mid-block on the right. Peppi’s is the quintessential mix of classic great tasting but mostly high calorie food.

Primanti Brothers' Signature Sandwich

Primanti Brothers: the original shop is in Pittsburgh’s Strip District and is open all night. (The Strip District is the produce area of Pittsburgh.) Their sandwiches are served on thick slices of Italian bread and have the cole slaw and French fries on them. There are Primanti Stands at Heinz Field. Review.

The Original Hot Dog Shop is located in Oakland next to the Pitt campus. It is open all night and is known for inexpensive food. The hot dogs are good; the old fashion deli dogs that make a crack when bitten into. If you order fries, you will get fresh cut potatoes. WARNING - A regular order is enough for 3 to 4 people. It is a basket full. (This is a college eatery.) Also, you order different items from different stations. This speeds up the lines for anyone getting just one thing. Review.

The Original Hot Dog Stand

Jo Jo's is another Strip District eatery. Jo Jo’s serves meals all night but closes during the afternoon. Good cheap eats. WARNING, the Jo Jo omelet is enormous.
DeLuca's is in the heart of the Strip District. They are open early and close in the mid-afternoon. Good cheap eats.>
Benkovitz Fish is located in the Strip District. They are a fish store that of course also serves excellent fish sandwiches. There is NO seating but stand up counters. It closes in the afternoon. There are Benkovitz stands at Heinz Field.
Robert Wholey & Co. (Fish) is located in the heart of the strip district and is a fish and grocery store that serves excellent fish sandwiches. It closes in the late afternoon.
A small, growing chain that has developed a strong following in the area is Quaker Steak and Lube. Yes, it is a close namesake of the motor oil and yes, the place serves food. BTW, you can try these Wings at Heinz Stadium. Check it out.

Diversions/Shopping for the non football Watching Spouse

Below are a few suggestions to do while in Pittsburgh. Some of these places are within walking distance of Heinz Field. This might come in handy for a spouse who might not want to go to the game.
Andy Warhol Museum
The National Aviary
Ft. Pitt Museum
Carnegie Science Center
Mattress Factory, yes it is a museum and located about 1/2 mile NE of Heinz Field

NOTE: SportsWorks is a great place to take kids for several hours. BTW, if you are an educator tell them and receive a nice discount. A good place to visit if Pitt is playing at night is the Western Pennsylvania Sports History Museum at the Heinz History Center. The Heinz History Center is an excellent history museum that is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute. Over on campus. The Cathedral of Learning, the center-piece Gothic skyscraper on campus that is the tallest edcational building in the Western Hemisphere. Thirty to forty thousand tourists a year visit the 27 National Classrooms inside the Cathedral. The Heinz Chapel and Stephen Foster Memorial are on the Cathedral lawn. The Phipps Conservatory is beautiful and located next door to the campus in Schenley Park. One last museum in Oakland is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Your kids will love the dinosaurs. On the North side (a short car ride from the stadium)is the Allegheny Observatory in Riverview Park. In the warmer months, tours are conducted on Friday nights (no cost). The website gives info about the tours.

If your spouse wants to shop there are a few close by choices. A few miles away is Southside Works. It has food, movies and quite a few popular store brands. Another option is Station Square. The nice thing about Station Square is you can tailgate/go to the game while she shops. One last option is to take in the big department stores downtown. You can find more info on Pittsburgh shopping here.

H.J. Heinz Local History Museum in the Strip District


Thank you, Pitt fans “Willemakit” and “Pittee3” for the following suggestions:

A comprehensive list of courses in the Pittsburgh metro area shows a wide range of prices. If you are a hacker or just want a quick, cheap round of golf try Schenley Golf Course Note: It will be renamed Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park in September 2007, North Park (county course), Holly Hill (9 hole course), Pittsburgh North, Oakmont East, or Maplecrest (9 hole course).

Schenley Golf Course
If you want a more challenging round, consider the following courses:
Quicksilver 4 star course. You can play 9 or 18 holes for between 30-60 bucks (includes golf cart). You'll need a tee time and there is a dress code. Overall, it is a class operation and a wonderful course.

Champion Lakes About an hour east of downtown, this excellent and challenging course should also be considered. Note that they have a dress code (collared shirt, no jeans) and tee times are required. $40.00 includes cart. Rated one of the top 50 public courses in the US by Golf Digest.
Championship Lakes Grand View This is not your normal 'hit driver 14 times' type course. You need to play target golf. Great test for your course management skills. Not recommended for the high-handicapper (if you are, bring lots of balls). This course is very close to downtown and features some great views of the industrial areas of Pittsburgh.

Grand View Golf Course
WestwoodNever played there but it's not far from downtown and the reviews are goodBirdsfoot Very nice course that is relatively new. A subtle links-style beauty, the Pittsburgh-area course opened in May 2003 and features more than 100 deceptively treacherous grass and sand bunkers between whisker-wide fairways. Seven two-tiered greens yield more than two tears for three-putters. It is reasonably priced and represents a good value, but is a fairly long drive from downtown (50 miles north of Pittsburgh). There are a lot of other golf courses in this area.

Birdsfoot Golf Course

I hope this helps. I'd like to thank “Pittfan7” and Don Lancaster for helping me with this guide. TexanMark

The opinions expressed in this guide are those of TexanMark. While every effort has been made to ensure all the information presented is accurate and current, it would be wise to verify things when possible. Please note that this guide is not endorsed by, or its site publishers, administrators and/or moderators.

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