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A Phillies Fan's Cultural Guide to Pittsburgh

Also, one of America's most underrated skylines. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Also, one of America's most underrated skylines. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Just like every season, thousands of Phillies fans are making the drive across the Commonwealth to the western Pennsylvania metropolis of Pittsburgh for the Fightins' once annual (unfortunately) away series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Even though the two cities are in the same state, the cultural differences are immense. For instance, once you cross the Blue Mountain tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you need to start calling carbonated, sweetened beverages "pop" instead of "soda." The more you know.

But Pittsburgh and its environs have lots to offer the visitor, from dining to nightlife to culture culture culture! WIthout further ado, here's a look at some of the highlights:

The South Side: Think of this as Pittsburgh's Old City, or Manayunk if you prefer (with apologies to the strip district). Like many cities not on the eastern seaboard, Pittsburgh's downtown is a deadzone after working hours are over and on weekends. One must go to the outer neighborhoods for any semblance of nightlife. The South Side, designated as the portions of Carson Street running roughly parallel to the Monongahela River, from approximately Station Square to the Hot Metal Bridge, is a young adult's paradise. Bars, restaurants, shops, etc. Have a blast.

Wonder Boys: Michael Douglas, hot off a decade and a half of portraying skeezy rough sex specialists* in various thrillers and yuppie dramas, took an abrupt turn in this character piece, based on author Michael Chabon's novel of the same name. The film tracks an eventful couple of days in the life of Grady Tripp (Douglas), a washed up, pot smoking author and professor of creative writing at a thinly-veiled Carnegie Mellon University, as he deals with some unexpected news from his ladyfriend, a troubled student, a demanding literary agent, an unexpected passenger in his tremendous car, and his own demons. Director Curtis Hanson, following up on critical smash L.A. Confidential, created a dark, absurdly funny atmosphere in this sadly overlooked new classic.

Also featuring Frances McDormand, between-rehab Robert Downey, Jr., a luscious, pre-Xenu Katie Holmes, and a pre-Spiderman Tobey Maguire. It's relative commercial failures (but critical successes) like this and Punch Drunk Love that prevent established actors from breaking type to play more interesting, nuanced characters. And that's too bad.

* Thanks to Mike Nelson of MST3K for this unofficial "title" for Douglas.

The Andy Warhol Museum: Andy Warhol seems to have sprung, fully formed, from the depths of the mid-20th century New York scene. Andrew Warhola, Jr., though, was born in Pittsburgh in 1928, the son of a coal miner. He grew up in the city's Oakland section, moving to New York in 1949.

The Andy Warhol Museum, at 117 Sandusky Street (about a block from PNC Park) holds a wonderful collection of the pop art legend's works, and is one of the most cleverly assembled galleries I've ever visited. The Museum features everything from Warhol's very early career, to his more well-recognized pieces and film projects. Give yourself at least three hours or so. Worth the trip.

Primanti Bros.: Yinzers are about as tired of talking about Primanti Bros. as Philadelphians are about discussing Pat's and Geno's. Still, if you're there, you need to try it, just to say you did.

A Primanti's sandwich is a freakish concoction of thickly sliced Italian bread, french fries, cole slaw, tomatoes, and the grilled meat of your choice. A fried egg version is also available. Not for every taste, but uniquely Pittsburgh, so give it a shot. Multiple locations throughout the city and suburbs.


Any Pittsburgh destinations or cultural touchstones you think I missed? We have a Comments section!