Travel

Pittsburgh: The Coolest American City You Haven't Been To

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Downtown Pittsburgh is infused with an authentic, indie-spirited vibrancy you don’t see much in cities anymore In this era of homogenized cities, Pittsburgh is a breath of fresh air. It embraces its industrial past while simultaneously wrapping its strong arms around progressive green developments, an enlightened foodie reputation, and its birthright as one of America’s quirkiest cities. Here are eight reasons to check out Pittsburgh now:

The Andy Warhol Museum
The seven-storey Andy Warhol Museum exhibits drawings, prints, sculpture, film and video, ephemera, and paintings — more than 900 of them, including Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn, Elvis, along with collaborative paintings made with artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente. Visitors can also view Warhol’s Screen Tests, some of which play simultaneously in a multimedia room. Best of all, there’s a nook reserved for visitors to shoot their own screen tests. The morning I visited, there were a dozen people lined up waiting for a turn to shoot their own 15 minutes of fame. Andy would have been proud.

Bayernhof Museum
The Bayernhof Museum is a 19,000 square foot mansion that houses a massive collection of music boxes and other automatic musical instruments. Charles B. Brown, III, the museum’s founder converted his extravagant home, which overlooks the Allegheny River, into an experiential showplace with secret hallways and hidden doors. Take, for instance, the “Cave,” which is accessed, Scooby-Doo style, through a subterranean passage. Inside, a wooden door leads to the wine cellar that is stocked with moonshine. The path that slices through the cave wends past waterfalls and pools with stalactites and stalagmites. It terminus? A large room with a swimming pool and a ten-foot waterfall.

Randyland
If you are lucky enough to visit Randyland when Randy Gilson, the upbeat, vibrant creator is working on his masterpiece you are in for selfies, banter and, with a little luck, an invite to help affix a shard of glass to an evolving mosaic or help locate a headless doll in just the right spot in the garden. “This is all about love,” Randy told me on a recent visit, and as I wandered through his gates amid the colorful collection of castaway objects and folk art murals, I knew just what he meant. This whimsical wonderland in his inner city backyard is open almost every day between 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.


The Mattress Factory

This cutting edge contemporary art venue is a refreshing antidote to passive museums. The installations here provoke you with interactive elements that pull visitors into the art itself. While there, I groped along in utter darkness along with other visitors as we navigated the disorienting light tunnels of James Turrell. The exhibits are spread over a couple of buildings, accessed through an alleyway. The set up allows for large-scale (room size and, sometimes even building-size) art pieces, which are created…

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