Smallman Galley has two bars and four restaurants. Photo courtesy Smallman Galley.

Planning a party or event can be a fun process, though finding the right venue is often intimidating. Organization is key, whether you hire an event planner or take a DIY approach.

First, choose the date. Make a guest list, set your budget, and consider your catering needs and décor. These things will matter when picking a venue, says Gina Carroll, director of events for The Event Group.

Many Pittsburghers seek non-traditional spaces such as a parking lot, warehouse, overlook or Victorian home with terrace gardens, says Martin Potoczny, founder and CEO of LUXE Creative, a full-service design studio known for producing edgy luxury events.

And there are plenty of options among Pittsburgh’s hotels, museums, theaters, restaurants, wineries and craft breweries, says Rachel Carlson, a community manager for Yelp.

Here are just a few venue suggestions to help you get started:

Inside the August Wilson Center, Downtown. Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.


Venue: August Wilson Center

Location: 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District, Downtown

This building is a favorite venue of LUXE’s Potoczny. With exhibition galleries, a 472-seat theater, an education center and several event spaces, the center named for Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson is “unique, it’s versatile, it has a Downtown location and it’s modern and clean,” says Potoczny. “It is an architectural masterpiece. And the staff is amazing.” Rent the Wilson Center (owned by the nonprofit African American Cultural Center) through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; rates vary for commercial renters, nonprofit organizations and community groups.

Details: Depending on the day and time, the base price for commercial renters ranges from $1,050 to $2,800 with potential fees added for ticketing, front of house services, stage labor and equipment. Nonprofit and community organizations get rates starting at $200, depending on their annual budgets. Fill out a rental inquiry form and the Trust will contact you to confirm the date and discuss event needs.


The Pittsburgh Opera headquarters in the Strip District. Photo by Martin Potoczny, LUXE Creative.

RECEPTION (With lots of lead time):

Venue: Pittsburgh Opera

Location: 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District

The Pittsburgh Opera’s headquarters in the former George Westinghouse Air Brake Factory has “the raw industrial feel of an 1869 warehouse that allows you the flexibility to create the ambiance you desire,” its website promises. It is LEED Silver-certified in operations and management, enabling you to hold a green event. But parking is difficult — there is a 24-spot garage in the building, available on a first-come, first-served basis, and on-street or nearby surface lot parking. More importantly, the calendar fills up quickly, especially for weekends. Many events are booked up to two years in advance.

Details: The George R. White Opera Studio and Founders’ Room together can hold 400 for cocktails, 350 in theater-style seating, and 200 for a dinner; their rental costs $350/hour, up to $3,450 for the day. A stage, tables, chairs, piano, lighting and audio equipment are extra. Renters pay a $200 staffing fee and $150 cleaning fee. The Founders’ Room (50 to 100 people) costs $200/hour, or $1,100 daily rate.

Contact: Sean Holsing at or 412-281-0912, ext. 229

The rooftop deck at Left Field on the North Shore. Photo courtesy Smith Brothers Agency.


Venue: Left Field Meeting Space

Location: 116 Federal St., North Side

Brothers Lindsey, Miles and Bronson Smith bought the building across from the Left Field Entrance of PNC Park in 2008 to house their Smith Brothers Agency. They wanted wide-open space to brainstorm with clients about advertising, so they converted the fourth floor and created a rooftop deck. They rent the space to clients, prospective clients and corporate entities for sales meetings or off-site gatherings. “It seems to fill itself,” says Bronson, “but word of mouth is a huge part of how we get bookings. Everybody who comes to the space remembers it and shares what a good time they had.”

Details: Left Field is available for rental on weekdays. The full day rate is $1,500 and half-day rate is $1,000. (More on Pirates and Steelers game days.) Nonprofits pay $1,000/full day, $700/half day. A 25 percent non-refundable deposit is applied toward the final fee. Rental time includes setup and cleanup.

Contact: Karen Kirk, office manager, or 412-359-7222

English tea is popular at The Inn on Negley in Shadyside. Photo courtesy The Inn on Negley.


Venue: The Inn on Negley

Location: 703 S. Negley Ave., Shadyside

Bridal showers, baby showers and traditional English tea dates are the “bread and butter” business of this beautifully restored home with eight guest rooms, says manager Josh Catone. “We do private dinners by reservation for anniversaries and birthdays,” he says. The menu changes seasonally — this fall, the chef offers chicken salad with walnut and tarragon on cheese gougères; whipped goat cheese with almonds and fig jam in phyllo cups; assorted scones; and pumpkin spice cupcakes, chocolate caramel macaroons and pecan pie tartlets.

Details: The Inn charges a rental fee for the space and builds menus to suit the occasion. The Fernwood dining room seats 20 and costs $150 for 2 hours. For larger parties, rent the entire first floor (parlor, two dining rooms and patio, weather permitting) for $300 for two hours. The Inn maxes out at 30 people for a seated meal but can accommodate 45 for cocktail events.

Contact: or (412) 661-0631

Turn the page for suggestions on where to hold social events, kids’ events, dog-friendly events and more.


Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.