The cherished season of family road trips is well underway, and in its latest travel feature, The Washington Post recommends Pittsburgh for your next summer destination.
In his article, The smartest route to Pittsburgh: The one with no shortcuts, writer Joel Achenbach—who also covers science and politics for the Post‘s national desk—packs up his family, which includes three kids of various ages, and sets off from “Washington’s sweltering heat” to wind his way into Western Pennsylvania. And it’s clear that the journey to Pittsburgh is just as worthwhile as what awaits at the final destination.
The route Achenbach recommends to travelers?
“The smarter, more scenic, swimming-friendly, nature-worshipping, history-saturated route takes you out through Western Maryland via Interstate 68 (through the glorious geology lesson that is the dynamited road notch in Sideling Hill), then through Cumberland and eventually to Route 40, the old National Road. This will add at least an hour to your trip, more if you stop — which is kind of the point of going this way to begin with. There’s cool stuff in them thar hills . . . The best traveling experiences hug the land closely, and read the terrain, and honor the rivers and the mountains and the graveyards where rest the people who long ago built the foundation of everything we see. We increasingly live our lives online, in the parallel dimensions spawned by digital technology, and it’s easy to get divorced from the physical world and succumb to the illusion that everywhere is nowhere. Sometimes you need to turn off the phone and computer and appreciate something as carefully designed and crafted as a bridge.”
Meandering their way from D.C., the Achenbach family takes time to soak up and experience the beauty of nature and the rich legacy of regional history en route to Pittsburgh.
A must-see featured stop on Achenbach’s ambitious itinerary is what the writer describes “an awesome place in southwestern Pennsylvania called Ohiopyle State Park, threaded by the tumbling, resplendent Youghiogheny River (the Yock).”
Upon arriving in Pittsburgh, Achenbach observes: “The most striking feature is the rugged topography, which has no obvious equivalent among big cities anywhere in the East. I’ve never seen it look anything but clean and fresh. Where are smokestacks belching stygian clouds of toxic fumes? Why is there no soot raining from the sky? I guess that image of Pittsburgh is off by a century or two. Now there’s a big Google presence; at Carnegie Mellon University they do amazing work with robots.”
The travel feature goes on to discuss Pittsburgh’s industrial history, world-famous 446 bridges, vast amenities for travelers, mighty three rivers, role in the French and Indian War and unique topography and geographical setting:
“But even when you find Pittsburgh on a map, it’s hard to describe where it is in relation to the rest of the country. It’s certainly not on the East Coast, and it’s not part of the Midwest. Terms like ‘Appalachia’ and ‘Rust Belt’ are not likely to be embraced by the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. In my head I think of Pittsburgh as being ‘thataway.’ There was a time, of course, when its location was obvious, providential and economically significant. Pittsburgh sits on the rolling terrain below the western flank of the Allegheny Plateau. The city was founded on a point of land where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers converge to form the Ohio River.”
Once in town, the Achenbachs settle in to stay Downtown: “We got a big suite a big suite at the Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown, on Penn Avenue, which puts you in walking distance of everything from the Point (where the rivers converge) to the Warhol Museum. There is no joy in an American road trip greater than getting a jumbo hotel room of a size unimaginable in, say, Maine and Martha’s Vineyard, where our fancy friends were probably suffering in shoebox rooms in precious B&Bs with sailboats clacking next door and seagulls cawing up a storm while we had a suite large enough for a game of Wiffle Ball.”
Eating their way through Pittsburgh “like a herd of goats,” the family headed to The Strip District, making stops at Reyna Foods, The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, Pittsburgh Public Market and Chicken Latina.
On the South Side, the travelers checked out a pub crawl, vintage clothing shops and tattoo parlors.
The family trip culminated with a visit to The Andy Warhol Museum on Pittsburgh’s Northside, which Achenbach says “captures the man’s astonishing evolution as a creative force.”
Read the entire article here.