Road Trip Guide: The Pittsburgh Strip District

A passer-by walks in front of a map showing the stores and features of Pittsburgh’s Strip District along Penn Avenue.
A passer-by walks in front of a map showing the stores and features of Pittsburgh’s Strip District along Penn Avenue. AP file photo

It’s pretty clear how Pittsburgh’s Strip District got its name — it sits on a narrow stretch, about a mile-and-a-half wide, between the Allegheny River and a hill.

And while it might be small, the Strip, as locals call it, is bustling.

By day, it’s a busy market, filled with fresh produce stands, ethnic grocers, meat and fish markets, and sidewalk vendors selling their wares at very affordable prices. By night, it’s home to some of the city’s trendy nightclubs.

VisitPittsburgh.com calls the Strip “pure Pittsburgh. Gritty and authentic. Bursting with local flavor. No pretense, no fluff. Just plain good.”

The Strip has a rich past. It was home to iron mills, foundries and glass factories as early as the 1820s and 1830s, and by the 1950s had become home to 71 wholesale produce dealers, according to neighborsinthestrip.com.

“The Strip District was the location for a number of significant industrial firsts,” the website said. “Andrew Carnegie got his start in the iron and steel industries with the Upper and Lower Union Mills on Smallman and 33rd streets.”

Learn more about that history at the Senator John Heinz History Center, located at the entrance to the Strip, www.heinzhistorycenter.org/historyCenter.aspx.

Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, it’s the largest history museum in Pennsylvania. It features six floors and has both long-term and rotating exhibition space, including the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, according to its website.

The history center boasts everything from “the pre-revolutionary drama of the French & Indian War to the legendary match-ups of the Super Steelers.”

“The History Center presents the most compelling stories from American history with a Western Pennsylvania connection, all in an interactive environment perfect for visitors of every age,” its website said.

Haven’t gotten your art fix at the history center? Check out the Society for Contemporary Craft nearby, www.contemporarycraft.org.

The gallery and studio space features “cutting edge” contemporary art by international, national and regional artists, according to its website.

It also features something the kids are sure to love. A free, hand-on activities space for children and adults, called the Drop In Studio, is open during all public hours. Visitors are encouraged to participate in art activities, the website said.

Ready for lunch? Check out Primanti Brothers, a Pittsburgh staple, located right in the Strip District. This famously Pittsburgh eatery puts the french fries and slaw right on your sandwich; how thoughtful.

If that’s not your speed, try signing up for a ’Burgh Bits and Bites food tour, burghfoodtour.com.

This Pittsburgh food tasting and historic walking tour should give you a real sense of the city.

And the best part? The tour offers a starting location in the Strip.

“Exploring the vivid history and culinary delights of the Steel City is the focus of ’Burgh Bits and Bites tours,” the group’s website said.