Pittsburgh, once known for producing steel, iron and glass, was born as an industrial city, perhaps lacking in the culture found in similar-sized cities.
Today, the city has taken a turn. It is now buoyed more by technology in medicine, education, energy finance and tourism more so than its former industrial economy. There is an abundance of diverse neighborhoods and restaurants that rival some of the best across the country. The arts and culture scene has grown and visitors and residents alike can participate in a bevy of more activities not found in the past. Its 14-square-block Culture District features Broadway productions and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. There’s even outdoor adventures such as kayaking and hiking for those craving something more physical.
“Located at the confluence of three kling rivers and banked on all sides by green hills, Pittsburgh has earned its reputation as one of America’s most livable cities as it has undergone an amazing transformation,” says Kristin Wenger, communications director, Visit Pittsburgh. “Pittsburgh has something for everyone.”
It’s no surprise then that Pittsburgh has grown in the meeting and events industry. Opened in 2004, its new David L. Lawrence Convention Center tripled in size. There are 20 hotels within 1 mile of the center with easy access to restaurants, museums and more. The city is walkable and can accommodate meetings and events of all sizes and desires. Interestingly, the city is within 500 miles of more than 50 percent of the North American population, making its inbound flight around two hours for many around the country.
“The meetings/events scene in Pittsburgh has really taken off over the last 10 years,” says Wenger. “Our city’s midsize can allow for larger groups to really take over our city and feel like they are the big fish in town. They get a real sense of their event being special.”
Where to Eat
Five-and-a-half years ago, a tiny Argentinian restaurant opened up with counter seating for only about eight people. Through word of mouth, a line quickly started out the door. Now, what was that little restaurant serves as the kitchen for the expanded Gaucho Parrilla Argentina in the Strip District. With space for 100, that line out the door continues to snake out the entrance.
Its food—wood-fired and Argentinianinspired—has received raving reviews since its opening in publications both local and national. On the menu you’ll find a bevy of options, including meat and fish plates, shared plates such as picada and empanadas, sandwiches made with steak, chicken or other options, salads, and side dishes like roasted cauliflower
“What makes Gaucho unique and what keeps people coming back is our food—it is fresh and straight forward,” says Erica Isaac, general manager. “We use the best ingredients we can find and let it speak for itself.”
The restaurant isn’t your standard tableside service. Here, customers order at the counter and are then ushered to their tables by a member of the team. Porters walk around for refills, questions and anything else that may pop up. This attentiveness to service—along with their food—is what has allowed them to remain so popular to this day.
“Everyone you see loves what they do and believe in our restaurant,” says Isaac. “Customers always comment that everyone they’ve encountered is friendly, smiling and accommodating no matter how busy we appear to be.”
Regularly topping best-of lists in local and national publications, Cure in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh serves up Mediterranean food that is sourced from the offerings of Western Pennsylvania and its local farms. It opened in 2011. The restaurant is available in full buyouts and can seat 60.
“When we opened Cure in Lawrenceville, there wasn’t much here,” says chef Justin Severino. “We were one of the first restaurants to serve contemporary, urban Mediterranean in Pittsburgh and we’re proud to be a part of the city’s growth as a food destination.”
Where to Stay
Bringing your pet with you on your visit to Pittsburgh? Not a problem at the Hyatt House Pittsburgh South-Side, where all animals are welcome and some even attend events at the riverfront hotel.
With a picturesque setting—the hotel is located directly on the Allegheny River with views of the Greater Allegheny Trail. Naturally, the hotel has a terrace overlooking the river, perfect for events. The terrace can hold up to 160 seated, and they also have a 40-foot-by-60-foot tent featuring Edison bistro lights for a reception. The hotel also offers 900 square feet of meeting space that can host up to 100 people.
“Our riverfront location is a big plus and makes for gorgeous events,” says Julie Hutto, events manager. “[Guests] love the view and how ideally located the hotel is.”
For guests and planners looking for something smaller and more intimate, Mansions on Fifth is an ideal option. With 22 rooms, the boutique hotel has an elegantly simple vibe. Once a single-family residence in the early 1900s, the mansion still retains its intricate carved woodwork, stained-glass windows and grand staircase.
“We often hear how beautiful our hotel is and how shocked guests are to imagine the hotel when it was a single-family residence,” says Marissa Musico, senior catering manager. “Being inside a turn-of-the-century mansion that was once a single-family residence is by far the most unique feature of the Mansions on Fifth Hotel."
The entire main level of the mansion can be rented out for 120 seated; a cocktail-style event can hold 180 guests. Individual rooms also located on the main level can be rented for smaller, more intimate affairs.
Featuring interior décor inspired by the Steel City and a beaux-arts design, the threeyear-old Kimpton Hotel Monaco is located close to Mellon Square Park and walking distance to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center as well as several museums and local activities. As with other Kimpton Hotel brands, an emphasis is placed on high-quality service with staff that genuinely care about their guests—both for leisure and business, most importantly including meeting and event planners.
“We consistently hear that it’s both the design and the passion of our team that set us apart from others,” says Rob Mallinger, general manager. “We hear compliments from experienced meeting planners but also hear that we are able to make planners newer to the business feel comfortable and at ease.”
The hotel has 11,300 square feet of meeting and event space across seven different rooms on the first and ninth floor, which can accommodate up to 200 people for a seated event. Planners can also utilize a 1,067-square-foot rooftop and open-air patio that can hold up to 200 people reception-style.
What to Do
Located in the West End Village area, the James Gallery is a unique and eclectic space for an event. Originally, the company started as a framing gallery in 1975. Now, it’s a fullfledged fine art gallery featuring stunning pieces—regional, national and international— with rotating exhibits.
The 3,500-square-foot space can hold up to 125 for a cocktail-style event and 50 for a seated meal. An outdoor sculpture garden and courtyard also is available.
“Our business model as a gallery is dynamic. Art is exceptional,” says James Frederick, owner. “The gallery is a charming venue.”
Pittsburgh is known for its industrial past and its rough-looking landscape. The 460- acre Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is helping to beautify the area and allow the city to escape a bit from its roots. The garden features 3 miles of trails, which when traversed, visitors will experience the Lotus Pond and the Margaret Lawrence Simon Dogwood Meadow with a log home and apple orchard. Only 10 minutes away from all major Pittsburgh hotels, the garden is an easy-to-reach space.
In the Peirce Family Celebration Garden, guests will find a restored barn built in the 1870s now named the Davidson Event Center, which can accommodate up to 100 guests for a seated event with a dance floor (and up to 130 for events without a dance floor). If the garden’s tent is included, 220 guests can be accommodated.
“Our exclusive rental company has plenty of options to make the space feel unique yours,” says Ashley Cyprowski, event sales manager. “Since our space is full of blooms, greenery and beautiful wood from the original barn, it does not require a lot of additional décor. You can add as much or a little to the space and it is still beautiful.”