A Cheap Day in Pittsburgh

Hi, everyone! Hope you are having a great day. The weather today is perfect, sunny and warm.  I love these type of days but now that July is upon us, summer is sadly starting to unravel.  I just noticed a couple of days ago on Facebook our school district posted the new school schedule.  It made me cringe and immediately scrolled past it.  I’m still in summer mode everyone and you killjoys can keep your schedule!  Kidding. Maybe.

While my parents and sister’s family were visiting from North Carolina, my sister wanted her children to ride on Pittsburgh‘s famously steep incline.  To make it a memorable experience for my family, we decided to take an all day scenic route using the Trolley or “T” while keeping our budget in mind.  Before heading out that day to see the great city, we scoured the internet for coupons and then headed to our first destination.  We were able to keep within our budget of about $20 for three people.

Here’s how it went.

We decided to park at the Carnegie Science Center for the daily rate of $5 (instead of the typical parking rate of $7-$15).  It was a 5-minute walk to the Trolley at the North Shore location.  Members and Non-Members can park there anytime with the same rate after 9 am.   I recommend waiting until the morning rush hour is over, between 10 – noon before arriving.   We absolutely adore the Carnegie Science Center (CSC) and memberships are very reasonable!  We ate lunch before heading out around noon to save money on purchasing food.  Yes, it’s fun to eat out but we save it for special occasions.

After we reached the parking lot, we grabbed our parking ticket and immediately walked about a block to the Trolley.  The “T” runs from the North Shore all the way to the South Park every 15 minutes until late at night.  It’s an excellent alternative for those who want to avoid the hassle of driving downtown looking for a parking space or need to head out into the South Suburbs. It’s FREE if you are within the confines of downtown, from the North Shore all the way to First Avenue.

In front of Pittsburgh Trolley Station

Keep this in mind next time when you are visiting downtown for dinner, a play, or the Symphony.  I use this method of transportation to avoid paying the exorbitant amount to park and fight the am/rush hour traffic. My kids love riding the T and its a great experience for them!  Every trip to the T we pick up a map of the T and figure out how many stops there will be and what stop we should get off before reaching our destination.  We’re always in learning mode!

After the First Avenue stop going across the Smithfield Street Bridge, there is a fee.  We got off at Station Square which costs $2.50. However, if you are going on the Incline, the frugal way is to pay $7 for an all-day pass (1 pass counts for two kids under 12). The nice man at the pay station informed us of this little tip after I tried to pass by without paying (by accident of course)…oops!  This can be purchased in a kiosk right beside the pay station.

We were now ready to head towards our next destination….the Gateway Clipper!  I had mentioned earlier we scanned the internet for coupons.  During our research, we found a Groupon for the Gateway Clipper.  It cost $12 a person for an hour tour.  My mother gave it to us as a gift…thanks Mom!  If your budget is too tight for this or just want to skip it, I would suggest walking inside the mall and the outskirts of Station Square as an alternative.  There are a lot of great restaurants and shops along the way to continue the “Burghish” mode.

The Gateway Clipper is a great way to see the beautiful city of Pittsburgh on the Three Rivers with a cool breeze during a hot, sunny day.  It’s only an hour, the view is awesome, they take a picture before boarding (cost $30), entertain the kids with a Pirate (in our case anyway), bathrooms are clean and food/drinks are available for purchase. The tours follow certain times so make sure you check the boarding times here.

Once we docked again and checked out our family picture ($30 not an option for this cheapskate!), a 5-minute walk to the Monongahela Incline was next.  We were elated about seeing the city from such a fantastic view!  It was a bit crowded, but within 30 minutes we boarded the Incline.  There are 3 sections, and only 7 to 8 people can fit in each section.  My niece had a hard time with the height and we were concerned she wouldn’t make it.  Thankfully, with a little coaxing of an ice cream, we got her on the incline.

On top of Mt Washington

On top of Mt Washington

We made our way to the top known as Mt. Washington where the view is spectacular and breathtaking!  There are several pricey restaurants to try if you have the time and if it’s within your budget.  We took some pictures of the kids, grabbed ice cream at Difiores and headed back down the Incline.

Learning about the Monongahela Incline history

Learning about the Monongahela Incline history

By this time, we were starting to wind down our day as it was getting close to dinner time.  It was time to head back to Carnegie Science Center as our last stop.   Since I have a family membership, 2 adults and up to 4 children get in for free!  I paid for our parking inside, and then we walked over to Highmark Sportsworks.  I was looking forward to the new exibit…a zip line!  We love zip lines but unfortunately, the line was too long and the kids decided instead to participate in rock climbing, racing, and the yo-yo exhibit.  We will be back by the end of the summer to check out the new exhibits.

There are so many other options to choose from and I recommend spending an entire day there if you don’t have a membership, not only inside but the view behind the building is spectacular!  There are sidewalks for walking and biking along the river.  Plus, you can go visit the USS Requin docked right behind the center.   The USS Requin is a retired submarine used during WWII.  It’s fascinating and absolutely amazing to walk through as you can easily envision the daily lives of the past sailors on board!

It was a fun-filled day touring the city of Pittsburgh and I’m proud to have lived here all of my life.  This is just a snippet of opportunities available for those on a budget.  Our tour cost me $7.50/person or a total of $22.50 for three people which includes parking at CSC and the all day pass riding the Trolley and Incline.   We take snacks and bottled water in a backpack so we aren’t tempted to buy food or drinks while we are out.   Since the Gateway Clipper adventure was a gift I didn’t count this as part of our expenses.  Fantabulous (as my brother says)!

The Carnegie Museum Membership is totally worth the price for a year as we visit at least once a month.  They do have promotions from time to time for $20 off the family packages.   We visit CSC and Highmark Sportsworks mostly because of its location but we also enjoy the Carnegie History and Art Museums every couple of months.   The Carnegie Library is located next door so we will also venture over there and check out some books.

I hope this gives you another option while exploring the City of Pittsburgh at a more slower pace and reasonable cost.  Please respond in the comments section below if you have any other tricks or tips visiting the Burgh on a budget as well!

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