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4.01.2018

25+ Pittsburgh Views, Vistas, and Overlooks: Great Photo Spots



Due to Pittsburgh's setting, which straddles multiple river valleys, the hills surrounding the city enable you to get some excellent city views, vistas, and overlooks. There are so many different angles to get excellent views and photos of the city. Here is a list of more than 25 different places (in no particular order) that you need to check out.

1) The Lower Hill District - Former Civic Arena site, Boy Scouts Headquarters, and more.
We will start off with one of the best, yet often overlooked areas, the Lower Hill District. The area of the former Civic Arena gives breathtaking views of the city skyline. When the old arena was planned, one of the concepts of the design was a retracting roof to enable spectacular views. When the roof was open, it provided a dramatic view of the Pittsburgh skyline, then dominated by the Gulf and Kopper's Buildings. When the arena first opened with its original tenant, the Pittsburgh Civic Light Orchestra, on July 4th, 1962, Carol Burnett put on one of the opening shows for the arena. She joked about the then-new facility, saying "It'll be a pretty nice place when they get the roof fixed." Future performers, including Leonard Bernstein, were harsher critics of having the roof open, and this novelty would eventually fall out of favor at the arena. While the arena is now long gone, the spectacular views of the skyline remain. 
Boy Scout Headquarters View


2) Frank Curto Park:
Frank Curto Park can be found on Bigelow Boulevard westbound, right after you pass through Polish Hill and before you hit Downtown. This location provides a dramatic view of Downtown, the Strip District, North Side, and Lawrenceville.
In addition to the scenic views, you are almost certain to run into some wildlife, such as turkeys, deer, groundhogs, different birds, squirrels, and more, often visiting us as we sightsee at the park. This spot also holds the distinction of being the first beautification project of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, an organization formed to help alleviate unemployment through public works projects and to make the area a better place to live. The conservancy has gone on to create, preserve, and protect some of Western PA's most important regional assets, including Ohiopyle, McConnell's Mill, and a number of other lands that became state parks. The conservancy also aided Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, one of his most famous architectural works. The organization's success with Frank Curto Park, their first major project, began a tremendous legacy that has continually improved western Pennsylvania. 

3) Mount Washington:
Pittsburgh's most famous scenic vistas can be found upon Mt. Washington. This vantage point is known worldwide and it gives one of the most complete views of the downtown area. Additionally, it is home to the Fort Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, two of the best places to soak in views of the skyline. No matter how many times you go up Mt. Washington, you will be sure to see something different every time. Variations in the time of day, weather conditions, the city's events, and more, contribute to the dynamic views that you see here.


Our first date consisted of riding up the Mon Incline, walking across Grandview Avenue, and going down the Fort Duquesne Incline, all on a blustery February evening. The walk across the top is roughly a mile long, and beautiful views of the skyline are seen in nearly every spot.

A sunrise on a blustery morning from the Fort Duquesne Incline
A view from the top on a warmer morning, right before sunrise

A view from Mt. Washington's Emerald View Park. This area is home to some nice hiking trails up and down Mt. Washington.
Palm Sunday outdoor services at St. Mary of the Mount Church

4) Point State Park
Point State Park is a place that has always served as a gateway and hub of activity for the city. It sits at the confluence of the city's three rivers, and offers broad views of the Golden Triangle. Throughout the grounds of the state park you can see the outlines of two forts that were erected at the Point during the French and Indian Wars. In 1754, the French built Fort Duquesne, and in 1758, after the British defeated the French, Fort Pitt was built by the British. Off to the right in this photo, you can see the Fort Pitt Museum and the Fort Pitt Blockhouse. Dating back to 1764, the Blockhouse is believed to be the oldest building in the city of Pittsburgh and west of the Alleghenies, though this is a debated topic. The history alone is worth a visit to the point, but the vistas of the city make this place that you must visit.
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5) West End Overlook
Sunrise before a storm from the West End Overlook
Fireworks from the West End Overlook
Located in the Elliott neighborhood of the city, the West End Overlook provides one of the most expansive views of the entire city skyline.

6) Sheraden: Brunot Road Overlook
This is a somewhat hidden and unofficial viewing area, but if you enjoy visiting the West End Overlook, this place is a must. It provides a view of North Side and Downtown from further down the Ohio River. This is right on the edge of Pittsburgh city limits. 

7) Cathedral of Learning and Oakland
Throughout Oakland, you are likely to be within feet seeing the Cathedral of Learning. The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning is the tallest building dedicated to university education in the western hemisphere. The Cathedral's first three floors have thirty different classrooms dedicated to some of the cultures that have contributed to the growth of the city and the university. The Nationality Rooms are open to tours and even hold classes at the University. The lobby of this Late Gothic Revival building, known as the Commons Room, is three floors tall and offers tremendous views. It often hosts nationality festivals, college functions, and more. The 36th floor is the highest floor open to the public of any building in the city of Pittsburgh. Right near the building are the world-renowned institutions such as the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, the Oakland branch of the Carnegie Library, the botanical gardens of Phipps Conservatory, Carnegie Mellon University, and more.

The best way to see everything that Oakland has to offer is to simply take a walk through the neighborhood. On the Friday night of Pitt's homecoming weekend in the fall, they shoot fireworks off of each of the tiers of the building.
If the Pitt football team wins, you will see the dazzling orange victory lights on top of the building.

8) Oakland's Schenley Park
The jewel of Pittsburgh's park system, Schenley Park, is a paradise of its own. Schenley Park contributes to Pittsburgh's ranking as one of the most forested cities in the country. According to the US Forest Service, 42 percent of the city is covered in forest. Large hillsides that were once logged during the days of heavy industry, have since regenerated and created an urban oasis. Schenley Park is one such place to check out this beauty. Terrific views of the city are found at both Schenley Oval and Flagstaff Hill.
Oakland skyline from Schenley Oval
The Downtown skyline from Schenley Oval

Serpentine Drive is home to the annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix each summer
Amtrak's Capitol Limited train heading out of Pittsburgh and passing Schenley Park's Panther Hollow Lake
Phipps Conservatory's botanical gardens are spectacular and a must-see attraction. It is located at the base of Flagstaff Hill.

9) The city's bicycling and walking trails
The Three Rivers Heritage Trail, Eliza Furnace Trail, and South Side Riverfront Trail, are Pittsburgh's  main riverside bicycling and walking trails. These trails cover most of the riverfront areas in the city and provide endless opportunities for people looking to get great views of the city. These trails provide pedestrian and bicyclist access to many bridges that you would typically miss out on getting views from.
The Hot Metal Bridge Pedestrian Walkway is part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and it provides a view of Downtown Pittsburgh from upstream on the Monongahela River

10) Herr's Island Overlook
Herr's Island is located on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail up the Allegheny River from North Side and Downtown. This is one of my favorite overall vantage points of the city. Seeing the reflections upon the water of the skyscrapers is nothing short of breathtaking.
The Herr's Island View on a much cooler morning.

11) The upper area of the South Side Flats, near St. Adalbert's Church
With the character of the traditional Pittsburgh neighborhood of South Side in the foreground, the view of the city from this spot is one of the most representative of Pittsburgh life. This location straddles the border of the South Side Flats and the South Side Slopes. The best place to get this view is from the railroad pedestrian crossing bridge on South 15th Street, over the Norfolk Southern railroad line. This line was once a part of the illustrious Pennsylvania Railroad.

12) Old Pennsylvania Railroad Station and current Amtrak Station and Pennsylvanian Apartments
Any angle looking towards this grand building is sure to be stunning. This once served as a booming station and office epicenter of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). While Amtrak is down to four trains a day, it still uses a few of the old platforms from the old PRR station, even though it no longer uses the main station building.
If you exit from the top platform of the station, you are greeted with this jaw-dropping view. This is a view that you do not want to miss.

Bonus: Going with the theme of rail, we will make a quick stop at the First Avenue T Station
The T is the Allegheny County Port Authority's regional light rail system that acts as a subway once it enters Downtown. Looking up and out of this station gives a beautiful view of the city's skyline. This section also dates back to the old Pennsylvania Railroad Panhandle Line, where the trains heading to Chicago and St. Louis, via Cincinnati, would cut through tunnels under Downtown Pittsburgh and cross out of Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle via the Panhandle Bridge. The right-of-way was sold to the Allegheny Port Authority in 1979 and the city's trolley system was taken off of the streets of downtown. 

13) The Smithfield Street Bridge
The Smithfield Street Bridge is the oldest river crossing in the city, with its opening dating back to 1883. It has been designated as both a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Great views of the city can be taken in from any place on, around, or underneath this ornate bridge.

14) Throughout the Strip District and Lower Lawrenceville...
The Strip District offers a fantastic vantage point of the Pittsburgh skyline. This is also one of the most city's eclectic neighborhoods, filled with a multitude of specialty markets, shops, and eateries.
Looking down Smallman Street, from in front of St. Stanislaus Church and at the end of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Produce Terminal. Sunrise and sunset are phenomenal in this location thanks to the shadows cast by the early and late light of the day.
Doughboy Square is located at the nexus of Butler Street and Penn Avenue. This monument is dedicated to the memory of those who served in World War I and it looks over the Strip District and Downtown. The doughboy has taken in this view since 20,000 people showed up to dedicate it back in 1921. It was the first WWI monument dedicated in Pittsburgh, and possibly in the entire nation. This monument is located in a little parklet that is impossible to miss.

15) Allegheny River Walk and Allegheny Landing Park
This section provides the most direct view of downtown that North Side has to offer, with it right on the banks of the Allegheny River. On a breezeless night, you can get a mirror-like reflection of the city on the waters of the mighty Allegheny. You get an unparalleled perspective of fireworks displays from this location. On warm summer nights, you will often see boaters and pontoons tied to the shoreline in this location. Baseball game days are especially exciting in this area. This is the kind of place that you can just find a place to sit somewhere and take in the scenery.
You may have noticed that I really appreciate the beauty of the Gulf Tower

16) North Shore - Mr. Rogers Monument
Heading down the Allegheny River to the start of the Ohio River, along the North Shore, will take you to a monument dedicated to one of my personal heroes, Mister Fred Rogers. This location delivers a majestic view of Mr Rogers' Neighborhood.
A view from the monument at sunset.

17) The Mon Wharf
We follow the geese and ducks to our next stop. Locals generally think of parking and flooding whenever the Mon Wharf is mentioned, but alongside the river is a scenic walkway. Visible from this walkway is Station Square, an entertainment complex made up of the area of the old Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Railroad station. 

18) All over downtown...
The Kopper's Building and Gulf Tower, with their ornate 1920s and 1930s Art Deco tops mixed into one. This specific vantage point on Grant Street gives one of the only views where these two tops are combined.

19) Mt. Washington's Grandview Park
The Allentown neighborhood's Grandview Park is a great place to see the Pittsburgh skyline, with sweeping vistas of Downtown and Oakland.




20) Station Square
Station Square has a great view of the skyline, complete with an elevated viewing area.

21) From the Gateway Clipper
The Gateway Clipper Fleet sets sail from Station Square, and the journeys on their boats provide an intimate look at the skyline from the Three Rivers.

If you are looking for a great date night, look no further than grabbing dinner and heading out on a Gateway Clipper Tour.
22) Troy Hill
There are a number of overlooks heading up into the Troy Hill neighborhood of the city, though, true to its name, Vista Street offers one of my favorites. There are a number of excellent views of the city as you ascend the hills of the city's North Side neighborhoods.
23) Fineview
The neighborhood of Fineview certainly lives up to its name. The neighborhood's scenic overlook offers one of the least obstructed views of the city skyline. The large building in the foreground is Allegheny General Hospital.

24) PNC Park
The city's most famous skyline view comes from PNC Park. TV commentators and national audiences marvel at the views seen at the ballpark. When you run into baseball fans from other cities, they always comment about how amazing the ballpark is, and that seeing a game in Pittsburgh has long been a bucket list item for them.
It is not hard to see why this ballpark is frequently voted as the nation's most beautiful ballpark. It is always a pleasure seeing the sun dip and the skyline transform at the ballpark on a hot summer night. Just beyond the outfield, you can see the Gateway Clipper floating by. They run ferries to and from their docks at Station Square as a transportation option to the ballpark.

25) Mary Monument "Shrine of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of the Parkway"
South Oakland's Mary Monument overlooks a busy section of the Parkway East, AKA Interstate 376. This site also overlooks the Pittsburgh Technology Center that sits on what was once the sprawling J&L Steel Plant. Several rumors exist as to why this was erected. One story says that the shrine was erected there after a deadly accident on the Parkway, which ended in this spot heading from downtown, prior to completion. Another story of its origin mentions a steelworker having a vision during a lunch break during a long shift at the old J&L Steel Plant. The family that erected the little parklet area does not mind you going into their backyard and checking it out. They have even set up some benches and a small altar at the site and excellent views of the city can be seen from this location.
Consider our list to be a nice launching point for viewing the Pittsburgh skyline. Due to the geology of the region, there are countless places you can get a great view. Consider these to be a great starting point into your own explorations. 








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