Pittsburgh Travel Guide
Kimpton’s soon-to-be newest property takes us to Pittsburgh, a city we don’t hear much about in terms of its hotel scene. Like its state rival Philadelphia, the Steel City has a history of being a blue-collar town, one not exactly known for luxury and boutique properties. But Philly has certainly changed its ways, so why can’t Pittsburgh?
In October, the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh will open as both Kimpton’s first venture into the city and will look to compete with other traditional luxury hotels in the vicinity, such as the Renaissance, Omni, and Fairmont.
To be located at 6th Avenue and William Penn Place, the Monaco plans to pair the original Beaux Arts architecture of the building with classic Steel City local flavor – think yellow, black, and white colors – throughout nine stories and 248 guestrooms. Rates will start at $219 a night.
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Things are really looking up for Pittsburgh. The Pirates are in the MLB playoffs for the first time in 21 years and now an Ace Hotel is in the works! (Ok, there is definitely way more happening in Pittsburgh but this is what hotel nerds like us get excited about.)
That's right. Ace Hotels is keeping on with their expansion plans well into 2014 and Pittsburgh is next on the list. In typical Ace fashion, they will open the hotel out of an old YMCA building in the East Liberty nabe. Here's how Next American City journalist Nancy Scola described the location:
[T]the Ace is planned for East Liberty, part of Pittsburgh’s East End, once home to the Carnegies, the Mellons, the Fricks. East Liberty was once, well, hopping, but it was decimated as the result of an urban revitalization push in the 1950s and 1960s that attempted to turn the neighborhood into a little bit of suburbia right there in Pittsburgh. East Liberty is, inarguably, on the upswing once again. And the possibility is that an Ace in the neighborhood’s charming old YMCA building adds considerable weight to that momentum.
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Thankfully, the latest addition to the pack is installed a little closer to home, at the Fairmont Pittsburgh.
This lovely girl is Edie. Just as the bar at Fairmont Pittsburgh is named after the city's favorite son, Andy Warhol, the newest staff member is named after Warhol's muse, Edie Sedgwick. Instead of appearing in incomprehensible art films, though, this Edie is on hand to welcome guests to the hotel, and walk them to their rooms if they so choose.
If you smell something sweet coming from the kitchen of the Fairmont Pittsburgh's Habitat, it may not be edible. The hotel restaurant has started cooking up its own soap for guests.
The housemade signature soaps are all natural, with such ingredients as tallow (rendered beef fat), water, coconut oil, blended vegetable and olive oil, lye and natural aromatic oils. The result is soap bars in scents like oatmeal honey, Earl Grey bergamot, lemongrass pear ginger, rosemary mint and lavender chamomile.
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We are suckers for a room with a killer view. We find that we are even more likely to forgive some minor hotel inconveniences if we can stare out the window at something pretty--yeah we are that shallow. Let's help out our fellow hotel mavens by uploading rooms with killer views to the HotelChatter/Flickr photo pool, or by sending the photo along to us. We will feature our favorites in this space from time to time. Remember to tell us the name of the hotel and the room number of the hot view.
Don't you love cities where the sports stadiums are right downtown? It makes getting to the game easier and creates a much stronger sense of camaraderie among the fans. If the city is Pittsburgh, it also means you can get a great view of the ball park from your room at the Fairmont Pittsburgh.
During our stay last weekend, our room was on the other side of the building, facing Mount Washington. Which is also a pretty view. But we snapped this shot from the floor-to-ceiling window in the elevator bank area on the 17th floor.
When it opened in March, the Fairmont Pittsburgh immediately became the highest-end hotel in town and was quickly adopted as the go-to property by the city's elite as well as high-flying visitors from sports teams and the arts. (Opera singer Renée Fleming was a recent guest.)
We had the chance to stay at the hotel this weekend and are happy to say that the floor-to-ceiling window views we were excited about on paper lived up to their promise.
Take a spin through our video of a Deluxe View Room (we had views of Mount Washington) and click through our gallery for a glimpse at the hotel's Habitat restaurant and dramatic lobby.
While the New York Times is only now getting around to reviewing the Hotel Palomar in Philadelphia six months after it opened, another hotel chain unveils its first venture elsewhere in the great state of Pennsylvania—a round of applause, please, for the Fairmont Pittsburgh, which opens its doors today.
Pittbsurgh may seem like a surprising choice for the high-end Fairmont brand, but the hotel’s general manager tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that there has been a “pent-up demand for a different option and a luxury option” when it comes to the city’s accommodations. Sharing a building with PNC bank, condo owners, and a law firm, the Fairmont hopes to serve the Fortune 500 and biomedical crowd now buzzing about Pittsburgh.
Barack Obama visits Pittsburgh today so he can drop the puck at the Penguins' hockey game, oh, and probably remind us all that "Main St. is suffering" and "we don't need four more years of broken George W. Bush policies." Agreed, dude, but switch up the syntax once in awhile so the talking points aren't so obvious.
We digress. Our priority here is to decipher where Obama might rest his potentially presidential head. What Pittsburgh boasts in rusty bridges and abandoned factories, it lacks in top-tier hotels. So we've been able to narrow it down fairly easily.
When you read the website of the Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh, they say "Enjoy views of the cityscape from one of our 616 guest rooms and suites".
"One of our rooms" might be the key phrase here, because a recent guest there shot this photo to depict the view from his room. If you squint really hard you can probably see a bit of a cityscape, but really we can just see a big flat roof and a few air-conditioners.
All a bit grey and plain, but perhaps some of the other six hundred rooms do have something better to gaze at.
The Bus and the Steelers played an excellent game yesterday winning the Superbowl XL (not like we watched--we were too busy eating seven-layer dip and chips) and in honor of the gridiron champions, we are descending on Pittsburgh to check out their hotel scene.
We got the skinny on the hotels from one FOHC (Friend of Hotel Chatter, if you will) who's living in town.
The Renaissance Pittsburgh is my all time favorite. The rooms are affordable and gorgeous, it overlooks PNC park (baseball stadium) and they have a really small swanky bar. There is also a really nice restaurant in it called OPUS. Another good thing is it is right in the theater district so you can walk to a broadway show at the Benedum/Heinz Hall.
The Renaissance is a very old historic hotel but will have prime parade viewing when the Steelers have the Superbowl Victory parade tomorrow.
If the Renaissance isn't your thing:
Another nice hotel is the Westin which has a great fish restaurant in it called the Original Fish Market (something like that) and it is very retro. It is right next door to the brand new convention center.
The Westin has a skywalk to the Convention Center, a fitness center sponsored by Reebok and as of Feb. 20, will be completely smoke-free.
For the night life, our friend also recommended hitting up the strip district where all the clubs are. We don't think they meant strip clubs, but you never know.
Last week, less then 24 hours before the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was battling a nasty flu bug at the Sheraton Four Points Airport in room 304.
Apparently, Brady spiked a fever of 103, and needed an IV just hours before the game.
The Four Points Sheraton should immediately enshrine the room, and only sell it to guests that have a big presentation, or a big game the following day.