Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pittsburgh no longer "Best Kept Secret"?

The accolades for Pittsburgh continue to pour in. On the heels of being identified as the number one "Most Livable City" on Rand McNally's Places Rated Almanac, our fair city has garnered additional attention. Frommer's released their top 13 worldwide 2008 travel destinations, and lo and behold the 'Burgh was on the list. In fact it one of just a few American cities mentioned. Unlike McNally's award this one isn't determined by any objective analysis, but rather relies on the subjective judgments of a team of travel experts. Intriguingly, our hometown is joined on the list by such exotic locales as Denver, Cardiff (Wales), Seoul (South Korea) and Kosrae (Micronesia).

The Frommer's people considered a variety of factors including area attractions, ease of access, opportunities for cultural and physical engagement, and (tellingly) relative obscurity. That last trait was no doubt a major reason for Pittsburgh's inclusion. Despite the wave of nice things reported by the national media, there are still so many folks who remain ignorant of the city's charms. Predictably most of the dismissive comments emanate from people who have never even visited Pittsburgh. Growing up in eastern PA, I was privy to unlimited advice about how I should avoid attending college in the former steel capital. My friends were dumbfounded by my choice. Somehow its reputation was still that of an exceedingly polluted and depressed shadow of its former industrial past. While it's certainly true that the 'Burgh has remade itself since the 70's, there's been plenty of misinformation about that transformation.

Perhaps that's because there are still so many natives living in the distant past. It's a general rule that the area's greatest boosters are to be found among its transplants. The harshest criticism seems to perpetually come from people born and raised in Western PA. It could well be that these negative opinions were formed through listening to parents and grandparents talk incessantly about past glories. Clearly sometimes nostalgia obscures the vista of the present. This accounts for my pet theory about the raving fanaticism displayed by the "Steeler Nation". In the 70's, while the last vestiges of the steel industry were leaving town, the Steelers were winning multiple Super Bowl Championships. There wasn't a whole lot of joy to latch on to. Local pride resided almost exclusively in the 'Black-and-Gold'. Unfortunately many see nothing but this limited legacy.

If you come to Pittsburgh with an open mind, you will quickly observe its substantial assets. There are world-class museums like The Warhol Museum, The Carnegie, The Heinz History Center, The Science Center, The Mattress Factory. There are several top-notch universities, surrounded by vibrant intellectual communities . Pittsburgh has countless neighborhoods with distinctive character that contain all sorts of hidden gems. The hilly topography and the three rivers accentuate the charms of the diverse architecture to be found throughout the city. There are vibrant corridors with a wide selection of restaurants, art galleries, cafes, nightlife and quality shopping. Urban adventure and plenty of outdoor activities await the intrepid traveler. Fallingwater and Ohiopyle are only a short drive away.

I could continue listing Pittsburgh's many amenities, but if you haven't seen the place with your own eyes- you're likely going to hold on to your skepticism. Perhaps more external validation is in order. American Style rated Pitsburgh as the #1 mid-sized arts destination. The 'Burgh is among the Top Ten Cleanest Cities in the World, according to Forbes Magazine. Pittsburgh recently placed #8 in Bizjournals' list of the most fun cities in America. Wired even picked it as a top city for computer geeks (or so I'm told). With all of these notices, is it possible that our city can lose its distinction in the dubiously desirable ranks of the 'Best Kept Secrets'? If so, I have decidely mixed feelings about that.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marty Griffin is an asshole.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

None of it is true. Tourists and homesteaders should be warned. Stay away! No mixed feelings here.
JM

7:16 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

anon,

I certainly agree with you.

JM,

Anybody strange enough to read my blog should be welcomed with open arms.

5:44 PM  

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