PNC Park: Baseball Gameday GuideIn the days of Three Rivers Stadium, the only place outside the park for a beer and a burger was the back of somebody's pickup. The former Pirates and Steelers home yard was an island in a mostly unused, post-industrial stretch of Pittsburgh's North Shore; the seminal Clark Bar and Grille welcomed a few pre-game patrons, but other than that, you usually ate at home.
When Three Rivers was demolished in 2001 in favor of PNC Park (and neighboring Heinz Field for the Steelers), the area began to transform. Where there was concrete, there are green walking trails; where there were parking lots, there are bars and restaurants. In a little over a decade, the North Shore has become one of Pittsburgh's most inviting neighborhoods.
The Pirates have rode the same positivity wave since moving to their new park, too. The team finally broke a decades long streak of losing and made the playoffs in 2013 and 2014, rekindling support for the Buccos and excitement to the North Shore. The area surrounding the park has grown to be such a great destination, that excitement will fill your visit, whether or not the good fortunes of the Pirates continue.
As the North Shore has grown, more fans are spending their pre-game in nearby bars, restaurants and destinations. You have plenty of options throughout the downtown area, though, thanks to the new "T" subway connection to the North Shore; you're free to spend your pregame downtown and hop on a free ride to the stadium. But if you do come straight to the north side of the river, you'll find more than enough to keep you busy until the first pitch.
WHERE TO GET A BEER
Sharp Edge Bistro on Penn | Locally-beloved Sharp Edge's downtown location (there are four others around the city and suburbs) offers 36 taps and more than 200 bottles, with a focus on Belgian and Belgian-style brews. You'll want several orders of the irresistible Buffalo Bites ($7-$8 for a half order, $11-$14 for a full order).
WHERE TO GO WITH A GROUP
Rivers Casino | Arrange for your group to meet here—except for special event games, like firework night or Pirates games that coincide with Steelers games, parking is free for casino patrons—and grab cocktails at one of several casino-floor bars while you play the slots or try your hand at craps or card games. There's a pleasant riverfront trail connecting Rivers to PNC Park; if you don't feel like walking, pedicabs usually line up at the front entrance.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD SPOT
Monterey Pub | It's a bit of a walk (or a quick cab ride) from the park, but this Irish bar is one of the coziest on the North Side. Local brews from East End Brewing Company and Penn Brewery are on tap alongside Guinness, Smithwick's and Harp. If you're particularly hungry, order the Bangers & Mash ($13-$15).
WHERE TO GET ROWDY
McFadden's Pub | Rowdy is a relative term; Pittsburgh baseball fans are a mostly calm group, reserving their all-out fandom for football season. But no one will look twice if you drink heartily at McFadden's, a large sports bar right across the street from PNC Park's right-field entrance.
WHERE TO HAVE A SIT-DOWN MEAL
Meat and Potatoes | Consistently voted the best restaurant in Pittsburgh by just about every media outlet, Meat and Potatoes is the place to enjoy the city's growing food scene. Located just across the Clemente Bridge in downtown, a short walk will be welcomed after a full belly meal of contemporary American cuisine. Wagyu flat iron steaks, lamb burgers, and short rib flatbread sandwiches range in price from $12-$32. Creative cocktails cost $10-$12. For all the flavor with a cheaper price tag, go for lunch, where sandwiches and entrees are all under $18.
WHERE TO DINE WITH A VIEW
The Grandview Saloon | There isn't a better view in Pittsburgh—or many other cities for that matter—than the panoramic look at downtown offered from atop Mount Washington, and The Grandview Saloon has an outdoor deck hanging over the side of the mountain. To get to PNC Park, walk along Grandview Ave. to the Monongahela Incline (not the incline right next to the saloon) and take it down to Station Square, where you can catch a train to the North Shore.
CAN YOU TAILGATE AT PNC PARK?
Yes, the parking lots closest to the stadium allow tailgating. If you don't want to pay for a pricey space, the pre-game block party on Federal Street offers food, drinks and family activities.
There are plenty of landmarks on Pittsburgh's North Side; pair a few with a game for a full day out.
- The Warhol: Landmark museum dedicated to the pop-art legend, a Pittsburgh native.
- The National Aviary: Fun for kids and fascinating for adults. Don't miss the African penguins.
- The Mattress Factory Art Museum: The off-the-wall installation art museum is affordable and unforgettable.
- Gateway Clipper Fleet: Pittsburgh's riverboats offer tours, dinners and more.
- Children's Museum of Pittsburgh: Among many exhibits, the Children's Museum includes a recreation of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood; the series was filmed in Pittsburgh.
- Stage AE: indoor/outdoor concert venue that offers a full calendar of contemporary and classic acts.
PNC Park has a strong local showing when it comes to food and drink. Here are our favorite things to do inside the ballpark.
WHERE TO SIT
PNC Park was laid out with great sightlines in mind, so it's hard to find a seat without a fine view of the action. The best vistas of the skyline beyond the outfield are to be found between home plate and first base (sections 110-116, 210-216 and 310-316). For a cheap view of field level, try to snag a front-row seat in left field in sections 133-138; depending on "dynamic pricing," they can drop as low as $15.
Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club | Hometown favorite Rivertowne has four locations around Pittsburgh (including another just outside PNC Park), and brings its formidable comfort food selection and great beer inside the park with this sit-down restaurant located underneath the scoreboard. Stop by after the final out for drafts under $4 and discounted snacks.
BEST LOCAL VENDOR
BRGR | Pittsburgh's burger specialists debuted in PNC Park (near section 115) for the 2014 season. Grab a gourmet burger for about $12-$14 (try the spicy Fire in the Hole) and pair with a thick milkshake (the Salty Caramel, $9-$11, is a favorite). Just want the sweets? There's a shake-only line.
BEST BEER IN PNC PARK
Pub 475 | Stop by Pops Plaza, near section 133, for a fine selection of local beers and other domestic microbrews from the likes of Bell's, Penn Brewery, North Country Brewing and Victory. Drafts are $9-$11; much of the same can be found at Beers of the Burgh, near section 107.
WHERE TO EAT HEALTHY
Just 4 U | Grab gluten-free nachos ($7-$9) or hot dogs ($6-$8), or opt for a veggie or caprese panini-style toaster sandwich ($9-$11). Next door, Nakama offers sushi rolls ($10-$12) or sides like edamame and calamari salad ($7-$9). Both stands are near section 129 on the main level.
BEST STADIUM BAR
Budweiser Bowtie Bar | Choose from wine, cocktails and a variety of domestic brews in this safe-from-the-elements bar in the right-field corner. Get there early enough and you can snag a barstool with a view of the game; it's also a fine place to take cover during a rain delay.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE WHILE YOU'RE HERE
Legacy Square, just inside the left field gate, pays tribute to Negro League stars that played in and around Pittsburgh. Statues of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and others line the area, each with an interactive video biography. Outside the stadium, find statues of Pirates greats Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner and Bill Mazeroski.
PNC Park Tours
PIRATES GAMES ON A BUDGET
It's not tough to enjoy an evening of Pirates baseball on the cheap if you know where to look. Tickets prices are well below the league average, beer and hot dogs won't break the bank and—if you avoid a few money pits—the areas near the stadium offer plenty of inexpensive options.
WHERE TO GET A CHEAP BEER BEFORE THE GAME
Redbeard's Sports Bar & Grill | Walk across the Clemente Bridge and keep going down Sixth Street to find this unpretentious bar, where you can usually get a cheap-enough pregame special; after Pirates games, Miller Lite Drafts are $3.50.
BEST CHEAP BITES AROUND PNC PARK
James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy | Hail a pedicab and take a ride to James Street Gastropub, where you can (really) fill up on reasonably priced Cajun fare. Sandwiches run $10-$16, shareable starters range from $7-$15, and no entree tops $23. You might catch a world-class jazz set, too.
BEST CHEAP PIRATES TICKETS
The upper halves of sections 309-312 offer great views for $15-$20 (depending on the game). You'll often find even lower prices on StubHub, however.
PNC PARK WITH KIDS
The North Shore has grown into a family destination, with ample walking and biking trails, and some of Pittsburgh's favorite children's attractions within walking distance of PNC Park. Parents will find amenities for kids of all ages within the stadium, too.
WHERE TO GO BEFORE THE GAME WITH KIDS
Carnegie Science Center | This museum sits just downriver from PNC Park, and offers the most fun your kids can have while actively learning. Tie the day together at the Highmark SportsWorks exhibits, and see some of Pittsburgh's high-tech sector in action at Roboworld; there's also a family-friendly cafeteria if you'd like to eat before you get to the park.
BEST FOOD FOR KIDS
Bucaroos | Find the kid-friendly concession stand inside the left field gate, offering appropriately-sized nachos ($3-$5), chicken fries ($3-$5), hot dogs ($2-$4) and more.
WHERE TO GET AUTOGRAPHS
If your seats are along the third base line, no one will stand in your way if you arrive during batting practice and scamper down to the Pirates' dugout looking to score an autograph or two. You'll likely be sent back to your seats after BP ends, though, so get to the park early.
NEED A BREAK DURING THE GAME?
The Kids Zone along the Allegheny River in right field contains a miniaturized diamond for young'uns to scamper around, as well as a playground set and benches for weary parents. Children 5-10 only, please.
WHERE TO BUY GEAR FOR THE KIDS
There are plenty of toys and children's clothing in the big Clubhouse Store underneath the scoreboard. The Pirates Gear kiosks throughout the 100 level have plenty of kid-friendly souvenirs, too.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A PIRATES GAME
The North Side will often stay busy after a Pirates game—win or lose—as fans relocate from the park to nearby bars and restaurants along the Allegheny. Those looking for a more rowdy experience can make their way to East Carson Street in Pittsburgh's South Side, Pittsburgh's perennial nightlife destination; be warned, though, the vibe on that side of the river is more collegiate than classy.
WHERE TO KEEP THE PARTY GOING
Jerome Bettis Grille 36 | The sports bar named for the Steelers legend, which is only a five-minute walk downriver from PNC Park, offers indoor/outdoor seating and plenty to eat and drink. Grab an outdoor table and keep the drinks flowing.
WHERE TO A GET A POSTGAME MEAL
Six Penn Kitchen | Across the river, approximately at the corner of Sixth and Penn, this upscale bistro specializes in refined takes on the classics, like the pork tenderloin with spiced carrots and a dry chorizo aioli, $28-$32 — and excellent cocktails. Don't dawdle, as they close up at midnight on Friday and Saturday (11 p.m. Monday-Thursday,) but the meal will be worth the walk.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO NEARBY?
Downtown Pittsburgh isn't the ghost town it used to be after the workers return to the suburbs at 5 p.m. Penn Avenue between 6th and 10th streets, also called the Cultural District, is abuzz with late-night options. The area is home to some of the highest concentrations of restaurants, bars, and venues in Pittsburgh. If you want to stay on the Northside, Western Avenue in the revamped Allegheny West neighborhood has some great affordable restaurants and bars.
Sean Collier is a Pittsburgh native and the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine. He's also a movie critic and a stand-up comic, and has been published in the PittsburghPost-Gazette, on USAToday.com and elsewhere; he's covered the Pirates for local publications since 2009 and followed them since birth. He lives in the city's lovely Regent Square neighborhood with his girlfriend and two charismatic dogs.