Sports Power Weekend Destination: Pittsburgh, January 21-23

By Jared Cooper


January 21-23 Friday
Saturday
  • Hurricanes at Penguins
Sunday
  • Jets at Steelers
  • South Florida at West Virginia


The Steel City Looking For Another Title

Yes, PNC Park is considered one of the best venues in all of baseball, but with the Pirates on an 18 consecutive losing season streak, there is no better time to make a trip to Pittsburgh than this weekend. The Steelers are hosting the Conference Championship Game for the 11th time, the most among all NFL teams since 1970, and are looking for their eighth Super Bowl appearance, which would tie the Dallas Cowboys for the most all-time. In their way are the tough-talking New York Jets, so Sunday promises to be hard-fought and worthy of the hype.

As an appetizer to the main event that is the AFC Championship Game, the Penguins host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. The 2009 Stanley Cup Champions have their sights on hoisting the Cup again in 2011. No wonder the Sporting News named Pittsburgh the best sports city in America in 2009. If things play out in their favor, the Steel City may reclaim that moniker in 2011.

Friday

  • Primanti Brother’s
  • Rivers Casino

Photo courtesy of PrimantiBrothers.com

Friday night marks the calm before the storm. Get settled in and get your bearings in what Forbes Magazine called the most livable city in America in 2010. Though this isn’t your traditional Friday night dinner type of spot, head to Primanti Brother’s, a Pittsburgh institution that has been serving sandwiches topped with French fries since the 1930s. The original location is in the Strip District, a historic market district along the Alleghany River. Also in The Strip is Klavon’s, an ice cream parlor opened in the 1920s that recently received a visit from Vice President Joe Biden. Unfortunately, in the winter it closes at 5 PM during the week and is closed on Sunday. Perhaps you can squeeze it in on Saturday.

With your stomach full from a perfect Primanti’s sandwich, travel from the Strip District to Rivers Casino in the North Shore for some slots and table games. Located adjacent to Heinz Field and close to PNC Park, the casino is open 24 hours, but this is a big weekend, so don’t wear yourself out on the first night.

Saturday

  • Pamela’s Diner
  • University of Pittsburgh campus
  • Andy Warhol Museum
  • Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
  • Nadine’s Bar & Restaurant
  • Duquesne Incline
  • Consol Energy Center
  • (University of Pittsburgh Bars)

Hopefully Rivers Casino didn’t cost you your breakfast money (or your game tickets), and if it didn’t, start off your day at Pamela’s, serving some of the best breakfast in Pittsburgh since 1980. Try their crepe style pancakes, particularly the banana walnut. There are several locations of Pamela’s Diner; if you opt to go with the Oakland location, you will be near the University of Pittsburgh campus, which, although in mid-January promises to be very cold, will be nice to stroll through. You can make a trip to remnants of Forbes Field in the midst of the campus. Forbes Field was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates (1909-70), the Pittsburgh Steelers (1933-63) and the University of Pittsburgh football team (1909-24), among other local teams, and was the site of Bill Mazeroski’s World Series winning home run over the New York Yankees in 1960. The left-center and centerfield walls still stand at their original location adjacent to Pitt’s Mervis and Posvar Halls. Also, the stadium’s home plate resides encased and on display in the lobby floor of Posvar Hall.

Step a little bit further into Pittsburgh’s past by checking out the Andy Warhol Museum, just a baseball’s throw away from PNC Park on the north side of the Alleghany. Warhol is just one of the many famous Pittsburghers (Andrew Carnegie, Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly, H.J. Heinz, and Dr. Jonas Salk are a few others), and the museum in his honor currently features the popular Marilyn Monroe exhibit that has been extended until January 23.

Other potential museums to visit in addition to, or in lieu of, the Warhol Museum are the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. These include the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Science Center. You simply can not write a history of Pittsburgh without prominent mention of Andrew Carnegie, and his legacy in the city is intact with the collection of museums baring the family name.

All of that education and culture has probably made your feet throb, your head hurt and your stomach grumble, so head to Nadine’s Bar & Restaurant in the heart of Southside, south of the Monongahela River. They were the subject of a segment on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and if the video evidence tells even half the story, you won’t regret crossing the two of the three rivers (Ohio River being the other) of Pittsburgh to get there.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

A fantastic view of three rivers’ confluence, and all of Pittsburgh’s cityscape can be seen via a century-old cable car ride on the Duquesne Incline that scales Mt. Washington. The Incline is one of the city’s top attractions, and offers the best view of the Golden Triangle, the urban downtown center of Pittsburgh that resides at the aforementioned confluence.

Spending some time enjoying the sites and exploring the city will then lead you into the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Carolina Hurricanes at the newly-minted Consol Energy Center for the dropping of the puck at 7 PM local time. The Consol Energy Center is an upgrade on all fronts from its predecessor Mellon Arena (Civic Arena), and became the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified stadium in the NHL upon opening prior to the 2010-11 season. The arena will host 150 events annually, including the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2012 and the NCAA Hockey Frozen Four in 2013. The stadiums seating capacity is 18,087, in honor of Penguins All-Star Sydney Crosby, who wears number 87.

Following the game you can check out the local scene by going to bars bordering the nearby Duquesne University and University of Pittsburgh campuses. Tomorrow, you’ll be visiting yet another college campus, prior to heading to Heinz Field for the main event.

Sunday

  • DeLuca’s
  • The Strip District
  • Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at Senator John Heinz History Center
  • WVU Coliseum
  • Heinz Field

Photo courtesy of AP Images

There is no disputing that the AFC Championship Game between the Steelers and Jets is what makes this weekend stand out from all other Pittsburgh Sports Power Weekends. In order to get you in the mood (as if you need anything; it’s the AFC Championship Game for crying out loud), there are some pregame activities to get you in the sports mindset.

Begin the day with breakfast at DeLuca’s in the Strip District. DeLuca’s and Pamela’s often go head-to-head for the best breakfast in Pittsburgh crown, and having had both you can now decide for yourself. Check out the surrounding Strip District, which offers an incredible amount of history in addition to the food joints, antique shops, and boutiques.

The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at Senator John Heinz History Center is also located in The Strip and is a worthwhile visit, particularly on gameday. With legendary quarterbacks such as Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas and Dan Marino all residing from Western PA, the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” exhibit is a must-see. There are also some great Mario Lemieux pieces, among historic items from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers and Penguins, making the museum a cool place to check out.

After seeing the museum, you can choose to make the one hour and 20 minute drive to Morgantown, the college town of West Virginia University to take in the South Florida at West Virginia basketball game at 2 PM. WVU Coliseum celebrates the finest alum in the history of their men’s basketball program, Jerry West, with a bronze statue of “The Logo,” as well as his number 44 jersey hanging from the rafters. While no one on this Mountaineers squad will have the impact that West did, checking out a game in the arena will be a fun experience and allow you to see a bit of Morgantown and the WVU campus.

Now for the main event. You will have plenty of time to get back to Pittsburgh after the basketball game and get into the Heinz Field with no problems well before kickoff. Heinz Field has been the home of the Steelers since 2001, and has seen two Super Bowl seasons from the black and gold, with a good chance of a third if the Steelers can win on Sunday. Both ESPN and Sports Illustrated ranked Heinz Field as the second-best stadium in the NFL in 2007, trailing only Lambeau Field. One of the top attractions of Heinz Field (aside from Steelers football of course) is the Coca-Cola Great Hall, which houses memorabilia of the Steelers and Pitt Panthers, and is essentially a shrine to Pittsburgh football.

The AFC Championship Game promises to be a close, hard-hitting and tough game. With the winner going to the Super Bowl, you can be sure that both teams will leave everything on the field, and that makes for some great theatre.

With a win on Sunday the Steelers inch closer to their record seventh Super Bowl title. Between the Steelers and Penguins, maybe Pittsburgh is the new Titletown, USA. Now only if the Pirates can get on track.

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