Steffanie Rivers poses with replica of Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris

*I won a free night’s stay at a hotel in Pittsburgh recently, and I decided to use it last week before the weather turns cold.

I never had visited Pittsburgh and would have been ok with never having done so, except that I can’t pass up anything free – even if its 1,069 miles away.

Eventhough every city has its own features, I envisioned Pittsburgh would be similar to Philadelphia where I have visited a half dozen times before, if for no other reason than because the two are in the same state. It turns out I assumed wrong.

The Pittsburgh landscape left me with the impression that miners had blasted a mountain in search of coal hundreds of years ago, found nothing but decided to settle there anyway. The landscape was disjointed with pockets of the city divided by hills and highways. Sure the downtown area had its typical sky scrapers and there was plenty of activitiy in the revitalized area of Station Square. But public transportation seemed non-existent, at least in the part of town where my hotel was.  We had to take a taxi everywhere which annoyed me because taxis are more expensive and less adventurous than the city bus.

After an internet search of things to do in Pittsburgh (when it’s not football season) we decided to take in a Pirates baseball game at the recently built PNC Stadium. Although I’m far from being a Steelers fan (Go Cowboys!), attending one of their home games would have been fun were it not for the winter weather and the probable hassles we would have had to bear. The closest I got to a Steelers player was taking a picture at the airport with the life size replica of Franco Harris.

After taking in most of what Station Square had to offer we boarded the ferryboat that shuttles people from one end of the river to the other where PNC Stadium and Heinz Field are located. The price of tickets was affordable and our seats behind home plate were close enough to see who was at bat, but far enough away that we didn’t have to worry about getting hit by a foul ball. There were couples on dates, families and youth groups in the stands, even a man who heckled former Pirates players who played for the opposing team. And if you wanted to pay ball park prices there were vendors walking the aisle offering food and drinks. My favorite part of the game was the big screen candid camera shots, the mascot race around the outfield and fan trivia in between innings.

Most sports enthusiasts who travel the country visiting different baseball parks rate PNC in the top ten because of its amenities, view of the river and downtown location. Even though baseball is not my favorite sport it was a good way to experience the city and the people who call Pittsburgh home. Although my visit ended better than it started, I won’t go back unless it’s on a Sunday during football season to use the free tickets I’ve won to a Steelers game.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at www.youtube.com/steffanierivers.