Postcards from Pittsburgh No. 1: The Challenge

Story by Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Milli Thornton.

BRIAN AND I could barely believe it when we saw that National Geographic Traveler had named Pittsburgh one of the top 20 places in the world to visit in 2012.

We live in Youngstown, Ohio—just an hour over the border from the ‘Burgh—and we spent a weekend there a couple years ago. But we did not elect it to our top 20. Sure, we enjoyed the Spanish restaurant (Mallorca), the concert at Hard Rock Cafe and the river view from our hotel window. Since then, we have also come to find it easier to use Pittsburgh Airport rather than CLE. Shorter driving time, and the airport feels more pleasant and accessible all the way round.

But top 20 in the world?

Despite our shock and surprise, we were glad to hear it. Brian has been offered a 15-month contract position in Pittsburgh so we’re considering moving down there. Not that Brian couldn’t commute—but we’re eager to be in a place that offers the advantages of cosmopolitan living while having the option to live in the country. There are rural areas within easy driving distance of the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, where Brian will be working.

National Geographic Traveler - Pittsburgh special cover

Pittsburgh proudly announces its place on the NatGeo Top 20 for 2012

Since we have such a personal stake in it now, Brian and I feel more than the average level of interest in that part of Traveler’s list for 2012. Imprinted as we are with the Rust Belt image of Pittsburgh as another abandoned steel city, we’re still not sure we believe it. Thus, the challenge.

Happily, what we’ve read about Pittsburgh on the Internet nudges it closer to the believable. We’ve learned that Pittsburgh has also been named

#1 Most Liveable City in America (Places Rated Almanac, 2007)

for its resilience in an economic slowdown (Time Magazine, 2008)

#6 of the top 10 cities for job growth (Forbes, 2009)

most liveable city in the U.S. (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2011)

on the Adventure Cities list by National Geographic’s Adventure Magazine

We also rapidly unearthed a wealth of things to do in Pittsburgh that will keep us busy for months to come. Which is inspiring, both from the challenge perspective (more fun travel blogging for me) and also for our personal research. We’ll have a blast combining touristy-type outings with rural neighborhood outings.

We can’t move down there right away, so that gives us plenty of time to explore and find out where we most want to be . . .

. . . which raises the stakes on the challenge. Because the longer we have to look around, with our demanding list of criteria, the easier it might become to disprove Pittsburgh’s place on the list of top 20.

What if National Geographic Traveler got it wrong?

That would be pretty earthshaking. And do I want to be the blogger who proves it?

{nervous smile}

But I’ll take that risk. Because, one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be stimulating. Even if we uncover some serious downsides to Pittsburgh that make us waver in our tracks.

Golden bridges, downtown Pittsburgh

One of the golden bridges spanning the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh.
I took this from the car window as we were speeding toward the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
This is probably the Roberto Clemente Bridge, with the Andy Warhol Bridge
and the Rachel Carson Bridge behind it.

The challenge officially began on March 11, when Brian and I took a Sunday jaunt down to Pgh to start our mission. My next post will regale you with the spectacular things we saw and the yummy stuff we ate. Plus a bit more.


Postcards from Pittsburgh No. 2: Easy to Hook

Milli at Devi, Montreal

Milli at Devi, Montreal


Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of Unleash Your Writing! and the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse.



  1. Hey, congrats to Brian on the new contract, that’s awesome.
    This is sounding like fun, I look forward to the next instalment 🙂

    • Thanks for reading, Jo. And thanks for the congrats! We’re pretty excited.

      P.S. Part 2 is up if you want to know how Pittsburgh has scored thus far.

  2. Wonderful news, Milli, I’m looking forward to part two and to see how everything develops. Hope this will be a change you’ll both love!

    • Thanks, Estrella. This *is* shaping up to be a change we’re gonna love all the way round. But life is mysterious. We’ll see what happens. . . .

  3. Oooh, I can’t wait! Honey Bunny is FROM Pittsburgh!

  4. Milli,
    Moving to Pa?….Yea!
    Congratulations to you both on the new contract!
    I have quite a few friends from Pittsburgh, but have never been myself. Now I can get to know all about it from your posts!
    Cant wait to read more, Thanks.

    • Betsy, as soon as I knew we might move to Pittsburgh, I thought of you. I know I won’t really be any closer to Montrose, but still. We would both be in PA, at least. Plus, if you already have friends in Pittsburgh, maybe you’ll find an excuse to come visit. 😀

  5. Milli, that’s great news about Brian getting the job offer!

    I just love your writing style.Looking forward to visiting Pittsburg vicariously through these descriptive posts.Depending on what you discover, maybe I can convince Michael to take a trip a little west and then south of the border to check it out.If there’s a decent classic car show there, that might entice him 😀

    • Carole, if there’s a decent classic car show here, you can bet Brian will want to go see it with Michael. (Or any kind of car show, for that matter.) I’ll make it my mission to find so many good things about Pittsburgh, you’ll have no choice but to come visit. 🙂

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