Cultural Explorations

Southwestern Pennsylvania is an eclectic place with an unmatched character. These explorations dig into the cultural fabric of the region, weaving together history, heritage, art and culinary traditions for a tour filled with authentic experiences.

The Artistry of Industry

Tour Length: 4 Days / 3 Nights, Customizable  | Seasons Available: Spring, Summer, Fall
Activity Level: Light Impact

This tour is forged with immersive art experiences that transform the city’s defining industrial elements—glass, coal and metal—into art forms. Visitors will also tour the region’s acclaimed museums and exclusive collections. The iron and steel made in the Pittsburgh region not only built the defining structures of 20th century America, it shaped the artistic landscape of the Steel City. Industrialists like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew W. Mellon, and Henry Phipps invested their fortunes into institutional art collections that are still renowned today. The promise for opportunity and a new life working in the region’s mines and mills drew migrants from all over the world, and their folk art traditions and ethnic cultures remain a vibrant presence in the city today. As industry peaked and then faded away in the 20th century, artists’ responses ranged from native son Andy Warhol’s mass market commentary to guerrilla artists staking a claim to their identity after an economic collapse.

The entrance to The Warhol. Image by Abby Warhola.

Words of Truth: Black Pittsburgh’s History & Culture

Tour Length: 3 days/2 nights suggested, Customizable  | Seasons Available: Anytime
Activity Level: Light Impact

Black history and culture are foundational to Pittsburgh’s character, and this tour reflects on the people who have given a voice to the struggles, triumphs, and contributions that have shaped the Black experience in the region. Abolitionist Martin Delaney founded the first African American newspaper west of the Allegheny Mountains at a time when Pittsburgh was a key hub of the Underground Railroad. In the early 1900s as jobs in the city’s steel industry drew Black families during the Great Migration, The Pittsburgh Courier newspaper was founded and would soon become the nation’s largest circulating and most influential Black newspaper. Playwright August Wilson was born and raised in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, a vibrant Little Harlem where Black businesses, culture, athletics and jazz flourished. Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of ten plays depicting Black life in each century of the 20th century, was mostly set in The Hill. And today, at a time when Pittsburgh often wins accolades declaring it a “Most Livable City,” contemporary writers like Damon Young (Very Smart Brothas / What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker), and historian Dr. Keisha N. Blain (Set the World on Fire / Four Hundred Souls) speak to the vast differences in the way that Black and white residents experience life in the city. Highlights of this tour include The LeMoyne House, The Hill District, The Roberto Clemente Museum, and more. Time your travel to coincide with Fresh Fest, the country’s first Black beer festival; the Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth Celebration & Black Music Festival; or the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival.

Press Operators Adjust Feed Paper On Rollers in the Home Offices of the Pittsburgh Courier.  Photo by Otis Finley, Jr. of the National Urban League, courtesy of Historic Pittsburgh.

Rebellious Spirits

Tour Length: 3 days/2 nights suggested, Customizable  | Seasons Available: Anytime
Activity Level: Light Impact

Southwestern Pennsylvania was the staging ground for a young George Washington’s military career, and later on was the setting of the first challenge to his new federal government as the nation’s first president. This tour traces Washington’s Trail as a 21-year-old British soldier whose folly led to the firing of the first shots of the French and Indian War, a global conflict centered on the strategic control of the plot of land that would become downtown Pittsburgh. Several battlefields and sites in the area bring to life this war that laid the groundwork for the Revolutionary War. Washington would return to the region again in the midst of his presidency, once again ready for battle to quell an uprising of farmers and residents who were incensed by Alexander Hamilton’s excise tax on whiskey stills. While some tax collectors were tarred and feathered, Washington’s presence restored order—and ensured that whiskey would remain a key part of western Pennsylvania’s cultural fabric. This tour connects historic sites with contemporary, award-winning whiskey distilleries to create a smooth-sipping journey through the history the French & Indian War and the Whiskey Rebellion.

Canons and fenceline at Fort Ligonier

Fort Ligonier by April Reppucci, courtesy of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau

Babushkas & Hard Hats: The Steel Town Tour

Tour Length: 1/2 Day to 3 days/2 night, Customizable  | Seasons Available: Spring, Summer, Fall
Activity Level: Light Impact

This tour gets to the heart of the steel town story, getting to know the people, places and historic events that once made Pittsburgh the epicenter of steel production. Immigrants and migrants were drawn to the region as industry rose, bringing a rich collection of cultures and traditions with them as they forged new lives. Visits to the Carrie Blast Furnaces, The Bost Building, Pump House, The Frick Pittsburgh, The Murals of Maxo Vanka, and the Nationality Rooms root this tour in the Pittsburgh experience, and a special immigrant-inspired lunch elicits the smells and flavors of Grandma’s kitchen. This tour can expand into the region at large to explore the experience of coal miners’ families in patch towns, and also visit industrialist Henry Clay Frick’s birth place and Gilded Age mansion to learn about “the coke king’s” roots and riches. The themes of American innovation and multiculturalism present touch points that are relatable to travelers from across the country and around the world.

A grandmother & granddaughter in babushkas, then a man in a hard hat

Babushkas & Hard Hats. Images courtesy of the Rivers of Steel Archives.

Wine & Wright

Tour Length:  3 days/2 night, Customizable  | Seasons Available: Spring, Summer, Fall
Activity Level: Light Impact

Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic style of architecture that designed structures in harmony with nature and their surroundings, this tour blends visits to four Wright-designed homes with scenic stops at fantastic local wineries. Centered in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, an hour southeast of Pittsburgh, this tour follows historic roadways through a region brimming with natural beauty and small town charm. Travelers will visit Fallingwater (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Kentuck Knob, and Polymath Park, while savoring the best of the region’s wineries.

a cantilevered home over a stream

Fallingwater. Image courtesy of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

Pittsburgh Places of Worship

Tour Length: 1/2 Day to 3 days/2 night, Customizable  | Seasons Available: Anytime
Activity Level: Light Impact

As immigrants and migrants settled in the Pittsburgh region, the religious and cultural practices that they brought with them kept them connected in spirit with the people and places that they left behind. Today, the Greater Pittsburgh is rich with a diverse array of religious expression and ethnic cultures, as evidenced by the vast number of beautiful churches, synagogues, mosques, and sacred spaces that remain today. This tour is highly customizable to explore the places of worship of many different religious traditions, denominations, ethnic cultures, or community heritage. It can also planned to discover the traditions surrounding certain holidays.

A group gathers around an ancient Torah at Rodef Shalom Temple

 A group examines the Torah at Rodef Shalom Temple.

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a visit for your group to southwestern Pennsylvania.