Consistently voted one of the “most livable cities,” Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, owes a lot of its reputation to its vibrant Cultural District. The 14-square block in the heart of downtown throbs with creative energy. 

Nearly two million visitors a year browse the galleries and boutiques. The district has nine theaters and over 50 restaurants. Market Square has free events from Sunday morning yoga to the regular Tuesday afternoon kids’ play. There’s also live jazz in Katz Plaza on Tuesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. On Friday nights, the Andy Warhol Museum has half-price admission. Check availability for half-price tickets for shows in the Cultural District (and elsewhere) at www.livingpittsburgh.com

related: Gettysburg: Beyond the battlefield 

Adjacent to downtown is the Strip District. Not at all salacious, its name comes from its location between the Allegheny River on one side and steep hills on the other. Originally the warehouse district, it’s evolved into a thriving, lively neighborhood with strong ethnic flavors. It’s foodie heaven, with ethnic food stores and stalls, meat markets, fishmongers, bakeries, coffee shops and eateries lining its historic streets. 

Walk off the calories at the Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, dedicated to all things Pittsburgh with six of exhibits. The Society for Contemporary Craft on Smallman Street presents free exhibits of cutting edge works by diverse and new talent. 

Another great neighborhood is East Liberty, along Penn Avenue. It’s an eclectic residential, arts, and commercial district. You’ll find a more experimental vibe here with studios and theaters next door to an urban forestry center and a Southeast Asian cooking school. The Pittsburgh Glass Center is part gallery, part studio. It offers short workshops if you want to try the medium. Admission is free, although a $5 donation is polite. The Penn Avenue First Friday arts night is a community street party that runs until the wee hours with free events and discounted food and drink. 

The Carnegie Science Center is worth the price (adults $19, children $12. Over 65 pay just $5 on Tuesdays, with 20 percent off at the café). As entertaining for adults as it is kids, there are four floors of unusual hands-on exhibits about water, space,and robotics. The separate Highmark SportsWorks explores physics, physiology and performance through virtual games and competitions. On Friday and Saturday nights, try SkyWatch (separate fee, $2). The observatory’s telescope gets close to Jupiter’s clouds and Saturn’s rings. 

For more information on budget accommodation, admission packages and more ideas for things to do, visit www.visitpittsburgh.com.

For more travel advice, go to www.insightguides.com.