5 ways to touch the sky in Pittsburgh - Metro US

5 ways to touch the sky in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh from the Duquesne Incline
Pittsburgh from the Duquesne Incline

With apologies to Boston, Pittsburgh was the first City of Champions. Pennsylvania’s rising city has been reaching for sporting glory since the Civil War, and was the site of the first-ever football game in 1892. More recently, the Penguins took home hockey’s top prize in 2016 and are well on their way to another Stanley Cup victory this season.

Sitting at the intersection of three rivers also means Pittsburgh has tons of water-based sports. In August, both enthusiasts and professionals will come out to play when the Red Bull Flugtag 2017 takes center stage during the annual Three Rivers Regatta on Aug. 4-6.

Red Bull Flugtag

Red Bull Flugtag

Flugtag, which means “flying day” in German, is a unique and unpredictable event that would make the Wright brothers gasp. Every year, the brave competitors have a chance to rewrite aviation history as their staggering variety of aircraft take off from the 22-foot-high “flight deck.” Distance traveled, creativity of the craft and showmanship make up the criteria for Flugtag teams, with each event attracting up to 300,000 spectators.

The concepts are left of center at Flugtag, to say the least. In recent years, aviators have created flying tacos, pterodactyls and even winnebagos with wings. The relatively conventional aircrafts, such as Snoopy and his pals, have graced the skies as well.

Showmanship counts. Participants often sport outrageous costumes, create their own skits and make their own soundtracks. Whoever wins, it’s always been about the love of invention since the first Flugtag took flight in Vienna, Austria, a quarter century ago.

Will the current world record, 258 feet set in 2013 in Long Beach, California, be eclipsed? Be in Pittsburgh on Aug. 5 to find out, when more than 40 teams will seek their fortunes in the sky — or meet a watery end.

Three Rivers Regatta Credit: Facebook

Three Rivers Regatta

There is more to the weekend-long water festival than these gravity-defying daredevils. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Three Rivers Regatta, with tons of powerboats providing plenty of high-speed action to spectators along Point State Park along with jet ski stunt shows, a music festival and a floating parade of lights after dusk.

When you’re hungry, walk a short distance to Roberto Clemente Bridge, where an array of food trucks awaits with everything from Pittsburgh’s signature pierogies to pizza. There will also be a marketplace of arts and crafts and, to continue with the theme of hitting the heights, you can take a ride on the Wheel of Lights, a giant gondola ferris wheel.

Sightseeing from above

The best way to experience Pittsburgh is also from the sky, though not by flugtag. Head to the top of the city courtesy of its two funiculars. Board the Duquesne Incline for a spectacular view of the city’s three rivers and more as the car clicks upward from Pittsburgh’s Southside neighborhood. After peaking at 800 feet, step out and gaze at the stunning gateway to the city’s Golden Triangle (more commonly known as the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh).

Fawkes the golden pheasant at The National Aviary Credit: Facebook

Back on the ground

If you would like to experience flight from another perspective, check out The National Aviary. The nation’s only indoor nonprofit zoo is home to more than 500 birds, 150 of which are threatened or endangered. Don’t miss the striking hyacinth macaw and the green-backed trogon, and then there are the playful African penguins. Make some new friends in the lorikeet exhibit by purchasing a cup of nectar.

The tech-minded kids (and adults!) hang out at the Carnegie Science Center. The Sportsworks side of the facility offers nearly 30 interactive experiences in the categories of LifeWorks, Physics of Sports, and Sports Challenge. Scale a 25-foot rock climbing wall, or don some serious climbing gear and hit the 21-foot zero gravity wall. If you love a thrillride, hang on as you ride the simulated roller coasters.

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