Moving to Pittsburg PA
If it meets your geographic requirements, Pittsburgh is a great city! I lived there for 4 years and would move back happily if it wasn't for the weather. I think it has a lot of what you're looking for. Feel free to contact me for more details and good luck!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Thinking about moving to Pittsburgh, PA
My family is considering a move to Pittsburgh, PA for work-related reasons. I have lived in the Bay Area all my life, and am daunted by and anxious about this new development. I would like to hear about the city from people who have lived there, particularly with respect to schools (I have 2 children in elementary school), neighborhoods, political leanings, ethnic diversity, things to do, etc. Any thoughts and advice are appreciated! anon
I grew up in Pittsburgh and think that it's really not a bad place to live with a young family, however, coming from the Bay Area it would be an adjustment. It gets cold, really cold, in the winter, avocados cost an arm and a leg and if, like me, you love tacquerias, well... There is also a lot less diversity. There is a good mix of black and white, but you lose the large visible Latin and Asian populations.
On the upside, you could buy or rent a big beautiful house and I think that the schools are pretty good - especially the magnet programs. This year they are also opening a new International Baccalaureate academy (public) for grades 6-12 and the high/middle schools for performing arts are really great, too. There are also two major universities and 4 or 5 smaller colleges in town which I think is always a plus for any city. I think that there is a decent art scene and they have one of the best independent radio stations that I've ever listened to.
If you're into sports, there is probably no better place. The city is CRAZY for its teams and game days are quite the spectacle.
Please feel free to drop me a line if I can give you any more information. Good luck with your decision! ldya
We lived in Pittsburgh for two years, and I came to really appreciate the city. It's very dramatically located, at the confluence of three rivers. The parks are great--something you will really appreciate with kids. There are some really nice neighborhoods--we lived in Squirrel Hill, which has a nice shopping district. Also popular is Shadyside, which is closer to the University. The Strip is great, along the river, and is where people go to buy produce, and have a cappuccino. The city has an interesting mix of ethnic groups, mostly East European (Polish, German, etc.). There's even a German restaurant across the river, where you can sing German songs and have a beer and schnitzel. All in all, not a bad place to live at all, especially if you have kids (the neighborhoods are really safe). Since I don't have kids, I can't vouch for the schools. The drawbacks are that the city sometime feels a long way from anywhere--Chicago is several hours West, and New York is a very long ten hour drive East. The winters can be cold and grey (Pittsburgh has more cloudy days per year than any other city in the country). But that said, it can be quite nice in the summer, although it can be quite humid. The famous Frank Lloyd Wright house, Fallingwater, is only a two hour drive west, and is really worth a visit. There are some beautiful waterfalls outside the city, and many small country roads perfect for biking. Plus, if you're a hockey fan, there's the Penguins, and if you're a baseball fan, there's the Pirates. Jim
Pittsburgh is a very friendly town, though it is provincial relative to the Bay Area. Although its impossible to accurately generalize, I'd say people can be very kind in word and spirit. (For instance, you'll notice that people there are far more courteous drivers.) Religion is still important to a lot of people, but I wouldn't say in an a very exclusive way. The weather is going to extremely difficult for you to get accustomed to; It can be kind of gray and overcast, but the novelty of having 4 seasons might be fun for awhile. There are a lot of hills, and in the summer, its very green and lush.
As for diversity, in the last 15 years I have noticed (when I go home to visit my parents) a significant influx of east/west Asian people, probably because of the shift in the economy from blue collar (until the 1980s) to a more white collar economy based on banking, medical, and to a lesser extent computer industries. For much of the early 20th century, people lived and identified themselves more in terms of their ethnic/racial identity and segregated themselves accordingly (an italian area, polish/slavic area, african american, etc.) This was mostly a remnant from the industrial/steel history. I think you see less of this today. More important than race or ethnicity is sports, football in particular. People are insanely into professional sports and are supremely proud of the local teams.
Politically, you will find a mix of conservative and liberal. Due to the blue collar, union oriented past, I think people are more liberal on social issues as compared to what you might find in Ohio or west of that. More blue-state than red-state, overall.
The most liberal people live around the universities (U of Pitt, Carnegie Mellon), but its a mix of students, hipsters, to a lesser extent families. Squirrel Hill (which used to be the jewish neighborhood) Shadyside (gentrified in the 1980s), and Lawrenceville (the up and coming cool artsy neighborhood and home a whole foods and natural food co-op) are the trendy, liberal areas where you'd likely feel more at home. But property taxes are very high within the City limits (which those neighborhoods are all in) and the city schools historically, not so good.
The suburbs have better schools. I am only familiar with the south hills area near where I grew up. Mount Lebanon, Bethel Park, Upper Stair Clair have more affluent people (not across the board) and very good schools, it used to be Mount Lebanon had what was considered one of the best school district in the area but not sure if that's still true today). Even if you live in the suburbs, the commutes are not so bad into the city, relative to the Bay Area. There is a good mass transit infrastructure of busways and trolleys, so a non-car commute is possible depended on where you are headed.
Re things to do: Many very good museums, science, children's, arts, great library system. The zoo just got a makeover. Generally lots of institutional support for arts, culture, and museums, in part a legacy of industrial robber barons such as Henry Frick, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon. There are natural areas very close to the city, public pools are everywhere, plus a big waterpark and old time amusement park (google Kennywood).
A radical change from Bay Area life, but depending on what you value, it could be a great move.
Email me if you want to discuss further, and good luck. Jodi