If a big holiday trip isn’t in the budget this year, there’s no reason to be sad about having a staycation instead. Not only is Pittsburgh filled with some amazing thing to do, but nearby attractions can turn a short road trip into a wonderful way to spend a day!
Big Mac Museum, Irwin/North Huntingdon
You’ve still gotta eat, right? And what better place to grab a sandwich and some fries than at the Big Mac Museum, located within a working McDonald’s restaurant in Irwin/North Huntingdon, about 30 miles south of the ‘burgh. Filled with examples of historic packaging, kids’ toys and more, the museum also features a History of the Big Mac timeline, which explains how the famous sandwich got its start in our home state. Free (except the food).
World’s Largest Teapot, Chester, WV
At 12 feet high and 44 feet wide, it’s hard to miss the world’s largest teapot. Originally a large keg created by Hires Root Beer, the teapot went through a few iterations before falling into disrepair in the 1980s. Now refurbished and painted bright red and white, the teapot stands as a symbol of the area’s early pottery industry. Free.
Big Coffee Pot, Bedford
Speaking of giant serving vessels, the Big Coffee Pot on Rt. 30 in Bedford is another must-see. Built as a restaurant and gas station back in 1927, the coffee pot also served as a bar before it sat empty for a number of years. The Bedford County Fair Association decided to save it and moved it from its original location across the street to the fairgrounds, where it can be seen today. Free.
Dunkle’s Gulf Station, Bedford
While you’re in Bedford, continue on Rt. 30 for just a couple minutes and you can see a stunning example of Art Deco architecture at Dunkle’s Gulf Station, built in 1933. Designed to be Gulf’s showpiece service station between Pittsburgh and Philly, the station is still open for service, so fill up your tank and take some photos before moving on.
Opened in May of 1877, the Duquesne Incline is not only a great way to see the city from the top of Mt. Washington, but to learn more about the ‘burgh in the museum that resides in the incline’s upper station house. The original wooden cable cars were restored in 1963 and today are a must-visit for anyone coming to the Steel City. Cash or Port Authority bus card only: adults $2.50 one way or $5 roundtrip; children (5-11) $1.25 one way or $2.50 roundtrip; under age 5 free. Some university students can also ride free with ID: check out www.duquesneincline.org to learn more.
UNIQUE OUTDOOR SCULPTURES/ART
Optimus Prime Metal Sculpture, Greensburg
We’re not really sure why there’s a large metal sculpture of Optimus Prime watching over the entrance to a concrete and construction supply company in Greensburg, but this intricate artwork is worth a stop while in the area. Located outside Stone & Company (1718 Roseytown Road, Greensburg), this roadside attraction is also close to the Space Shuttle, which is off Rt. 22 on Tucker Road.
The Headless Muffler Man
The Headless Muffler Man, who lost his head during a windstorm, is about to regain his noggin after more than a decade. This summer the head will be replaced, so if you want a photo before that happens, best head to Lug Nutz Tire and Auto Service on New Alexandria Road in Greensburg to see the 20-foot statue, one of six muffler man (the rest with heads) in Pennsylvania.
The Flying Saucer in Mars, PA
You can’t help but notice the flying saucer as you enter Mars, PA: constructed from two oil tanks and weighing nearly 3,000 pounds, it looks right at home in a town that boasts a high school team called the Mars Fightin’ Planets. The saucer is also the centerpiece of the Mars New Year’s Festival, which takes place this year on June 9-10. The festival celebrates our fascination with outer space and man’s journey to the moon, Mars and beyond. A collaboration with NASA, SpaceX and more, the festival brings thousands of people to visit the earth-bound town.
David Grohl Alley and World’s Largest Drumstick, Warren, OH:
If you’re a fan of the Foo Fighters or Nirvana, you may want to take a trip to Warren, OH, located about 1.5 hours from Pittsburgh, to pay tribute to drummer Dave Grohl, who was born in the Midwest city. An alley is adorned with works from local artists, including representations of Grohl as a superhero and a sculpture of Grohl made by local artist Dan Plant, made of 20-gauge steel in his parents’ garage. The alley also features the world’s largest drumsticks hand-carved by Joel Eggert out of two poplar logs. The drumsticks are 23 feet long and weigh a half-ton.
Space Acorn in Mt. Pleasant
Back in 1965, a spaceship supposedly crash landed in Kecksburg, PA, and was quickly taken away by the Army. When the show Unsolved Mysteries highlighted the story in the 1990s—creating a ‘space acorn’ as a visual for the spaceship—interest was revived in the tale for a short time before it went dormant again. On the 40th anniversary of the crash, however, the space acorn prop, which had been left behind by the TV production, was restored and repainted, and now sits on top of a pole on a hillside in town. A UFO store also sits across the street, where visitors can pick up souvenirs and learn more of the space acorn’s history.
Westinghouse Atom Smasher
Built in 1937, the Westinghouse Atom Smasher was a 65-foot-tall pear-shaped tower that was used to make precise measurements of nuclear reactions for research in nuclear power. The first industrial Van de Graaff generator in the world, the smasher went dormant in 1958. It stood at Westinghouse’s Forest Hills location until 2015, when it was removed from its supports and laid on its side where it still resides today. While you can’t get close to the atom smasher as it is on private property surrounded by a fence, you can view it from Avenue A (Pittsburgh, PA, 15221).
Only in the ‘Burgh
It’s pretty overwhelming to see 6,000 bikes in one place—and it’s even more awe-inspiring to realize that some of them, like the Bowden Spacelander—are so rare that there are only 30 of them to be found, including 17 of them at Bicycle Heaven. The museum, started by Craig and Mindy Morrow, also has an eclectic collection of cool memorabilia, featuring everything from The Beatles to Elvis—not to mention the bike Pee-Wee Herman rode in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure! Located on the Northside, the museum is open every day and is free* to the public. (1800 Preble Ave., Pgh, 15233)
Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff
Located right next door to Bicycle Heaven, Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff is a tribute to all things rock-n-roll, as amassed by collector and Pittsburgh music icon Johnny Angel (aka Jack Hunt). Signed records, playbills, guitars and more adorn the walls, and Johnny is more than happy to tell you about the history of different items. Part of the music museum is also a retail store, where you can find an amazing array of collectibles to take home. The museum is free*, but Johnny’s memories are priceless. (1800 Preble Ave., Pgh 15233) Hours vary, so call to make sure it’s open.