The collapse of the city’s steel industry in the eighties incited a mass exodus that cut the population in half. Left behind were dozens of churches, several of which are now secular structures. Start your pilgrimage with drinks at Church Brew Works, a microbrewery formerly known as St. John the Baptist Church. The pews, wood floor, and stained-glass windows are original, installed in 1903. Sit by the altar, near the copper tanks, or take a seat outside in the Hops Garden. The beer menu reflects a religious past—there’s Celestial Gold, Pious Monk Dunkel, and Pipe Organ Pale Ale. Balance your beer with pierogies, a starchy Pittsburgh staple. Ask the bartender for the number for a cab service—hailing one is nearly impossible—and cross the Allegheny River during a six-minute ride to Millvale. The redesigned Mr. Smalls Skate Park has a street course and ramps and draws amateurs and pros alike. Three blocks away is Mr. Smalls Theatre, an eighteenth-century church reborn as a performance space, rocker hostel, and recording studio. Bands like the Meat Puppets, Camera Obscura, and Jenny Lewis (along with a healthy dose of metal acts) will all play there this summer.
5. Oddball Day
Published on May 7, 2009 as a web exclusive.