Our first day on the town during our vacation involved a red double-decker bus. We had recently been in Oakland and has seen the Pittsburgh Tour Bus, and Buddy and Sassafras were instantly smitten. Since we were on vacation, after all, I thought it was a great way to spend the day.
I purchased out tickets online at www.pghtour.com the night before, planning to get on at 9:20 at Station Square. The bus makes a circle around town, starting at the South Side Works, traveling to Station Square, the North Side, the Strip, Downtown, Oakland, and back to South Side Works. The fun part is that the bus makes 21 stops and you can get on and off anywhere. I selected Station Square because I used to park there and knew right where to go, knew it would only cost $5 to park, and I figure if we got off downtown and the kids didn’t want to continue, we could easily walk to the car.
We were told to arrive 5-10 minutes early, so we were getting out of our car at 9. The bus picks up by the Gateway Clipper, so we walked there in plenty of time. Full of excitement, we waited for the bus to come. And waited. And waited. I called when the bus was 10 minutes late, told it was on its way, and waited some more. All said and done, the bus was 25 minutes late, meaning we waited more than a half an hour. Not the best start.
We were the first passengers, so we had the tour guide to ourselves. We settled into seats on the top in the front, and to my surprise our tour guide was British. I’m fairly certain all London-esque double-decker tour busses don’t come with a British tour guide, but I found it to be very fitting. He called himself a Britsburgher, so I instantly liked him.
Jamie (aka Britsburgher) shared lots of Pittsburgh history and facts with us as we passed the inclines and made our way to the North Side. Passengers continued to get on the bus as we traveled and by the time we got to the Strip the top of the bus was filling up.
I planned to get off in downtown so we could enjoy Market Square, the PPG Fountain, and my most favorite place to eat, Madonna’s. I miss Madonna’s so much since I no longer work in town, and since they’re only open during the week, I don’t have many opportunities to eat there.
As soon as we departed, Buddy announced he needed a restroom. Now. Anyone who knows downtown knows that public use restrooms aren’t always easy to find, and we ended up sneaking into am unnamed hotel (shhh). Crisis averted, we made our way to Market Square. I hadn’t been here since they finished it (correction – I hadn’t been there since they finished it when it wasn’t filled with zombies) and it looked great! I love how big and open it is. The Carnegie Library was there selling books so I grabbed one for each of us.
It was nearing 11:30 so we headed towards Madonna’s. I was so excited to take my kids to my favorite place, so imagine my disappointment when a pizza place stood in my favorite restaurant’s location. Instead, we enjoyed some over priced pizza. Not Madonna’s, that’s for sure (I later found out they moved about 6 months ago).
Now that it was getting nice and hot we headed for the PPG Fountain and the kids had a great time. We took a break so I could meet up with some former co-workers in Market Square, then let the kids play in the fountain some more. We had to get the bus at 1, so at 12:45 I gathered them up, then decided we should find a restroom. This proved to me almost fatal, because trying to get 2 kids to be quick in a restroom is a lesson in futility.
We found ourselves rounding a corner to see our bus sitting there. We started running as it started pulling away. Since the bus comes around about every hour and 15 minutes, I didn’t want to wait. Fortunately, having ridden a bus for 11 years teaches you a thing or 2 and I was able to flag him down, 2 kids in tow to boot. Lesson: even if the bus is 25 minutes late to get you, it will still leave 5 minutes early later in the day.
We traveled through the rest of down, then to Oakland, South Side Works and back to Station Square. It was about 2:30 by then and we were ready to head home. Having been in the heat and sun all day was wearing us all down.
If you haven’t tried Pittsburgh Tours, we really enjoyed it. I wish we had been able to get off and explore other areas more. The kids loved it, and at the end of the week it was Sass’s favorite activity on our vacation. I think that’s a win!