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A City of Multitudes

Packed with history and culture, Pittsburgh is a haven for grand venues and hotels

By Madeline Fuerstenberg

Downtown Pittsburgh and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center along the Allegheny River || Photo by JP Diroll

Most have heard of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But do you really know the city to its core? From its history and its energy to its venues and attractions, there’s always more for eventgoers to see, learn, and experience in the Steel City. “Pittsburgh has always had a place of prominence within our culture,” says Visit Pittsburgh’s Chief Sales Officer Andrew Ortale. “Meeting planners are able to capitalize on that, and their attendees come here with this idea of curiosity.”

Located at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, Pittsburgh offers event planners a destination that’s not only beautiful but also rife with convenient gathering spaces, hotels, and transportation hubs. With about 19.5 million overnight visitors annually and large events like the Association for Iron & Steel Technology’s AISTech 2022 conference or the International Association of Venue Managers’ VenueConnect 2023 trade show, Pittsburgh has established itself as the place to be for innovative, engaging, and memorable meetings and events. Its lively atmosphere and cultural significance are a major draw.

“We really connect the people to the destination, and I think that’s one of the keys to the success of events here in Pittsburgh,” Ortale says. “When attendees come to Pittsburgh, they’re going to have a truly Pittsburgh-authentic experience.”

Molded by History

The view from the top of the Duquesne Incline || Photo by f11photo, courtesy of Adobe

From the Revolutionary War in the 1770s to the Civil War of the 1860s, Pittsburgh has borne witness to its fair share of U.S. history. Today, that history is reflected in the venues, hotels, and attractions attendees experience when visiting. “[Pittsburgh has] this rich history of always transforming itself, becoming what the world needed at that time,” Ortale says.

Named after Pennsylvania’s founder, the Omni William Penn Hotel was erected in the early 1900s by Henry Clay Frick, one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest industrialists and an associate of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Today, the 597-room property boasts 52,000 square feet of event space.

An early industrial hub, Pittsburgh is perhaps best known for its roles in the coal mining and steel production industries. The Duquesne Incline, a popular tourist destination in the city, is an enduring remnant of that past. With an elevation of 400 feet on a track 794 feet in length, up to 18 guests at a time can take a break between meetings to ride the freight and passenger incline railway up the side of Mount Washington along a path that closely follows the tracks of an early coal hoist. Atop the incline, guests may visit the upper station, which features a museum of Pittsburgh’s history and a gift shop.

Defined by Convenience

One of Pittsburgh’s most important features, Ortale says, is its walkable downtown area. Within a mile radius, event planners will find more than a dozen hotels near the LEED Gold-certified David L. Lawrence Convention Center, located on a corner of the city’s cultural district. The sustainability-forward center has 313,400 square feet of total exhibit space, 236,900 of which is column-free. Individually, there are 53 meeting rooms and two 250-seat lecture halls, totaling 77,952 square feet of meeting room space. The Spirit of Pittsburgh Ballroom sits at 31,610 square feet.

The lobby at Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel || Courtesy of Renaissance Pittsburgh

Nearby hotels available to your attendees—including the Omni William Penn Hotel—are The Westin Pittsburgh, with 36,305 square feet of event space; the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, located in the historic Fulton Building and boasting 10 event spaces; Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown, featuring an event space that can accommodate up to 2,000 guests; and The Landing Hotel Pittsburgh, connected to Rivers Casino, a 450,000-square-foot entertainment complex on the Ohio River.

For attendees looking for an off-foot way to get to and from meetings, Pittsburgh offers a free subway system downtown that connects to the city’s Northside entertainment district, as well as PNC Park and Acrisure Stadium—homes of MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates and NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.

During the wintertime, Ortale says visitors to the city can enjoy a holiday market set up downtown between meetings. “It’s such a beautiful time to be downtown and in the city with all the lights and everything,” Ortale says. There, shopping, ice skating, and other holiday activities await your meeting-goers.

Located about 19 miles west of downtown is Pittsburgh International Airport. Given Pittsburgh’s east-central location in the U.S., the airport is within 500 miles of nearly half the U.S. population. Currently undergoing terminal upgrades slated for completion in 2025, the airport will soon be a one-of-a-kind, self-sufficient energy saver. Ortale says the airport will achieve LEED Silver certification, boasting a microgrid of more than 10,000 solar panels on-site. He adds, “That in and of itself is such a wonderful way to welcome visitors.”

Distinguished by Variety

All this only scrapes the surface of what the city has in store for your attendees. “Pittsburgh offers so many different things that can attract large events—particularly because of who we are as a destination,” Ortale says. “We call ourselves a ‘city of multitudes.’ We have a little bit of everything. There’s something for everyone. Attendees tend to really like coming to Pittsburgh for those reasons. I think event planners tend to find a lot of success when they come to Pittsburgh.”

Visitors at The Andy Warhol Museum || Photo by Julie Kahlbaugh

For those looking to learn more about the history of the city, consider visiting the Senator John Heinz History Center, where guests can see Smithsonian artifacts daily. Or host your event right on the property, which can accommodate up to 3,000 guests. For the sports buffs in your group, learn about one of the athletes who helped earn the City of Champions its name at The Clemente Museum, which honors the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Roberto Clemente and his teammates. Private tours for groups of 12 or more are available. Wow the art lovers of your team with a visit to The Andy Warhol Museum, one of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world and the largest in North America. The museum is available for private events of up to 200 attendees in the building’s foyer.

Looking for somewhere for group dinners? The Terminal in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District is being expanded and updated to include dozens of dining and shopping options along five city blocks. Or, consider Grand Concourse, housed in the preserved Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Station. Surround your guests with gilded grandeur, cathedral stained-glass vaulted ceilings, marble columns, and a dramatic staircase. Seven private event spaces are available, with capacities ranging from 38 to 300.

“We have this rich history—a tapestry—of all these different cultures. We have 90 distinct neighborhoods. We have incredible arts programs. We have incredible university programs. There’s just a little bit of something for everyone,” Ortale says. “We’re not just this or that.”