Made In The Shade

Pittsburgh weather being what it is, most people around here want to soak up the sun as much as possible. Especially during the summertime. Still, even those of us whose favorite SPF number is zero need a place to escape the solar rays now and then. So, if you walked through Market Square in the past day or two, you probably noticed that it's looking a little "shady" these days — in a good way — thanks to a crop of colorful umbrellas popping up all over the place.

During the past weekend, a team of our very special volunteers filled a couple dozen plastic holders so we could "plant" umbrellas in them during the daylight hours. Along with a welcome shadow of cool comfort, the umbrellas brighten up every corner of the Square with more than a few splashes of color in the "shades" of baby blue, racy red and tangy tangerine.

Now just about any day the sun is out between today and possibly well into October, Brock Wilson — he's our very busy Squaretaker — will set up the umbrellas just for you. Of course, when it's raining outside, the umbrellas will stayed closed, which is actually kind of funny when you think about it. And if the winds kick up something fierce, Brock will make sure no one zips across the skyline like Mary Poppins. But aside from that, you'll have in made in the shade in the Square.


Getting To The Square

Maybe you spotted that nifty Model-A Ford in Market Square yesterday during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix preview. We think that was one sweet ride. Back in the 1930s, the Model A was a pretty common sight on Diamond Street, or Forbes Avenue as we call it today, heading to the Square.

Fact is, just about any type of transportation that gets you to the Square is fine with us. After all, Pittsburghers over the years have made tracks to the Square using everything from horse-drawn wagons and trolleys in the good old days to mountain bikes and those teeny little Smart cars during these modern times. Here at the PDP, we prefer a leisurely stroll that lets us take in all the sights and sounds of Downtown. But it doesn't matter how you get there, just as long as you end up in the Square.

Which brings up a question we hear a lot. "When Market Square is done, will we be able to drive there and park?" Of course you will. Keep in mind that there will be a few changes. As usual, you can enter the Square from Forbes Avenue. Then all traffic will turn right towards the Oyster House, the oldest business in the Square. You could make that your first stop, or just keep following the gorgeous Belgian block road to Dunkin' Donuts, where you can pop in for a Pittsburgh Creme  pastry before turning right onto Forbes again.

If you're going to spend some time in the Square for lunch, dinner or shopping, you'll be able to park anywhere there's a space on Forbes Avenue or Market Square.  At first you may say, "Where?" because the meters will be gone, but just look for the signs to know where you can park and you'll be able to pay at three convenient kiosks around the Square. That mean no need to fish around for quarters anymore!  And of course, there are several convenient parking garages right aroud the corner, too.  You can check the interactive parking map for any destination in the Golden Triangle.  You can also find out which garages offer the $5 flat rate after 4 p.m. and on weekends.

For a little exercise we're going to "peddle" the idea of pedaling to the Square, especially since we recently installed those cool circular rakes that look like the Mon and Allegheny rivers flowing together to form the Ohio at the Point. Because we like to think of the Square as an urban oasis, biking there is the coolest way to keep it "green" while you burn a few extra calories. It's especially great for families - on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon you can begin riding the trails on the north or south shores and take a break with lunch at a cafe in the Square before heading home.  There's nothing like pedaling over those bridges!

By the way, if you missed the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix car show in the Square, you don't have to spin your wheels looking for photos on the web. Just check out our gallery below.


Get Your Motor Running

Maybe you dreamed of racing along the streets of Paris in a convertible with the warm wind in your  hair. That could still happen. But for the meantime, you can take a joy ride down memory lane this Wednesday when the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix caravan rolls into Market Square for a three-hour display of some of the classiest chassis around.

These hot wheels start rolling through the city from Heinz Field at 10 a.m. before parking in the Square about 30 minutes later. That means all you fantasy speed racers can check out what's under the hood of these retro rides that include 1930s sedans, Swinging Sixties roadsters and 1970s muscle cars. Sure, the Square is usually a pedestrian oasis. But we're waiving our no parking rule because these antique autos will be cooling their engines for a good cause.

You see, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix has been running circles around Schenley Park in Oakland for the past 28  years to benefit the important work done by Autism Society of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Valley School, which reaches out to youngsters and adults with developmental disabilities. When the rubber hits the road to help others, the Grand Prix team pushes the pedal to the metal for all the right reasons.

If you're looking for some fun, fun, fun — without daddy taking away your T-Bird — get your act in gear and steer yourself to the Square tomorrow afternoon to rev up your engine and maybe catch a bite to eat at the same time.

And don't forget to find a place at the starting line to watch the big event at Schenley Park on Sunday, July 25, when the Grand Prix drives start their engines and chase that checkered flag.


Crawl To The Square

Okay, we don't really want you to crawl to Market Square. But we do hope you do walk, run or even hop to the Square before, during or after tonight's Gallery Crawl that starts Downtown at 5:30 p.m. For the summer Crawl, the Cultural Trust transforms  Downtown into one big art gallery and block party, with plenty of art, music, food and beverages along Penn and Liberty avenues. And we hear there are some really, really big surprises in store this time around. Oh, and did we mention that it's all free? How's that for a great night out in the city?

Of course, there's plenty more going on in and around Downtown this weekend. If you can snag a ticket or two, check out "The Producers" at the Benedum. This non-stop outrageous and non-hilarious musical from Mel Brooks is back for another round of laughs. Based on the cult favorite movie, "The Producers" won just about every award on Broadway you can imagine. If you haven't seen it yet, you better hurry. The show ends this Sunday.  If you make it down on Sunday, you can grab a sandwich at Primanti's or refreshing drink at Starbucks.

Now that the Major League Baseball All Star Game is over, the Pirates are back in town to play division rivals the Houston Astros. Even if the Bucs aren't doing so well in the standings, we think PNC Park is the most perfect place in the universe to watch a ballgame. Along with the enjoying the peanuts and Cracker Jack, it's Beach Towel Night for Friday's game — and don't forget the sunscreen.  You can snag your fresh roasted peanuts at Nicholas Coffee in Market Square and suncreen at the CVS.

Jazz fans will want to check out Little E's on Liberty to catch some of the coolest riffs around. And the Theatre Square Cabaret premieres "’S Wonderful," an all-singing and all dancing celebration of the songs of George and Ira Gershwin. This tuneful journey carries the audience to New York City, Paris, Hollywood and New Orleans on the music of one of America's most famous and beloved songwriting teams.  So maybe a retro cocktail at Bella Sera is in order here?

Just to warn you, with so many people enjoying summer in the city this evening, you might just want to think about chilling in the Square for a while at night's end. Whether you're waiting for traffic to ease up or just want to make the magic of Downtown last a little longer, the Square's a perfect place to end a big night on the town.


Meet The Squaretaker

Just about the time you're pounding the snooze button on the alarm, Brock Wilson  is already working hard to make sure that Market Square is spic and span for another day. You see, Brock is the guy who sweeps the terrazzo, arranges the chairs and tables and generally keeps the Square looking great all day long. So whether you're in the Square to sip a morning cup of coffee while you puzzle over the New York Times Crosswords or unwind with a Smoothie at lunch or enjoy an apres-dinner stroll as the days draws to a close, Brock is the guy who makes the place feel like home. That's why around the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, we call Brock "The Squaretaker." 

Chances are you've seen Brock in the Square. He's the tall guy with the long blond hair who never seems to stop moving. Sometimes even we have a hard time keeping up with him. But Brock will tell you that he's got a job to do — especially as more and more of the new Square opens up for even greater use by the thousands of people who visit it each day.

"People expect the Square to be clean," Brock will tell you as he surveys the scene for any signs of litter or a chair not coupled with a table. "Most of the times, they pick up pretty well after themselves. But after big events like the Fourth of July, there's a lot of work to do."

On the job since last August, Brock brings a smile to the Sqaure every day. Along with exchanging hellos with merchants, he's doing a great job as the Square's goodwill ambassador. In between sweeping up a stray piece of paper, he'll help Downtown visitors find their way to various points north, south, east and west of the Square. "People always have questions about how to get from one place to another," he says. "I do my best to explain how to get there as fast as possible."

Just like the rest of us, Brock is happy that the Square is almost finished and bustling with people during the Farmers Market on Thursdays. But he's quick to point out that more and more people are coming to the Square every day. So, the next time you're there, make sure you try to spot Brock. Chances are you'll find him just about anywhere, keeping the Square looking its best just for you.


Beat The Heat

Okay, there's no way we're wishing for a blizzard that buries Downtown under two feet of snow again. But a cool breeze now and then would be just fine during this little heat wave that's pushing the temperature toward triple digit range. Maybe you can't fry an egg on the sidewalk, but, baby, it's hot outside. Still, there's just too much happening Downtown to stayed cooped up in the office or loft all day — even if the AC is cranked up to way past high.

Of course, you'll want to stay hydrated as you venture outdoors. That's why we're suggesting a layover in Market Square, Downtown's favorite new urban oasis. Now, we don't mind telling you that we enjoy a beverage or two in the Square just about anytime of the day. For instance, a yummy chocolate milk helps wash down one of those amazing Prantl's pastries in the morning. And in the afternoon, well, we could sit in the Square for hours sipping icy thirst quenchers like the fruity frozen Coolatta from Dunkin' Donuts or the crazy sweet iced peach coffee from Bruegger's. Don't let the construction in front of Nicholas Coffee keep you away. Step inside this quaint store for a taste of Jet Tea, a green-tea base with fruit flavors--it's frozen-blended heaven!

For more natural tastes Starbucks serves up a cool unsweetened iced tea that refreshes your body and mind after a sweltering first half of the day at the office. And for super lunch that you can sip through a straw, order up a fruit, juice or yogurt Smoothie at Mixstirs. We can't think of a cooler way to add some extra nutrition to your diet. We're not trying to get fresh. But the Square is a great place to get a few sweet licks, too, if you stop by the Original Oyster House for a gigantic cone of soft-serve ice cream.

A great way to beat the heat is to stay out of traffic. So instead of sitting in rush hour gridlock, we suggest a stroll back to the Square for an adult concoction. For true blue Pittsburghers, an icy cold brew at Primanti's is the perfect way to chill. And we always say "ole" to the margaritas at Los Velas and Moe's. For a more sophisticated nightcap, we recommend the specialty cocktails at Bella Sera that are as smooth as they are unique. And just one little reminder, make sure  you have a designated driver — just in case you cool off a little too much.


Celebrate The Fourth In The Square

We're all Yankee Doodle Dandies this weekend as Pittsburgh celebrates the Fourth of July all over Downtown. Just in case you didn't already know, the Regatta will make a big splash on and around the three rivers with powerboat races, parachute daredevils and concerts, today through Sunday. Over at PNC Park, the Pirates will battle the cross-state rival Phillies, who just  happen to be from the town where the Declaration of Independence was signed. And America's birthday celebration ends with a really big bang on Sunday night when the Zambelli Flashes of Freedom Fireworks Fantasia extravaganza lights up the city skyline in red, white and blue and lots of other colors.

Of course, we can't think of a better place for you to relax during the big weekend Downtown than in Market Square — especially now that the entire Square is open with more tables and chairs and room to stroll around than ever before. In fact, you could say that the new Square is Pittsburgh biggest al fresco cafe. No matter what direction you look, there's a delicious selection of places to eat, drink and enjoy summer in the city.

No matter if your tastes run toward traditional favorites such as the Original Oyster House or newer options like the tasty Mexican dishes at Las Velas, the Square menu is ready to serve up something for just about every palate during the holiday weekend. Early birds will want to check out Dunkin' Donuts to sip a chilly Coolatta or an iced coffee specially priced for Regatta goers.  For a little more substantial offering, Prantl's and Mancini's are teaming up to serve their signature combo — a hefty Mancini's sandwich and a to-die-for dessert from Prantl's. And for those really big appetites, the Primanti's sandwich — piled high with meat, fries, slaw, egg and cheese — awaits those whose eyes might just be bigger than their bellies.

And by all means, don't forget to do a little shopping in and around the Square. Discover the chicest women's accessories at Serendipity, just across the street from Dunkin' Donuts. Well-heeled gentlemen will want to treat their feet to the finest in footware at Nettleton Shoes on Market and then maybe add to their wardrobe at the Heinz Healey clothing store just around the corner on Liberty Avenue.

So whatever brings you Downtown for the Fourth, we hope you celebrate safely and visit Market Square on this All-American holiday.