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Experience Pittsburgh: The Gateway to an Enriching Holiday Season

Discover ways to enhance your mind rather than merely indulge your appetites this holiday season by mining the rich and varied history of Pittsburgh, the legendary “Gateway to the West.” Located at the convergence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers and critical in the production of steel and coal in the last century and a half, it might be easy to focus on the city as an industrial powerhouse and overlook Pittsburgh’s pivotal role in the history of the nation and the world. This Christmas, through Pittsburgh’s renowned history museums, you can uncover what’s truly important by studying the tapestry of human ambitions and undertakings that is our collective past.

Senator John Heinz History Center is Pennsylvania’s largest history museum, with 370,000 square feet of exhibits and interactive activities telling the dramatic stories of American history through the lens of western Pennsylvania. This unique museum, which contains a sports museum within and a colonial era museum offsite, is both affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute and recognized as an accredited museum by the American Alliance of Museums. In addition to an assortment of eclectic permanent exhibits featuring innovation in the city of Pittsburgh, the Heinz empire, the history of slavery in America, and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” the seasonal "A Very Merry Pittsburgh Exhibit" is showcasing a special selection of nostalgic Christmas items that reveal how the holidays have been celebrated in the region throughout the years. Note that the exhibit runs until January 17, 2022.

Fort Pitt, which belongs to the Senator John Heinz History Center family of museums, chronicles the history of Pittsburgh from the French and Indian War through the beginning of the industrial age. Reconstructed on a bastion of the historic Fort Pitt, the museum displays artifacts, life-size historical figures, and engaging exhibits to stoke interest in the significant events that surrounded the birth of this city and nation. Colonial era custom rifles, illuminating slaveholder documents, and original paintings of critical military engagements are among the historical novelties making this a worthwhile destination for any history buff.

For a truly unique experience of history, architecture, and anthropology, at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning visitors can wander through the astonishing Nationality Rooms, thirty-one rooms representing the vibrant cultural diversity of the city. The designs for the rooms were first envisaged in 1926 by international architects and artist to amplify the timeless essence of particular ethnicities, a vision which lends to the simultaneously transcendent and austere quality of each of the spaces. For those unable to take in the mesmerizing rooms of this 42-story gothic-style Cathedral in person, note that one can view the rooms virtually during the 2021 Holiday Open House, where one can learn about the unique architectural features of the rooms as well as holiday traditions from around the world.

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