Family road trip – first stop Pittsburgh

This weekend we headed to Ann Arbor for Piotr’s baptism. This was so exciting – we hadn’t seen our friends and their three little kids for so long. To push our excitement a bit further, we decided to have our very first family road trip ever! Yesss!!

The plan was: a four-hour drive at nap time for the kids, staying overnight in Pittsburgh, and then another four-hour drive also at nap time to Ann Arbor. Sounds cool, right?

We had never been to Pittsburgh and had heard some nice things about the city. Thus, we wanted to take advantage of our less-than-24-hour there to “know” the city. We planned to stay in the historical district in downtown, had dinner at a restaurant nearby, walked around a bit, and the next morning let the kids have some fun in the Children’s Museum just about a mile away from the hotel, and then headed to Ann Arbor after lunch.

Thanks to TripAdvisor and Yelp, we booked Omni William Penn for the night, and decided on Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room for dinner (a pizzaria can never go wrong with the kids. Trust me on this!) And guess what the ongoing exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is? “Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tet festival”. We were so in!!!

Well, what we forgot to plan was: we arrived late and it was freaking freezing there (-10C… brrrrr….). By the time we got to the hotel, we didn’t have any time to unpack, but headed straight to the restaurant. The kids complained the whole walking time, a mere 0.3 mile distance from the hotel to the pizzaria.

As it turned out, Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room was not as kid-friendly as we would expect. The tables were set up so close to each other that there were barely any room to walk. We were the only ones with kids there. It was a super cool place to hang out for singles and couples. As a matter of fact, the place was packed with young and cool looking people (see why we don’t belong here?!). Their beer selection was excellent:

My hubby tried their beer tasting menu – We loved the Siberian Stout and Dirt Wolf so much that the next day, despite the frosty road, we walked to two liquor stores in downtown to find some packs without success.

Their food, however was not quite good, except the homemade pasta. We had a lobster stew as part of the restaurant week menu (way too salty with tiny bit of frozen lobster claws here and there), a baked salmon also part of the restaurant week menu (overcooked) with ratatouille, Bianca pizza (very greasy) and Funghi pasta (excellent) from their regular menu. Nevertheless, the youngest was still pretty excited, a tad too excited indeed:

By the time we finished dinner, it already passed bedtime for the kids. And rained. So, we skipped the “city tour by night” entirely and went straight back to the hotel. The hotel we stayed had gorgeous lobby and beautiful elevator. The kids had their welcoming packages (some crayons, puzzles, stickers and games – enough to keep them happy for a little while). The room was just meh… nothing worth noting. We had two bath rooms, a spacious sofa/lounging space. But the room was so dark that my eyes hurt. Forget about reading anything, except if it’s in an ipad or kindle. We stayed for only one night, so it was just okay.

The next morning, we headed to Children’s Museum. This was hands-down the highlight of our trip to Pittsburgh. The kids love it!!!

The exhibit of Tet (our New Year celebration) was quite a disappointment. I must admit they had made great efforts to introduce Vietnamese culture to the kids, but there were not many interactive games. After about 10 minutes playing with some plastic fruits, sitting on an immobile motorbike, touching a few things here and there, the kids wanted out. I can’t blame them.

We had an impromptu lunch at a Primanti Bros. There was a long line of people waiting so we assumed the food was not too bad. It was kind of a fast food chain with cheap sandwiches and fried chickens. We had a fish & cheese (good), chicken tenders (good), chicken wings (so so), and Black Angus steak and cheese (so burnt that we left it untouched). It was a fast lunch so we didn’t expect much.

It was unfair to say Pittsburgh did not excite us much just because we didn’t have enough time to really get to know the city. Our experience, from the hotel to the food (and the weather), was not that great, that’s all.

Some notes:

Omni William Penn Hotel

  • Beautiful hotel (lobby, reception area, elevator, hallways)
  • Great location (walking distance to almost every cool things: museum, restaurants, bars…)
  • Kids’ welcoming package with crayons and others (ours were happy as clams)
  • Spacious room (we had the double bed deluxe room) but very average quality (not enough lighting, small window)
  • Wifi, parking, and breakfast are not included.
  • There is Starbuck in the lobby 😉 So, instead of paying $25/person for breakfast, you can grab a nice cup of cappuccino and a flaky croissant for 8 bucks!
  • Parking is right across the street at $20 for 24 hours. But if you arrive after 4pm on Friday like we did, it’s only $5. Great deal!
  • Wifi is free for loyal customers, otherwise $10/day. So sign up!
  • According to TripAdvisor, Hampton Inn is another great option. We may explore it if we come back.

Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room

  • Popular spot, so waiting time can be long (we waited for about 20 minutes on Friday night)
  • Great selection of beer
  • Excellent homemade pasta
  • Overall average food quality (we had salty stew, overcooked salmon, greasy pizza, but awesome mushroom pasta)
  • Reasonable prices (around $15-20 for a pizza that can feed 2 kids).
  • Not designed to be kid-friendly.

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

  • The kids love it. Need I say more?

Primanti Bros

  • Okay for a fast food joint (crispy but not greasy fried chicken although the meat is quite dry, good french fries, terrible steaks – ours was burnt)
  • Slow service (we were during rush lunch hour on Saturday)
  • If you have more than 1 hour for lunch, find somewhere else.