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Written by Janna Leyde

Pups wanna get out and about. Take our four-month-old Golden Retriever puppy, for example. She will tear up and down stairs. She will run circles after her tail. She would do Parkour in our living room if we let her. When we take her off her leash outside she goes crazy. Good crazy. But we live in the city of Pittsburgh and unlike my parents’ Golden Retriever who has nearly 40 acres to romp in, Mae Belle has a tightly controlled reign of the sidewalks.

So we went in search of off-leash places to play and we happily discovered that Pittsburgh is a pooch-friendly place. From green spaces to PNC Park, there are lots of things for dogs to do on or off leash.

jannas-dog-in-fountain
Author Janna Leyde with Mae at Point State Park. Oops!

Although dogs are welcome in most city parks and green spaces on a leash, there are several designated dog areas in city parks where you can take your pup for some fun off-leash playtime:

Frick Park was the first park in the city to have an off-leash exercise area (OLEA). Dogs run free in two fenced-in areas near Blue Slide Playground and pup and owner can meander the trails for a nature experience. Take Tranquil Trail, which winds through the valley and along the creek, crossing at a place where your dog can splash around. If a cool down in the shallow water isn’t enough, go for a dip at Hot Dog Damn—the swimming hole just for dogs—located near Lower Tranquil Trail.

Riverview Park has a fenced in OLEA that sits on the hill just below the Allegheny Observatory. Not only can your canine friend run free here, but there are hills for running up and down and trees for circling. It’s a great workout for both of you. You can also head off down one of the trails and follow it deep into the woods where the many birds, deer and squirrels will provide entertainment for your four-legged friend. You might even run into a horse and rider.

Located on 25 rolling acres of Franklin Park is Misty Pines Dog Park, and it’s well worth the $6 per dog to play for an hour or two. Playground areas abound—specific for big dogs, small dogs and even one for puppies. And for those canines itching to get wet, let them run off the dock and jump into the dog pond. Along with dog training, pet boarding, doggie daycare and grooming services, Misty Pines will rent out spaces if you want to throw your dog a party.

Venture up to Olympia Park on Mount Washington for some higher elevation exercise. Following a controversial decision on where to relocate the dog park, there is a newly re-opened and fenced-in dog run. If your dog has excess energy to burn, choose one of the trails nearby.

The Carnegie Dog Park recently underwent improvements thanks to an Eagle Scout project. This long, grassy fenced-in area is ideal for throwing and retrieving and you’ll find plenty of balls left behind for that purpose. Trees provide shade for owners who often congregate as they watch their dogs run around and the park beyond is good for walking your dog. Check out the very cool Pitcher Park, one of the best skateboarding parks around.

Readers weighed in to offer more suggestions: Bellevue DogsWoods Park in Bellevue Memorial Park is much loved by residents and others and they offer Small Dog Social on Sunday afternoons. According to their Facebook page, the park features open areas for dogs to run and play, as well as naturally wooded areas, a separate area for small dogs (under 25 lbs.), a small pond and a small agility course.

There’s an off leash, unfenced area in Allegheny Commons near the Aviary. In Monroeville there’s Heritage Dog Park, a “very large fully fenced area with shaded areas” located at 2364 Saunders Station Road, Monroeville. The park offers water, benches, chairs and picnic tables. In Bridgeville, check out Fairview Park for off-leash frolicking.

It should be noted that you cannot let your pup run free at Point State Park but for any creature who likes to people watch, there’s plenty to see such as boats, runners, boot-campers, Segway tours, and, of course, other dogs. On a hot day, sit near the fabulous fountain and catch a misty breeze to cool off. Dogs love it!

Ponds and hikes aside, if your pup needs some grass and all you need is a bench, there are plenty of places to go. Hartwood Acres is another county dog park, like South Park, that has a large area, pick-up bags, and in the warmer months, a water pump. The Bernard Dog Run in Lawrenceville, the result of a four-year community effort to open an off-leash area, has separate large and small dog spaces and can be accessed off the riverfront trail under the 40th Street Bridge.

South Park Dog Park is a popular spot with drinking water, pick up bags and benches. And you’ve got 200 acres throughout the park to roam with your dog on leash. If—ok, when—your dog gets dirty, stop in at nearby Woody’s Dog Wash & Boutique for a self-service dog bath.

Get to the doggie amusement park. The dog stop in the East End Dog Stop is the one with the water park. The 17,000-square-foot facility has a dog day care, a kennel, grooming services, a retail store and an outdoor space with a pond, water wall and special anti-microbial turf, or what we call grass. There are now six Dog Stops in the city. “We also pride ourselves on the sizes of our inside doggie daycare play yards,” says Jennifer Ferris-Glick, owner of one Pittsburgh location. “They are like a supervised, indoor, off-leash park.”

stephan bontrager with ginger
Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife with Ginger at the Hotel Monaco. Photo: Tracy Certo/NEXTpittsburgh

Stay at a swanky hotel. Yep, the new Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh is pet friendly. You and your four-legged companion can enjoy the luxury of this cool and chic hotel, from the funky furnishings in the upper lounge to the rooms with dog bowls (we want one!) and dog beds. There’s no restriction on pet size so your Bernese Mountain Dog is just as welcome as that tiny Yorkie. Fill out the required pet registration when you check in to help the hotel staff provide the proper accommodations for you and your dog. (Note: NEXTpittsburgh has tested it and they’re great with dogs. Ours can’t wait to return.)

Root for the home team. Every Tuesday night the Pirates play at home is Pup Night at PNC Park when dog lovers and Buccos fans take over a portion of the upper deck. A $30 Pup Night ticket (a portion of the proceeds go toward local animal shelters) gets you a seat and one for your pup, too, plus endless treats, bottomless water bowls, a clean-up crew and a paw-friendly kiddie pool. Dogs are actually permitted to sit next to their owner in the seats. Hey, some dogs really get into Pirate baseball.

Cool Off. Summer gets hot around here, so it’s no wonder that kids and dogs alike seek out ways to get wet. The verdict is out on whether kids and dogs are allowed to play in the Water Steps on the North Shore; however, pass by on a hot day and you’ll some splashing around. Another hot cool down spot is the South Shore Riverfront Park at SouthSide Works where you’ll find lots of smiling folks watching their dogs enjoy the misters embedded in the trails on the river side of Hofbrauhaus.

DINING OUT

There are quite a few restaurants with outdoor seating that happily welcome dogs, sometimes with treats. So sit down and have a meal or a drink or with your BFF (Best Furry Friend).

Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle — The Strip District
Grist House Brewing — Millvale
Redfin Blues — Washington’s Landing
Legends of the North Shore — North Side
Double Wide Grill — South Side
Diamond Market Bar & Grill — Downtown
Cappy’s Cafe — Shadyside

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Powered by Leah Lizarondo for NEXTPittsburgh.

Graffiti. Wheatpastes. Stencils. Murals. Once renegade and considered urban blight, street art is now a cultural movement showcased in sold-out museum exhibitions and co-opted by brands from Adidas to Dolce & Gabbana.

We’re not talking about the aimless tagging that litters public and private spaces. Think instead of the more famous urban street artists, from Banksy and Basquiat, to Blek Le Rat and Espo.

Or locally think of Tim Kaulen, one of the most recognized street artists-turned-legit. His works–the iconic Deerhead at Carrie Furnaces and his classic Amaco Bulls–were among the first urban art fixtures in the city. Today, his commissioned work appears throughout the city, including  The Workers, a 20-foot sculpture honoring Pittsburgh’s heritage located along the South Side riverfront.

John Rodella rides by The Workers by Tim Kaulen. Photo by Tracy Certo.
John Rodella rides by The Workers by Tim Kaulen. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Our city’s architecture provides a rich canvas for artists—both authorized and transient. And there are some areas where the art is  so concentrated that it’s like walking through an outdoor gallery.

We spoke with Shannon of PGH Murals, street artists Jeremy Raymer and Shane Pilster and visited many neighborhoods with great street art. Here are some of the best places we’ve found and a good start to your Pittsburgh street art tour.

At the Carrie Furnace. Photo by Shane Pilster.
NSF Crew graf at the Carrie Furnace. Photo by Shane Pilster.

1. Carrie Furnace

In 2012, Shane Pilster, a San Francisco Bay native who moved to Pittsburgh over a decade ago, took a tour of the Carrie Furnace.  Pilster, who has been painting graffiti, marveled at the rich “collection” in the historic site—pieces by artists like Hert, Prism, Mfone, Necksi, Onorok, and 21Rak, to name a few. He convinced Ron Baraff, who directs the furnace’s archives, not only to preserve a few of the works but also to designate a couple of spaces for street artists to produce new ones.

Local artist Ryan Keene did this for the Alloy Pittsburgh show in 2013. Photo by Tracy Certo.
Ryan Keene for the Alloy Pittsburgh Show 2013 at the Carrie Furnace. Photo by Tracy Certo.

In these new walls, Pilster and artists like Kaff-eine have created work that is a sight to behold. Pilster holds Urban Art Tours and Workshops at the Carrie Furnace, a great immersive experience to get a broader understanding of street art’s culture and wide-ranging style.

Art by Kaff-eine. Photo by Jeremy Raymer.
Art by Kaff-eine. Photo by Jeremy Raymer.
Art by Matt Gondek. Photo by Jeremy Raymer
Art by Matt Gondek. Photo by Jeremy Raymer

2. Lawrenceville

Of course, uber-hip Lawrenceville makes the list. Start at Doughboy Square to check out Kaff-eine’s work on a boarded-up building.  It reflects the street artist ethos, says street artist Jeremy Raymer. “Note how she preserved a Shepard Fairey ‘Obey’ wheat paste by incorporating it in the creature standing.” Raymer’s work, both commissioned and otherwise, can be seen around the city, including the street art gallery on the walls of houses on 35th St. and 42nd St.  Don’t miss the“Exploding Homer” by Matt Gondek on Dresden Way between 54th and 55th St. PGH Murals lists 23 works in this area alone.

Art by Swoon. Photo by PGH Murals.
Art by Swoon. Photo by PGH Murals.

3. Braddock and North Braddock

With 33 works listed on PGH Murals, a street art tour is just one more reason to check out Braddock. Works by James Simon, Anthony Purcell, Kaff-eine, Swoon, and the 30 artists collective enliven the one square-mile town. Make sure you veer off Braddock Ave. to check out Lady Pink’s Brick Woman under the bridge on Library St. along with Maya Hayuk’s pattern on 809 Talbot Ave., and portraits of local residents by Swoon under the railroad on 505 Verona St.

Since you’re in the area, head over to North Braddock for a short stop. Street art royalty Swoon and the Transformazium art collective have taken over an old church in North Braddock to launch theBraddock Tiles project.  You can see some of her work outside the church, on 798 Hawkins Ave. including a super adobe structure at 714 Jones Ave.

4. The East Busway

At 5880 Centre Avenue on the Busway is one of the most detailed murals in the East End (see top photo).  “This mural is only visible from the busway or from Tay Way or College Ave where it wraps behind the Tokyo Japanese Food Market off Ellsworth Ave in Shadyside. It’s worth the effort to find a vantage point to see it,” notes PGH Murals. Multiple artists contributed to the work but Ashley Hodder’s Mother Nature image on the left is especially noteworthy for its breathtaking detail. Bring binoculars or a telephoto lens to catch every element that makes up this beautiful work.

And not to miss: On the busway’s North Homewood Ave. end, Hodder and other artists have created “Peace Over Pittsburgh” an exceptional mural under the overpass.

Various artists. Photos by PGH Murals.
Various artists. Photos by PGH Murals.

5. Wilkinsburg

Wilkinsburg may not have the most concentration of street art but it does have a great mix of murals and graffiti. Start at 1105 Franklin Ave. to see Lucas Stock’s and Kyle Holbrook’s graffiti-style mural,Wilkinzburg. Trace the busway route and go off on the side streets to catch other great work. Don’t miss 701 Wood St. where multiple artists including Colleen Black have covered five large walls and a gazebo. There is so much detail in this dense collection that you can spend hours just taking it all in.

Artist James Simon. Photo by PGH Murals.
Artist James Simon. Photo by PGH Murals.

6. Uptown

It’s no surprise that artist James Simon’s neighborhood is on this list. Simon’s work can be seen throughout the county, but along Forbes and the short expanse of Gist St. is a concentration of his work and that of his colleagues. Don’t miss the the whimsical Base Man with Moon and the toweringUrban Rhythm along Forbes Avenue. Exploring the street art is a good way to get acquainted with this up and coming neighborhood.

7. Oakland

Start your Oakland tour by checking out the Locks of Love on Schenley Park Bridge, modeled after a project in Paris. Couples can write their names on a lock and fix it to the chain-link fence to commemorate their love for each other. Then go on a scavenger hunt of sorts to spot some pink dinosaurs, protractors and the Doors of Oakland project.

Artist Unknown. Photo by PGH Murals.
Artist Unknown. Photo by PGH Murals.

Bonus: The Garfield Gators Mascot

This work is the only noncommissioned work on the PGH Murals site. And rightly so because it is a beautiful, site-specific work—once discovered, the developers on the site decided not to paint over it. The work is located along N. Pacific Ave at Kincaid St in Garfield and it will take some climbing to find it.  The location is about 2/10 of a mile walk from Penn Ave. on N. Evaline. It’s very much worth the hunt.

One of the best sources for street art maps in this city is PGH Murals. Founded by two avid cyclists who go by the names Shannon and Vannaver, the site is the most comprehensive map of legal street art in the city, an eye-opening collection that showcases some of the city’s hidden gems. Growing from 150 locations three years ago to more than 500 today,  it includes every commissioned public art, from the Sprout Fund murals we know and love to Shepard Fairey’s 20 sites from 2010, once vivid but now worn and familiar.

Street Art Pittsburgh is another online resource that maps some specific work like riot robots and pink dinosaurs, a good source for “non-commissioned” street art.

Got a favorite we didn’t mention? Feel free to comment below or email us. 

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Powered by Kyle Lawson for NEXTPittsburgh.

Thousands of people packed the 900 block of Penn Avenue in June for a rousing concert by El Gran Combo, a hugely popular salsa band from Puerto Rico hailed by promoters as the Rolling Stones of their genre.

The opening act – Noel Quintana Latin Crew– performs regularly in the Cleveland and Pittsburgh area and the concert, which drew fans from all over the region, was a big hit. But more than that, it showed in a big and public way that the Latin music scene in Pittsburgh is coming on strong.

“I believe there’s a shared vision that music is an opportunity to really bring people together,” says Betty Cruz, non-profit manager for the Mayor’s office, who worked alongside members of ¡Hola Pittsburgh! and other city officials to help organize the event. Others, like Carla Leininger of Global Beats, who has been working this scene for years, would agree with Cruz.

The turnout was indicative of a demographic shift in recent years as the Latino population in Allegheny County doubled from 11,000 to 22,000 since 2000, according to U.S. Census data.

salsa, puertoriqueno, nuyorican, jazz, Latino, music, free, outdoors, concert
Puerto Rican flags and fans were in joyous evidence at the June 2014 El Gran Combo concert on Penn Avenue, part of the Pittsburgh JazzLive Festival.

Meanwhile, the number of Latin bands in Pittsburgh – ranging from Riot Salsa to Andean flute music – has increased from two or three to about a dozen over the last 20 years, according to local musicians and community leaders.

And the music is reaching younger audiences. Requests for Latin music at schools and dance parties is at an all time high, said Gloria Rodriguez Ransom, performance coordinator for the Pittsburgh Latin American Cultural Union.

Even Steelers fans more likely to catch a game than a live band got a dose of Latin culture at the Sept. 28 game, when Guaracha Latin Dance Band performed in recognition of National Hispanic Heritage month.

It’s all music to the ears of Cuban born Miguel Sague Jr., who has performed and promoted variations of Latin music for more than 30 years for audiences more accustomed to rock-&-roll and American jazz.

In fact, there was a time when Cinco De Mayo didn’t exist in Pittsburgh. “May 5 would come and go and you would not see any mention in any bars or any restaurants—even Mexican restaurants,” Sague Jr. says.

It wasn’t until he walked into the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette building in the mid 1990s holding three national newspapers with Cinco De Mayo coverage that local media took it seriously. “I said to them, ‘does Pittsburgh have to continue to be the backwater town of the country?’”

An article was published that year and his Cinco De Mayo celebration at the former Rosebud in the strip district was packed. “By 1996, we had a well-established Cinco de Mayo tradition,” Sague Jr. said.

And yet performing Latin music was an uphill battle, says Miguel “Cha” Sague III, who would tag along with his dad to shows. The swaying hips of the salsa gigs and the colorful outfits of the Caribbean steel drum gigs in a town known for its steel workers and babushkas was at times both a musical act and a social experiment.

“There were always tough guys who laughed, because they didn’t know how to deal with it,” Sague III says. “But they would start to get the picture when the ladies weren’t laughing. And you get (the guys) on your side when you teach them to dance salsa.”

Sague III has carried on the family tradition as the front man of the Guaracha Latin Dance Band, which originally was formed by his father in the late 1980s.

And while there’s actual competition these days from other Latin bands and DJs, Sague III said the crowds are more appreciative. “A lot of the people coming to shows now are Latino,” he said. The same goes for local dance clubs and restaurants. The dance floor at Cavo in the strip district typically is packed on a weekend night with couples salsa dancing and singles flirting in Spanish at the bar.

In Beechview, a neighborhood known for attracting Latino residents, a fusion of Latin music by Geña y Peña helps draw customers—many of them Mexican Americans—to the Casa Rasta restaurant on Broadway Avenue.

“I’m hearing from customers that (Beechview) is like a Latino community,” says restaurant owner Antonio Fraga, who moved to Pittsburgh from Mexico City 12 years ago.

A second Casa Rasta opened last month in East Liberty, which has provided more gigs for Latin musicians. And while Pittsburgh is far from a Latin hub, musicians and restaurant owners from Latin countries continue to trickle in.

Violinist Alejandro Pinzón moved to Pittsburgh about 10 years by way of Mexico, Argentina and Miami. His latest instrumental project, which he plans to debut in Pittsburgh this winter, blends the violin and guitar of South America and Mexico with the rhythms of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Pinzon said the music was well received by audiences in Mexico, where the group already has performed. “People sometimes spontaneously would start singing,” he said. “Then I would play a second voicing or something on the violin, because the audience had then become the singer.”

While fresh faces on the music scene work to build a following, local organizations are doing their part.

The Clemente brothers onstage at the El Gran Combo concert
Luis and Roberto Clemente Jr., who spent their childhood summers in Green Tree, introduced El Gran Combo to a jubilant crowd.

¡Hola Pittsburgh! is a year-long initiative designed to attract professionals and talent relocating from Puerto Rico.

Welcoming Pittsburgh is a national and grassroots-driven effort to ensure cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans. The timing seems appropriate, based on studies that show Pittsburgh lags behind most peer cities in net immigration.

Sague III says a true indicator of a well-rounded Latin music scene would be the day he’s competing for Mariachi gigs with musicians of Mexican descent.

For decades, the Sague family provided Mariachi music at Quinceañeras and other traditional Mexican celebrations with musicians of Cuban and European descent. “We were filling a need,” Sague III says. “There were no Mexican musicians here at all. We were looking out for the very few Mexicans who were here.”

But for the greater good, Sague III said he wouldn’t mind the competition. “Mexican musicians will start to appear, and when they do, I’ll help book them,” he said. “When we all cooperate and help each other out, there are more gigs.”

Zersha Munir

Pittsburgh’s got jobs — 24,269 open as of today across the 10-county region. You can find them on the ImaginePittsburgh.com job search engine, a one-stop aggregator of career postings updated daily from nearly 900 corporate and government websites and job search engines, including Monster, Career Builder, LinkedIn and Craigslist. Why go there when you can find it all in one place?

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Zersha Munir

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