PNC Park is often cited as one of Major League Baseball’s best ballparks. The views and vibes, food and fans, beer and baseball have all been reportedly top-notch. But does it actually live up to the hype?

(Spoilers: It does.)

I visited Pittsburgh and PNC Park for the first time recently, and this is the piece I was looking for before I went.  Forget the tourist trap Visit Pittsburgh crap or the bias-Pirates fan point-of-view, I wanted to know the stuff that works for fans of any baseball team and visitors of all kinds. This is now that piece for you, a first-timer’s guide from a recent first-timer.

This isn’t our first ballpark review, by the way, so you’d do well to take our advice. 

Pre-game: Explore the area around the park

A highlight of PNC Park is the view of Pittsburgh’s cityscape beyond the outfield. The iconic yellow bridges not only make for a great picture, but they’re all hustle and bustle before and after the game. The closest, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, is shut off to vehicle traffic and filled with independent merch and concession vendors. 

Just beyond is the Andy Warhol Bridge, which leads to the Andy Warhol museum, just a few steps from the left field entrance to the ballpark. It’s one of the better art museums I’ve been to, not only because Warhol’s life work is fascinating, but because the museum is also a living biography of the man who still stands as one of our most iconic artists. You can do the whole thing in about two hours, and there were plenty of people wearing Pirates gear when I was there, which must mean it’s a pretty common pairing. 

Finally, you have to walk along the riverfront and check out not only the view, but the Pirates history that accompanies it. 

Gates open: Cheap tickets, standing room, and great views

I’ll give you three guesses as to how I bought my tickets.

Through the Pirates website? No way!

Scalper on the street? Nope, but there were plenty of them.

SeatGeek? Use code BLCHRBRWLS for $0 off! Nope!


That’s right, two lower-level tickets tucked along the first or third baselines for $50. The view is great (the third baseline gives an excellent view of the city), and you can see all the action. In some parks, sitting in the corners means an awkward view (cough Camden cough), but the PNC Park seats are angled to give you a straight-ahead view of the action. 

Are there cheaper ways to buy tickets? Almost certainly. There’s plenty of standing room available, including first-come seats and tables at the bars and restaurants in left and center field. Or you could stand next to the guys doing the broadcast pre-game show. Consider buying a cheap ticket just to get in and then grab one of these spots. 

Warmups: Explore the history inside the park

Almost every Major League Baseball team has a shiny new-enough ballpark, and those that don’t probably want one. As the old ballparks are torn down, we often lose the history that goes along with them. The Pirates organization has done a great job of honoring the history of Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium. The park seems like a love letter to Pirates Past, like the Warhol-inspired pop artwork depicting old players or the (above) plaque commemorating the first all-minority lineup in MLB history. 

Nothing about Dock Ellis pitching a no-hitter on LSD, however. What a shame.

Then check out the Pirates Hall of Fame, which not only includes obvious picks like Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Pie Traynor, but now-enshrined folks “who made a significant impact on the community.” That means it’s really more of a Pittsburgh Baseball Hall of Fame because it includes Negro leaguers who played for local teams. For example, Josh Gibson, the greatest catcher to ever live (he hit 800 home runs!), played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays – who played at Forbes Field. This makes the nerds like the SABR members, Negro league historians, and myself very happy. 

First pitch: Pierogies, pierogies, pierogies!


Pittsburgh is synonymous with pierogies, and PNC Park doesn’t disappoint. While some parks do mid-inning Hot Dog races or mascot races, the Pirates feature a Pierogi Race. I was rooting for Oliver Onion because…well…I can’t think of a better pierogi stuffing. And at my first-ever Pirates game – he won! It felt like a sign from the baseball between-inning entertainment gods. I’m not sure if it’s really any different from any other mascot race, but it’s at least equally fun.  

But, of course, it’s really about the pierogies you can, you know, actually eat. This season PNC Park has introduced the “Renegade Dog,” a foot-long hot dog topped with pot roast, mini potato pierogies, pickles (I learned this weekend that pickles are the same thing as cucumbers – I’m 26 years old), and onions. I couldn’t track it down in the park, so I turned to an usher and asked, “Could you help me find the ho-,” which is all I got out before he said, “You’re looking for the Renegade Dog! It’s behind home plate.” He must get a lot of questions about it. 

It’ll set you back $15, but that’s not too bad for ballpark food. Plus it’s a whole meal on its own. I enjoyed mine by the riverfront. I felt like a true Pirates fan. 

Oh, and don’t forget the dessert pierogies filled with sweet cheese and topped with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. 

Seventh inning stretch: All of the food is good, not just pierogies

Although it may feel like it, PNC Park has more than just pierogies. Peanuts and Cracker Jacks and the usual concession fare are all available. I can vouch for the fries, mac and cheese at Manny’s, and the draft beer in center field. Canned beer is reasonably priced (for a ballpark) and always within reach.

But I’d like to highlight a Pittsburgh staple: Primanti Bros. The original location is in the city’s Strip District (which sounds naughtier than it is), but there’s another one located on the first baseline in the park. Primanti’s is known for its stacked-high sandwiches, towered with a grilled meat of your choice, cheese, tomato, french fries, and sweet coleslaw – all stacked on fresh Italian bread. It’s one of those things that sounds like tourist-trap BS, but it’s just as good as everyone says it is. The sandwich is so big you have to open your mouth all the way just to fit it in…and even then you want another. It’s amazing. I went to the original location, and I would suggest doing that because you have the whole menu to choose from (you should get the capicola). I’m sure the ballpark location will do just fine if you’re short on time though. 

But don’t be. The park, the city, and the fans were all welcoming and pleasant. Don’t rush. Take a weekend and soak it all in. It’s worth the hype.

All photos supplied by the author.

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