When my son was a toddler, he used to watch Barney. While I found the purple dinosaur a bit annoying, each year when the days begin to grow shorter and the cicadas commence their symphony, ironically, I find myself singing a Barney song called “I Like Autumn.” That’s because I do like this season and, for a number of reasons, I think it is Pittsburgh’s best.
Say what you will, but the weather in Pittsburgh can be quite mercurial. Winter in the Pittsburgh area is often dreary, cold, miserable and seemingly lasts until Memorial Day. While spring in the city is lovely, too often it is ruined by frost or monsoonal rains. Summers in Pittsburgh are often characterized by the three H’s: hazy, hot, and humid. But then comes the refreshing relief of fall. By the time September rolls around, the sweltering humidity has usually dissipated from the atmosphere leaving the area with sparkling blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Days are pleasant and nights are made for sleeping with the windows open. October is generally our sunniest month.
Pittsburgh is a leaf-peepers paradise. Unlike people from other parts of the country, we don’t have to travel to New England to see mother nature in all her autumnal glory; she puts on a show right here. Our woods blaze with color starting in late September, spurring even the most rooted of couch potatoes to get out and immerse themselves in this technicolor spectacle.
Summer’s annual flowers begin to look a bit shabby as summer gives way to fall, but don’t despair the fading of the pastel impatients and showy roses because the rich hues of mums soon take over the garden. In addition, ornamental kale and cabbage outlast mums. If winters are mild, these plantings can live well beyond fall and provide color for the harsh winter landscape.
If you like to imbibe in a brew, this is a great time of the year. Many breweries whip up special, seasonal beers in the fall, and recently, brew-your-own establishments have opened where you can visit and learn how to create your own beer. Oktoberfests proliferate with celebrations at the Hofbrauhaus, Old Economy, Penn Brewery, and a variety of other places.
From nationality festivals to flower shows to various harvest celebrations and the opening of pumpkin patches or corn mazes, it seems there’s always something fun going on during the fall. Get out your calendar now and pencil in those events that celebrate the fall season.
Everyone knows how popular high school football is in Texas from the TV show Friday Night Lights, but Western Pennsylvania can probably give Texas a run for its money. Each Friday night (and sometimes Saturday) in the fall, local high school stadiums and fields are packed with spectators rooting for their alma maters. And if that doesn’t sate your appetite for pig skin, on Saturday, college football takes the field with numerous local colleges competing for glory. The Division 1 Pittsburgh Panthers and Penn State Nittany Lions square off against rivals, making for great tailgating opportunities, the chance to see some exciting action, or for a great fall afternoon or evening sitting in your recliner in front of the tube rooting for your team.
On Sunday (or the occasional Monday or Thursday), if you still haven’t had enough football, comes the pinnacle of a Pittsburgh football fan’s week: the Steelers game. In addition to watching exciting gridiron competition, a Steelers game gives you an excuse to tailgate, eat yummy snacks, throw back a few beers, and best of all, wear your Steelers jersey to church on Sunday!
Was it too humid or sweltering this summer for a hike or a stroll? Fall is the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy our area and the glories of fall. Explore the city with a walking tour. Or maybe peddling is your preference, or perhaps paddling? Whatever your means of mobility, you will be rewarded with dazzling scenery, the delightful scent of leaves, and feelings of exhilaration. Many running races are held this time of year if you’ve got a need for speed. Pittsburgh holds the Great Race in September, giving you the chance to run the streets of the city.
If you like wine, apples, corn, or pumpkins, you are in your heyday. In fall, we reap the harvest of plants sown in the spring and the summer. Fall is a great time to visit a local winery, taste some vintages, and purchase wines for the upcoming holiday season. Nothing takes the chill off an autumn evening more than sipping a spicy, hot apple cider. Visit your local farm market to stock up on apple cider or grab some ears of corn for a corn roast, and while you are there, grab a pumpkin or two. If you haven’t noticed, pumpkin flavor has become extremely popular, resulting in everything from pumpkin lattes to pumpkin Pop-Tarts. You might want to try your hand at a new pumpkin recipe.
When September rolls around, many in the area come down with Pennant fever. There is nothing more exciting than a Pirates run for the Pennant and, dare we say it, a World Series appearance? As the days grow cooler, let’s hope the Buccos get even hotter because there’s nothing finer than cheering on a championship team on a crisp October night.
The summer travel season is over and the crowds are gone, which makes fall ripe for traveling. With the beauty of the fall foliage, you’ll want to stay local, and there are endless possibilities for day-trips or weekend get-aways. Or maybe you just want to stay in town. Dinner and a trip to the Mt. Washington overlook is always a great stop on any itinerary. And for you romantics, no other site is more popular than Mt. Washington for sharing magical moments as you take in the wonders of our hillsides as they blush to scarlet, gold and burnt sienna with your special someone.
Let’s face it, Pittsburgh had zombies before they were cool. In addition to this being ground zero for the undead, this region offers many other spine-tingling attractions and sites to scare the bejeebees out of you such as haunted houses, aviaries, and cemeteries.
The turning of the leaves signals a return to hockey as the Pittsburgh Penguins head to training camp in September before the start of the regular season, which begins in October. If the Pirates are in contention in the fall, and with the Steelers, college, and high school football seasons underway, adding hockey to the mix means you can’t find a better time of the year to be a sports fan in Pittsburgh.
You may have other reasons why you like the fall, but these are just some of the reasons I love this time of year so much that I’m compelled to break out into a chorus of “I Like Autumn.” Now, Barney on the other hand…I’m still not too keen on him.
By Janice Lane Palko