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Must See Museums in Western, PA

Must See Museums in Western, PA

by Chris Petry

If there’s one thing that gets my nerdy blood pumping, it’s a good museum. Plus, there are museums specializing in virtually everything. Visit the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia and you’ll be both delighted and abhorred at the collection of antique surgical instruments and specimens, including a piece of noted Theoretical Physicist Albert Einstein’s brain. In Middleton, Wisconsin, you can spend your afternoon reviewing former Assistant Attorney General Barry Levenson’s mustard collection. I kid you not. In Blackfoot, Idaho you’ll find (rather expectedly) The Potato Museum. If you’re ever up North, in Haines, Alaska to be exact, be sure to stop by The Hammer Museum. Which I’m guessing is best appreciated before visiting The Nail Museum, assuming one exists.
Western, Pennsylvania is home to a number of worthwhile museums. Click on the links below for hours and pricing.
The Heinz History Center- Easily one of the most recognizable hometown brands, the H.J. Heinz Company has long been the first name in red French fry garnish. As a longstanding Allegheny County institution, it’s no surprise that the museum bearing its namesake has become something of a repository for all things Pittsburgh. Visitors can take a trip back to their childhood with a walk-through Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, explore the city’s historical role in the French and Indian War, review the history of Pittsburgh innovation, and more.
The Andy Warhol Museum- Pop art fan or not, you’ll definitely want to scratch this one off your list at some point. Andy Warhol was, after all, one of the most influential of Pittsburgh’s famous sons, revolutionizing the way art was produced, marketed, and sold. Exhibits change routinely, giving different artists and styles their turn to shine in the spotlight. The current featured exhibit is dedicated to The Velvet Underground and Nico (the infamous art rock band that gave the world Lou Reed). Of course, you can’t leave without bouncing around those big silver balloons.

The Carnegie Science Center- The featured traveling exhibit right now is Vikings: Warriors of the North Sea, and if you’ve been debating on whether or not to see it, don’t miss out. The exhibit moves on to the next market on September, 4th. Of course, if your tastes are a little more modern, you’ll want to take a peek at the Robot Hall of Fame, which includes recreations of some of the most famous robots in the history of pop culture. Other highlights include an exhibit on space exploration past and future and the incredibly impressive railroad and village diorama that will have model railroad enthusiasts everywhere dropping their jaws.
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History- Do you like dinosaurs? How about rocks and crystals? Egyptology? Well, then you’re in luck! The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has all that and more. Don’t forget to check out the Hall of Botany, the North American and African Wildlife exhibits, and the Hall of Bugs for all you more entomologically inclined.
The Mattress Factory
- Looking to indulge your appetite for the Avant Garde? Check out The Mattress Factory, located in the historic Mexican War Streets of Pittsburgh. If the Andy Warhol Museum is the Mecca of Pop Art and Post Modernism, The Mattress Factory is the pinnacle of the Contemporary. Current featured artists include Asim Waqif, Shohei Katayama, and Lydia Rosenberg. Faint warning, if your artistic tastes lean more toward traditional mediums and definitions of artistic expression, the Mattress Factory’s displays can be puzzling at best, slightly pretentious at worst. Still, with an open mind and a couple hours to spare, you might find yourself fully immersed in this one-of-a-kind Pittsburgh experience.
The Children’s Museum- The Children’s Museum is the perfect weekend immersion experience for families. Children can get right into it, trying their hands at art, gardening, construction and engineering, and various scientific processes.
The Frick Museum- The Frick Museum is more like the Frick Museums, as it encompasses multiple buildings. The Car and Carriage Museum and The Frick Art Museum are probably the most famous and for good reason. Gearheads will delight in exploring some of the most prized models from the dawn of the technology in the Victorian era to the mid-century golden age of car ownership. The Art Museum includes an impressive array of pieces from the Medieval and Renaissance periods, which will surely intrigue the most ostentatious of art historians.
Trundle Manor- Trundle Manor is a home away from home for anyone whoever wished their private residence would resemble The Munster’s house. With an extensive collection of taxidermy, horror, goth, and Victorian steampunk treasures, you’ll find yourself wanting to button up the waistcoat or corset, slap on the eyeliner extra thick, and book a trip to the most bizarre reaches of Swissvale. The best part? Admission is a donation. Jarred medical maladies, vintage surgical implements, and of course, your finest chardonnay are all accepted forms of payment.
Meadowcroft Rock Shelter- For yet another attraction just off the beaten path, you’ll want to go just south of the city to Washington County to explore the Meadowcroft Rock Shelter. What is it? Well, not really a traditional museum but more of an encased archaeological site, highlighting what is reported to be a 19,000-year-old sandstone shelter. If the dating is correct, that would mean there was a permanent human settlement in Western, Pennsylvania much earlier than originally thought. So, take a tour of the site and decide for yourself.
Randyland- Much like Trundle Manor, this one is independently owned and there’s no paid fee at the door. In fact, there’s not really a door. It’s an outside Art Museum on Pittsburgh’s Northside, not far from the aforementioned Mattress Factory. Just take a couple seconds to do a Google Image search of Randyland. You’ll be convinced of the need to go without my upsell. It’s without doubt, one of the most vivid, fun, and original displays of “found object” art you’re likely to see anywhere.
Of course, there are even more museums than the ones listed above but we hoped to present a good mixture of the usual suspects as well as more niche and lesser celebrated attractions. No matter what you do, don’t resist the urge to have fun at any of these great establishments in our fair city.