|Subject: Re: Pittsburgh in December|
I meant to write earlier, but lost track in the holiday rush here in Pittsburgh. One part of your question that I do remember was a request about really good used bookstores.
Sadly, the "mallification" of America is pretty bad here in Pittsburgh. I would suggest the University District for used bookstores, but the best used bookstores here have all gone away. However, the most interesting shops and bookstores in the city, even though they may include chains, are in the neighborhoods of Oakland (U. district), Squirrel Hill, and Shadyside, which are all contiguous to one another on the east end of the city proper.
There are many small ethnic restaurants scattered about these neighborhoods, also. There are movie theaters in Squirrel Hill that sometimes show interesting films other than big Hollywood releases.
Another neighborhood with some interest is the South Side. This runs along the Monongehela River, just south of downtown, or city center. There used to be much better bookstores there, but there still might be something of interest. There are definetly some art galleries and record stores, and also antiques and inexpensive but good ethnic restaurants.
From the South Side, it is easy to walk downtown, and also to the fairly god-awful tourist complex called Station Square. These are remodeled and repurposed railroad buildings that used to be a lot more fun, but now are home to chains like Joe's Crab Shack and the Hardrock Cafe. I stay away. However, if you want to ride the incline to the top of Mt Washington (and I suggest you try it; the views are spectacular, it's cheap, and the ride is fun) this is the place to catch it.
My favorite shopping and eating (in the daytime) part of town is the Strip District, which used to be the produce yards, but now is home to lots of food stores, bars and restaurants, and one book store. The book shop there is best for cook books, gift books, and not much for literature or quality nonfiction. There are lots of places to eat, but this turns into a heavily trafficked bar area at night. This area runs along the south shore of the Allegheny River as you leave the city center.
I hope this helps. I have spent most of my life living in the heart of the city here, and if you tell more, I can probably tell you more!
Debbie in Pittsburgh