The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are just around the corner, and this year Pittsburgh (Pa.) is hosting the biggest event in the sport of wrestling on March 21-23. As one of the largest wrestling hot spots in the U.S., the southwestern Pennsylvania area is accustomed large wrestling events, such as the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic and WPIAL tournament. With the elevated level of competition amongst the top guys in the country, there are sure to be some incredible matches. But, as any wrestling fan knows, there can be a lot of downtime between sessions (check out the full daily schedule here). That's why you need a list of the best things to do in Pittsburgh during the NCAA Wrestling Championships, including fan fest, dining, nightlife, and attractions.
If you're a fan of college wrestling, then you need to attend the Fan Festival. When you're not watching wrestling at PPG Paints Arena, then head over to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for a fully immersive college wrestling experience. Participate in fan events such as the WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show, Team USA wrestling practices, NWCA Coaches Clinic featuring Kyle Dake, and all-star autograph sessions. You'll see wrestling greats like Dan Gable, Bruce Baumgartner, and Jordan Burroughs. You can also check out the Hodge Trophy, known as the Heisman Trophy of the college wrestling world. Fan Fest is a great place to check out wrestling off-the-mat, but it's also a nice area to meet friends, grab a drink, and relax. There will also be big screens to view all of the action with replays. The best part? It's free to the public! Get the full Fan Festival schedule here.
Pittsburgh was named the 2019 Food City of the Year by the San Francisco firm af&co., and there's a reason for that. The food scene is Pittsburgh is vibrant to say the least. And food is important to most wrestling fans since the majority of us are former participants of the sport who had to cut weight for many years. So, here's the lowdown on where you should eat in between every session.
Before the morning rounds, you will want to grab something to eat for breakfast so that you can enjoy all of the early-afternoon action. If you're by the arena, then Buford's Kitchen is the go-to place for BBQ pulled pork bowls and fried green tomatoes. Just an Uber-ride down the road are Pamela's Dinner and DeLuca's Diner, two breakfast joints in the Strip District made famous by celebrity visitors. Former President Obama visited Pamela's in 2008 to eat their delicious crepes, while Man V Food's Adam Richman took on the massive pancake at DeLuca's. While you're in the Strip District also visit the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company for all sorts of Italian meats and cheeses to take home to your family, or grab a sweet donut treat at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts.
As for lunch and dinner, there are plenty of options. Your No. 1 stop must be Primanti Bro's, Pittsburgh's almost famous sandwich. After you've had the sandwich with fries, coleslaw, and meat, you can check out the other destinations around Market Square. Stop into The Yard for gourmet grilled cheese or head to NOLA for New Orleans style food. Just a short walk down the road, you can eat at Sienna Mercato, a three story building with a different dining experience on each level. Emporio is a meatball joint, Mezzo offers gourmet Italian, and Il Tetto is a rooftop bar garden.
Further away from the arena you can head to the North Shore or Station Square. One of the North Shore's best restaurants is Burgatory, which offers make-your-own burgers and thick, heavenly milkshakes. Steelers fans may also want to eat at the Jerome Bettis' Grille 36 for a hearty burger. Walk across the Smithfield Bridge to find Station Square's full culinary offerings. Though Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo, original fondue Melting Pot, and Brazilian steakhouse Texas de Brazil aren't native to Pittsburgh, they are all solid choices for dinner plans. If you're trying to stay away from meat due to the Lenten season, check out this article on Pittsburgh's Fish Fry-Days.
Bonus: If you have a car, check out one of Pittsburgh's best pizza restaurants, Beto's Pizza, which serves pizza like no other. Order a slice of pizza with cold cheese on top and your mind will be blown!
The National Wrestling Championships are not just a place to watch the best-of-the-best in college wrestling, it's also a time to catch up with your closest wrestling buddies. After the action is finished each day, head out to a bar to grab a drink.
There are bars all over Pittsburgh, including those close to PPG Paints Arena like Red Beard's and Primanti's. Both places are great sports bars that will have fun atmospheres full of wrestling talk. If you're staying on the North Shore, you can visit Tequila Cowboy or McFadden's for a quick drink and some appetizers. The younger wrestling fans may want to head over the the Pittsburgh South Side for bars like Mario's, Jack's, The Flats, Carson City Saloon, or Jimmy D's that offer more music and entertainment. Another fun place to go for German-style food, drinks, and music is the Hofbrauhaus.
So you've check out Fan Fest, eaten for the day, and are tired from last night's nightlife. Now what? For fans of the high school wrestling as well as other sports, visit the Heinz History Center, which hosts the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Tickets are about $20, but you'll see the best of the Pens, Pirates, Steelers, and other Pittsburgh sports, including legends like Jim Kelly, Bill Cowher, and Dan Marino. You can also find high school programs like Canon-McMillan wrestling, which has a singlet in the museum.
Because you are probably full from the Primanti's Sandwich you ate for lunch, feel free to walk off the carbs around the Point Park University fountain or on the North Shore River Trail. Both are great spots to sightsee in the city. However, the best spot to see Pittsburgh's skyline is at the top of Mount Washington. For $5, you can take the Duquesne Incline to the city's overlook locations for a perfect Instagram picture.
Other notable attractions are the Andy Warhol Museum, The Mattress Factory, Pitt's Cathedral of Learning, Heinz Field, and PNC Park.
The best part about Pittsburgh is that it is full of things to do. Wherever you end up after each session, you're sure to have a great time with fellow wrestling fans!