"You can't get there from here," is a phrase often heard by visitors to Pittsburgh. With three major rivers dividing the city, 2000 bridges (many lined with orange construction cones) and streets that are actually steps, most locals are happy just knowing how to get back and forth to work.
However, there are ways to see Pittsburgh provided someone else drives. A number of companies run bus and trolley tours and one outfit uses WWII amphibious vehicles to travel both the streets and waterways of the city. But the cheapest and most far-reaching tour is inadvertently run by the Port Authority of Allegheny County on some of its regular commuter bus routes. For $1.75 each way, routes designed to get local riders to and from work and shopping can provide visitors with a multi-stop tour of major sights and scenic residential neighborhoods.
One such route is the 500 Highland Park-Bellevue. It begins or ends in the Highland Park section of the East End. The East End is separated from the West End by downtown and up to three rivers depending on how lost you get. Also, the Northside is separated from the Southside by downtown, two rivers and 200 years of suspicion.
Highland Park is home to the Pittsburgh Zoo. My favorite attraction is the outdoor escalator from the parking lot. As there is little level ground in Pittsburgh this is a chance to ride instead of climb.
From Highland Park the bus travels through the residential neighborhoods of East Liberty and Shadyside and then into Oakland, the home of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. From there, it is on to Soho, where you can get a view of the Southside and then it is into downtown. At this point, I suggest that you spend 75 cents for a transfer which is good for three hours and take a walking tour of downtown. The bus goes through downtown much too fast to see anything of value.
After downtown, the bus crosses the Allegheny River to PNC Park home of Major League Baseball's Pirates. Then you will travel into the Northside, where Civil War era homes are being rehabbed into one of the city's best neighborhoods. After that it's on to Brighton Heights, Bellevue and West View and some great views of the city if you look back. At West View the bus turns around and for another $1.75 you can do the tour in reverse.