Title: Family Visit to CMU, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Preparation: CMU address: 5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 I. Flight tickets: Booked flight tickets in April with United Airlines, from SFO to Pittsburgh International Airport. It's a round trip with no stop, cost about $950. A friend told me she had booked Southwest airlines much earlier, cost a bit more than $400. II. Hotel: Hyatt House Pittsburgh/Bloomfield/Shadyside Address: 5335 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15224. Booked a double queen bed suite with a kitchen that has a lot of kitchen supplies such as knives, pots, pans, bowls, plates, etc. for cooking. Our family liked it. Cost about $240 / night. I searched online and directly booked it on the hotel website. III. Transportation: We drove our own car to SFO and parked it in Park 'N Fly, cost about $20 /day; Their service was good but there were not many shuttles in operation. When we came back, we had to wait for about 15 minutes. The driver told us we could call them when we got off the flight. Park SFO has more frequent shuttles, I believe the price is a bit lower. about $17 / day, however you may get 1 day free if you park there for 3 days. A friend also told me that Anza Parking SFO $12.90 / day with coupon which can be downloaded online. In PIT, we rented a car at Hertz. We booked it online in advance. Medium Sedan, around $120 /day. Trip itinerary: 1st day: landing in PIT and checking in to the hotel, CMU Campus Visit 2nd day: Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History; Carnegie Library Museum price: $20 / Adult, $12 / Children, age 3 - 12 CMU students are free. (ID verification needed) The Library is free. Address: 4400 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213 Parking: The parking lot is located directly behind the museum and can be accessed from the intersection of Forbes Avenue and South Craig Street. $7 / car 3rd day: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Address: 1 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Price: about $20 / person Parking: Street parking, free. You may need to park along the trails, and streets, and walk more than 0.5 miles to the entrance. 4th day: The Duquesne Incline. address: 1197 WEST CARSON STREET PITTSBURGH, PA. 15219. Price: about $5/person. Parking: about $5 / car. The State Point Park Address: 601 Commonwealth Pl, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Price: Free. Parking: Street parking near Market Square, which is near the intersection of Fobes Avenue and Market street. We walked more than 0.5 miles to the park. Price: about $18 for 4 or 5 hours 5th day: We visited Falling Water, a house designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Buy ticket online at least one month earlier. See more details in another post, search "Frank" in youishare home page. The above prices may vary as time passes.
General opinion: Absolutely worth visiting. Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. When we got off the plane and drove to the hotel, the most impressive part of Pittsburgh's scenary is the lush green trees. All the trees and plants grow very well and it seems that all the buildings and facilities were in the big forests. Pittsburgh rains very often which is good for the plants.
Attractions and activities: 1. CMU campus visit: attended information session and the campus tour.: Both these activities need a reservation in advance. When you get there, you need to go to the Coulter CMU visitor center first to get the tag. The visitor center locates in the Tepper School of Business building. Usually, high school students' families visit the campus in the summer to understand the admission process and get other information. Information sessions are also held in local areas. if you cannot travel to Pittsburgh, you will have the opportunities to attend the info session in local. The Campus tour is 1 hour. Two volunteer students guided the family to visit the main buildings and share their college experiences which is quite helpful. 2. Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History: The Hall of Architecture is very impressive and has many plaster cast collections, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance. 3. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, near CMU: It has a few gardens that were designed based on Claud Monet's paintings such as 'Luncheon Under the Canopy", "Water-Lilies", etc. 4. The Duquesne Incline: You can ride the 19 century built cable car to the top of Mount Washinton area. You can visit the interior of the incline and watch the machinery while it operates. You can also see the most beautiful view of downtown Pittsburgh there.
Dining: You can find many restaurants in downtown Pittsburgh. We had bought lunch in Chipotle near Market Square, price about $17 / person. We liked the meals. We have bought groceries and meat in the Market District Supermarket: address: 5550 Centre Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232. Parking lot available, free. Have also shopped at Panda Supermarket, address: 5816-5818 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217. Had to do street parking, after 6 pm, free. there was no dedicated parking there. Be careful, some streets in nearby communities has one-way street.
Commute: We rented a car from Hertz at Pittsburgh International Airport. But just to remind you, if you were offered with "Upgrade" without extra charge for a minivan, do not take that because those mini vans are too small to fit any regular size luggage or a multiple members family. We did that initially and then had to change it back to the regular medium sedan. If you could, avoid the red-eye flights that take off from SFO at 11:25pm, to PIT 2nd day at 7:25 am no stop, about 5 hours. Kids did not like it because they cannot have a regular night sleep.
Lodge: I booked the hotel by searching on google. Later I found this: CMU website has travel hotel information: https://www.cmu.edu/parents/events/travel-and-hotels.html There are listed 8 hotels you may get a 15% discount by entering code "PCCMU" during registration.
Things I wish I had known before: DO NOT use Guest Reservations to book any hotels. My story is: for another trip, I searched on google and it showed a hotel with a promotion price that was a good deal compared with others. I clicked that Guest Reservations link and it showed only a few minutes left to keep the price and the reservation, I placed the order because of the time pressure; and then I found there was more than $200 tax-recovery and extra service fee charge. I was expecting my 2 nights cost was around $500 but its actual total was $712.90. I felt it was a scam that cheated me, so 2 minutes after the order, we canceled it in the email link and thought we wouldl get a full refund. After that, I booked it on the hotel's own website. A few weeks later, we found the credit card has been charged from the "Guest Reservations". we called the company and the hotel and spent a few hours trying to get refunded but we were told that deal we clicked was "no-refund". So we had paid more than the double price for the 2 nights' stay. Later we searched online, Reddit showed other travelers also had similar experience as mine, see those posts by searching on google with the key words "Reddit Guest Reservations" . Another lesson is: whenever you are planning to cancel a hotel or flight, you need to read documents or email carefully, or ask the company or hotels to see if you can get refund or not, do not blindly click the cancel button. If you have no time to read the fine printed policy, just search "refund" key word and find out the critical information.