While the pandemic has slammed the brakes on most face-to-face gatherings that aren’t small in number, outdoor venues have proven to be a popular option because their wide-open spaces are friendly to social distancing and also can appeal psychologically to attendees wary of meeting in enclosed spaces.
Pittsburgh’s downtown—a seven- to eight-block area no more than a mile from end to end—makes it ideal for visitors and groups who desire walkability, with 25 hotels located a short trek from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, top restaurants, major sports stadiums and the 14-block Cultural District.
Getting out in the fresh air is a natural fit for groups in Pittsburgh, which is framed by three majestic rivers—the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio.
“Pittsburgh is an area resplendent with green space, and there are several beautiful options for outdoor meetings and events,” said VisitPITTSBURGH President & CEO Jerad Bachar.
“Additionally, as the team works to rebook and reschedule contracted events, they also are prepared to assist with virtual events in the same regard as they would with in-person events.”
Bachar said the destination has developed the Pittsburgh Global Health and Safety Commitment, which confirms that the city’s hotels, restaurants, venues and attractions follow the safety and sanitization guidelines of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh.
The 1.5 million-square-foot David L. Lawrence Convention Center recently added concessions to lure group business back.
“The Center will not charge additional rental to accommodate events and space requirements due to recommended social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania and Allegheny County Health Departments and the City of Pittsburgh,” David L. Lawrence Convention Center Director of Sales & Marketing Kelli Donahoe announced in a press release. The facility will also waive food and beverage minimums and honor discounts based on estimated F&B spend.
The city’s major hotels have also floated a zero attrition offer for new and existing groups that will actualize in 2020.
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9 Ideal Pittsburgh Outdoor Event Options
For Pittsburgh groups wanting to access outdoor venues in the city, we’ve compiled nine options that can serve as meeting and event options before winter sets in, or if we’re in a similar situation once spring rolls around. Capacity information for the venues below is not provided, as meeting and event planners may want to contact the facility to discuss revised capacities due to ideal social distancing guidelines.
David L. Lawrence Convention Center rooftop
A Rafael Vinoly-designed architectural landmark and one of the first convention centers built to achieve the highest sustainability standards, the LEED Gold-certified David L. Lawrence Convention Center represented a turning point for Pittsburgh’s direction when it opened in 2003 following the dreary years after the collapse of the city’s steel industry in the 1970s. The recently renovated rooftop North Terrace boasts 60,000 square feet of open outdoor space in a modern design near 13 meeting rooms and two lecture halls on the fourth floor.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
This 15-acre green oasis in the city’s lively Oakland neighborhood is one of the nation’s oldest Victorian greenhouses and offers a 14-room glasshouse and 23 gardens. Audiovisual equipment is provided at no cost and the facility offers full catering services via its Cafe Phipps. Nonprofit organizations receive a 20% discount on event space fees. Event activity options include scavenger hunts, plant-potting (for takeaway gifts) and docent tours of the Conservatory.
The nation’s only indoor bird zoo boasts more than 150 species on display and features large walk-through habitats, including the newly renovated Grasslands, which allows for close interactions with free-flying birds while also maintaining an environment that allows for social distancing. The aviary’s Garden Room is a popular venue with ample outdoor space. Guest appearances from aviary denizens such as penguins, parrots, owls and other birds of prey can be arranged.
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Gateway Clipper Fleet
Navigating the three major rivers that frame the city, the Gateway Clipper is a popular event option that has created three packages with social distancing in mind: Cocktail Soiree, Picture Perfect Dinner and Grand Night Out On The Water. The fleet consists of three vessels, and food must be included in order to serve alcohol. The special packages are offered through March 2021 and will be planned in concert with Gateway Clipper’s private event sales manager team.
Gateway Clipper; Credit: VisitPittsburgh
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
Located 10 miles west of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden features three miles of trails through expansive meadows and forested slopes. Corporate event groups can utilize the garden’s restored 1870s Davidson Events Center barn and adjoining outdoor plaza that offers a large stone fireplace. The Garden Plaza can be tented, and groups can provide their own alcohol. The venue offers a list of preferred catering vendors.
The Frick Pittsburgh
Standout attractions at The Frick Pittsburgh include the Frick Art Museum; the Car and Carriage Museum; Clayton, the restored 19th-century Victorian home of Henry Clay Frick; and the Greenhouse.
The Frick Pittsburgh; Credit: The Frick Pittsburgh / VisitPittsburgh
The venue staggers participants going on group tours of the facilities to maintain safe distancing. Social-distancing-friendly meeting spaces include the Car and Carriage Museum Courtyard, the Great Lawn, the Outside Courtyard and the Outside Patio.
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is heavily focused on groups, offering more than 10 spaces available for rental over a 77-acre footprint. Groups can rent out the entire facility for an evening event just for them, with venues that include the African Savanna, PPG Aquarium and Kids Kingdom. Rental includes the exclusive use of rides, restaurants and gift shops. Groups can also use a large garden tent, and various packages using specific environments can be arranged at different price points.
Located between Heinz Field and PNC Park, this state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor concert and special event venue offers five separate spaces, including an outdoor amphitheater. The Aramark-catered facility also contains a large indoor music hall and club venue. Originally built at the cost of $12 million,
this premier facility offers state-of-the-art lighting, acoustics and a reversible stage that morphs it into an indoor/outdoor concept.
Home to the Major League Soccer Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Highmark Stadium is set along the Monongahela River and features an expansive balcony that provides views of the city skyline.
Highmark Stadium; Credit: 7Line
The venue’s synthetic turf soccer field hosts frequent private events, offering an environment especially suited to social distancing. Venues include an upstairs banquet space, an outdoor terrace with a balcony fronting the field and an upstairs conference room.
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