Pittsburgh Needs a Hostel

Update: A group is currently (as of 2008/2009) working on getting a new hostel up and running in the city. Visit their site for more information: pittsburghhostel.org

Our fair city, though quickly rising as one of the nation’s greatest destinations for the progressively young, the adventurous and the artistic, is sadly without one of the most essential elements such a city requires: a hostel.

The old Hostels International branch that was located in the South Hills has been shut down for years now, perhaps due to the fact that it’s location wasn’t exactly ideal as a representation of the Pittsburgh lifestyle.

Why Does Pittsburgh Need a Hostel?

As mentioned above, we are an ideal city to visit for a multitude of reasons, including:

  • We’re the Gateway to the Midwest. Cross country roadtrip from the Northeast to the West Coast? Pittsburgh acts like a funnel for all of New York, Jersey and New England into the Midwest.
  • We’re a diverse city, if you know where to look. Certainly, we’re a majority white population, as is most of the United States, but certain parts of the city, particularly the East End, are thick with people of a multitude of nationalities and races.
  • We were voted the best urban setting to get outdoors by National Geographic Adventure magazine.
  • Of course, we’ve been voted the Most Livable City in the US.
  • We have an affordable lifestyle here. Hostelers are often trying to stretch a few dollars over a few days, and thanks to our large college influence we can offer food, beers and public transportation all relatively cheap.
  • Neighborhood diversity. Our topography, that is a plethora of hills and often times difficult to build around streets, have kept Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods somewhat separate and therefore unique. You could walk from Squirrel Hill to the Strip District pretty easily in a day and encounter everything from a heavily Jewish, family oriented neighborhood to one with upscale boutiques to our “Little Italy” to our up and coming hipster artists neighborhood to our answer to the need to shake a little ass.

What happened to the old hostel?

While I am sure there were multiple factors contributing to the decline of the previous hostel, my strongest feeling is that the location just wasn’t happening. A hostel located somewhere in the East End, probably Bloomfield ideally, would be much more focused on an area of the city that is more friendly to young, progressive types, who often make up the demographic of the type of folk you’d find in a hostel setting.

Bloomfield is an excellent location. It provides easy access to many of the major bar / night life scenes in the city, is close to a variety of grocery stores, and is cheaper than many of the city’s neighborhoods.

Easy access to the rest of the city. From Bloomfield you can get to a lot of other great neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. The 54C will take you to South Side where you could go out drinking 80 nights in a row and never have to hit the same bar twice. Hop on the 84A and within minutes you can hit the Strip District for an all night clubfest or continue to Downtown, where you’re a short walk or a trolley ride to Station Square, another night club hot spot. Art galleries, more bars, and plenty of restaurants are just a short walk away to Garfield or Shadyside, and once you’re in the latter you can catch the 64A to Squirrel Hill and its two movie theaters which show blockbusters and indie films alike. Not to mention that Bloomfield is a pretty happening place to hang out on its own.

Plenty of grocery stores. Market District and Whole Foods are a rather easy walk from Bloomfield. The neighborhood itself has a couple of smaller, mom and pop type grocers. Nothing’s cheaper than making meals out of grocery store food, and hostelers love this type of thing.

Brillobox, The Church Brew Works and, a little further out, Gooski’s are some of the coolest places to visit in the whole city.

I’ve been trying to get involved with any organization interested in reviving Pittsburgh’s hostel situation, but to no avail. If anyone reading this has any information on an organization of any type who’s pursuing something like this, please, let me know.

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