9 ways Cubs fans can explore Pittsburgh

The Cubs gave it valiant effort.

Despite winning their final eight games and ending the regular season with a 3-1 victory over the Brewers, the Cubs lost home-field advantage for Wednesday's one-game playoff when the Pirates beat the Reds on Sunday.

So, take heart, Cubs fans: How much fun would it be to see the team clinch a trip to the next round? Here's your perfect excuse to dash off on a mini-vacation to Pittsburgh.

Cast aside images of a sooty city defined by steel alone and conjure up a view of a small but sleek downtown, flanked by two rivers that become one, tucked among bright bridges and more mountain-like hills than a flatlander would find in an Illinois lifetime.

Then take I-376 through the Fort Pitt tunnel, and there it all suddenly appears: the glory that is Pittsburgh.

There's plenty to do and see in the hometown of those pesky Pirates for fans who want to take in more than the game and have maybe only about a day to do it.

Check out these nine suggestions - one for each inning the Cubs and Pirates likely will play to decide who advances to St. Louis - to experience the Pittsburgh food, brews, views, sites and excitement.

1. Duquesne Incline

Take a ride up one of two remaining

  Taking a ride on the Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh is a fun way to get a great view of the city. The Mon Incline is closed for repairs, but nearby is the Duquesne Incline, which also offers a fun ride and a similar view. Marie Wilson/

historic incline cars that still carry commuters from atop Mount Washington down toward the city's commercial core. At the top is a quaint street with nearly a

  Stop at one of several overlook points on Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh after riding the Duquesne Incline up for a fantastic view. Marie Wilson/

mile of overlook points that give a great view of downtown and even a glimpse of PNC Park in the distance. A round-trip ride is $5 for adults, $2.50 for kids.

2. Point State Park stateparks/findapark/point/

Walk the outline of the original Fort Duquesne and see where George Washington and other early explorers set up camp in this state park at the convergence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers where the Ohio River is born.

  The fountain at Point State Park in Pittsburgh marks the spot where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers converge to form the Ohio River. Marie Wilson/

The fountain is a picturesque spot to prove you went to Pittsburgh!

3. Bike the Burgh

Get an unusual view of the city - from atop two wheels - and learn about Pittsburgh's cultural and industrial landmarks while getting a little exercise. Bike The Burgh offers a 9-mile tour at 10 a.m. Wednesdays showcasing the city's bridges, history and namesakes. Other tours on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays feature the downtown, South Side and North Shore. A bike isn't included in the tour price, which is about $20 per person. But tours start at one of 50 Healthy Ride bike rental stations across the city, where downloading a $1 app lets users rent wheels by the hour.

4. Primanti's/Strip Dist.

The original Primanti Bros. put coleslaw and fries atop all kinds of meats before weird sandwich toppings were trendy. Still a Pittsburgh classic, but venture to the Strip District to eat one of these handheld meals instead of waiting to stop by the Primanti's booth at PNC Park. The ambience at the original location is better, and the ballpark stand offers only a couple of the dozen or so sandwiches on the full menu. Plus you can show off your Cubs gear among a mecca of Steelers-themed souvenir shops next to fruit and fish markets. A quirky atmosphere that's not to be missed.

5. Historic Forbes Field

The Pittsburgh Pirates played for decades at Forbes Field in the Oakland neighborhood, which now is home to campus town for the University of Pittsburgh. Babe Ruth hit the final three home runs of his career there in 1935. The site was the filming location of “Angels in the Outfield” in 1951. And in 1960, Bill Mazeroski hit a game-winning home run there to clinch the first Pirates World Series in 35 years. See a 12-foot stretch of the original outfield wall at 280 S. Bouquet St. on Pitt's campus. Inside the nearby Mervis Hall, Forbes Field's home plate sits in its original location, despite the building growing up around it. A quick and free way to take a trip down baseball memory lane.

6. Frick Park

Frick Park is the largest municipal park in Pittsburgh, and it's a far cry from any public park in the Midwest. Suburbanites would call it a forest preserve with miles of trails traversing tree-lined ravines and winding along a stream called Nine-Mile Run. It's a beautiful place and a calming escape. Nearby is D's Six Pax & Dogz. Don't necessarily go for the food - it's fine but not remarkable - although you can grab a classic Pittsburgh steak salad, which always comes topped with french fries. Stop by for the beer cave in the back, where brew enthusiasts can make a six pack or two from their choice of more than 1,000 local, hard-to-find and unusual beers. Don't expect to see any 312 in here, but there could be some varieties from Yuengling, America's oldest brewer, which is based in Pennsylvania.

7. Church Brew Works

Ever sat in church wanting a drink? It's possible at Church Brew Works, a deconsecrated Catholic church-turned microbrewery in Lawrenceville near the city's Bloomfield neighborhood, which has an Italian influence. House-made beers and great food, and you can still see the altar. Other fun night spots are in the South Side, which isn't a neighborhood to be traversed with caution, like Chicago's South Side. Its Chicago comparison could be Wicker Park - lots of bars, restaurants and hipsters, but not necessarily the glossy high-end appeal of a Lincoln Park or Lakeview.

8. Heinz History Center

Brush up on Iron City sports history at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum on the second and third floors of the Heinz History Center - a building marked with a ketchup bottle pouring into a lighted Heinz sign. Check out exhibits about the Steelers and Penguins and pick up some fun facts about the team the Cubs hope to beat, those darn Buccos. Admission is $16 for adults, $14 for seniors 62 and older, or $6.50 for kids up to age 17 or students with ID. Also in town is the Roberto Clemente Museum, a historic fire station renovated to showcase artifacts, photos and memorabilia about Clemente, drafted by the Pirates in 1954 and arguably the team's most beloved player and humanitarian. Find the museum at 3339 Penn Ave.

9. PNC Park

Whether you walk across the

  Walking across one of the three yellow "sister bridges" in Pittsburgh from downtown to PNC Park is one popular way to get to a Pirates game like the one-game playoff against the Cubs on Wednesday. The Sixth Street bridge is named for Pirates legend Roberto Clemente. Marie Wilson/

Roberto Clemente bridge from downtown, take the “T” (a transit line that runs under the river as a subway) through the free downtown zone to the North Shore or drive and park nearby, it's worth getting to PNC Park early to explore. Beyond the outfield is the Allegheny River. Four Pittsburgh baseball greats are highlighted with sculptures around the park - Honus Wagner at the home plate entrance, Roberto Clemente beyond the outfield at the foot of the Sixth Street bridge that bears his name, Willie Stargell not far from Clemente, and Bill Mazeroski outside the right-field entrance. Even before Cubs playoff action begins, there's plenty for baseball buffs to absorb at a stadium regarded as one of the favorites in the Major Leagues.

Arlington Heights sports bar owners eager for Cubs game Wednesday

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