- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 6, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh native Beth Geisler knows how very much there is to do and see here. That’s why she had a hard time narrowing it down for her new book, “100 Things to Do in Pittsburgh Before You Die.”

If your time is running out so fast that you can visit only one local attraction, the book advises you to make it the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland - 30 rooms devoted to different cultures in the hemisphere’s tallest educational building.

“I can’t imagine that there’s anything else like it in the world,” says Ms. Geisler, 50, a freelance writer and editor who still lives in the house her father built in Kennedy.

She loves Pittsburgh through and through and has worked for several local institutions, but it was her time as associate communications director at VisitPittsburgh that led to this gig.

The “100 Things to Do” series includes books on several U.S. cities (39, with another 10 in the works) published by St. Louis’ Reedy Press, which knows to look for authors through local tourism bureaus. Ms. Geisler’s resume included hosting scores of travel journalists here from 2000 to 2004.

“I remember clearly what they reacted to,” she says. “In large part that experience framed what I wanted to share.”

Reedy had a template for her to follow, with chapters titled “Food and Drink,” ”Recreation and Sports,” ”Music and Entertainment,” ”Culture and History” and “Shopping.” But what she filled those with were up to her, and so the picks are subjective, as she notes in the preface. Outside of having the big “usual subjects” like the Nationality Rooms and the inclines, “No other Pittsburgher would list the exact same 100 activities.”

She knows some Pittsburghers will wonder why their favorites aren’t included, but she says 100 was not a big enough number to cover everything. That’s why she’s launched a “100 Things to Do in Pittsburgh Before You Die” Facebook page where people can weigh in with their picks. She wishes she could have written more about hotels and bed & breakfasts (but she did work in a couple of references to her beloved Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, which is celebrating its centennial this year).

The Facebook page will keep the contents current, too, which is one of the challenges of writing such a book. She did last-minute updates, such as adding the phone number for Apteka, the hot new Eastern European vegan restaurant that just opened in Bloomfield, under the chapter heading “Line Up for Pierogies Almost Anywhere.” Otherwise, she tried to pick food and drink choices that weren’t likely to change, and she advises readers to seek the latest foodie updates through online sources such as Zagat, which, she proudly notes, honored Pittsburgh as best restaurant city in 2015.

“I love to see the coverage that Pittsburgh gets,” she says. “I love to see the word ‘hip’ in particular.”

She does provide some old-school context. “I did try in this book to combine history with what is happening now. I think it’s important to give a nod to how industrialists shaped a lot of what we have today. That is a legacy that we can all appreciate. … They’ve certainly left us with some fine institutions, some arts and culture opportunities, that other cities just don’t have.”

She tried to weave in as much local flavor as possible, from using (and translating) Pittsburghese to introducing heroes such as Mister Rogers and Rachel Carson and recommending reading Thomas Bell’s “Out of This Furnace.” Dave Demarest introduced her to the book at Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned a master’s degree in professional writing.

In her upcoming book signings and other appearances, she wants to stress that it’s not just for out-of-town relatives and other visitors. “I’m encouraging people who live here to do some more exploring.”

That’s how she came to love some of the charms she included in the book, such as Conflict Kitchen as well as Bicycle Heaven and disc golf, two of many free things she spotlights. So that’s why she’ll keep exploring, too.

“It’s fun. I am still getting to promote my hometown. And that’s a privilege.”





Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, https://www.post-gazette.com

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