So you’re going to the United States Open at Oakmont Country Club and you want to look around.
Well, the Borough of Oakmont has a quaint downtown area — quaint meaning small, low-key and with a railroad line running through it. Oakmont has a population of 6,435 and covers 1.59 square miles. It’s tiny. And guess what else? Oakmont Country Club isn’t in it!
The golf course actually lies just across the border in the Borough of Plum, which recently passed an ordinance banning local residents from selling parking spots on their lawns and local streets during U.S. Open week. So you’ll probably have to park in the big public lots and ride those enjoyable shuttle buses. All together now: Yay!
What else is there to see and do in the area besides watch millionaire Tour players get eaten alive by Oakmont’s ferocious rough? Glad you asked.
FOOD & DRINK
Michael A’s: It’s THE place to dine in Oakmont proper. It’s an Italian restaurant and there’s no such thing as bad food made by Italians. It is known for its house dressing, among other things, and you can buy a quart to take home. It’s been around for 20-plus years. In golf terms, almost three Oakmont Opens.
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What’s Cookin at Casey’s: That’s the full name but insiders just call it Casey’s. It is extremely popular for breakfast and lunch. Highlights are the omelettes and the coconut chicken salad, supposedly. You may need a reservation for dinner. It gets slammed.
Oakmont Bakery: It’s a bakery, do you need to know anything else? Things no one has ever said: I don’t like this cupcake. Because cupcakes are awesome. Go with the almond torte, a house specialty. Or anything.
Hoffstots Café Monaco: The name throws you but it’s actually an Italian restaurant. It’s gotten a lot of great reviews on Yelp.com, and also a few clunkers. People are mean.
Carnivores: A sports bar in Oakmont with bar food, like pizza and wings but mainly, a ridiculous selection of beer. Over 600 beers in stock, so they claim, and even better, if you’re visiting, they will deliver mix-and-match sixpacks and 12-packs.
Mike’s Wife’s Bar & Grill: The back patio is the place to hang out if it’s a nice day. Don’t tell anyone else, though.
The Oakmont Tavern: It’s a tavern. It’s in Oakmont. Are yinz gonna keep yappin’ or are yinz gonna drink?
There are some decent tracks within 20 minutes of Oakmont.
3 Lakes: Formerly called Alcoma, this hilly course is known for its dramatic greens, although some golfers use a different adjective. Weekday rate for 18 holes with a cart is $40.
Madison Club: Some tight fairways, seven lakes and lot of undulating terrain make it an interesting layout. It’s usually in very good condition, too, at $42 weekday.
Birdsfoot: A short ride on Route 28, it’s longer than a sermon from the tips. An expansive track with a lot of wide-open holes, yet it’s fairly difficult. The course is and popular gets a lot of action from locals, $59 weekday.
In Oakmont, you’re not that far from downtown Pittsburgh and all of its attractions. Too bad the Pittsburgh Pirates are out of town all week because PNC park ranks among the best places to watch a game in all of baseball. Here are a few notables…
Rivers Casino: Bet you can’t go there and not lose money. It’s on the shore of the Ohio River, a short riverfront walk to the football and baseball stadiums. I prefer the digital roulette wheel inside. It’s fast and furious and I’ve had surprising success on it. Also, free Pepsi products from a fountain in the slot machine area.
Andy Warhol Museum: Yes, there’s an entire seven-story museum dedicated to Warhol, a pop art icon. This is the largest museum in America dedicated to a single artist and the only time you’ll have to pay $20 to see a painting of a Campbell’s soup can.
The National Aviary: It’s downtown, not far from Warhol’s place, and is the country’s largest aviary. In other words, they’ve got a whole lotta birds. Very cool, totally worth the $14 admission.
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The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: East of downtown in beautiful Schenley Park, this is a pretty fabulous display of flowers and gardens. Exhibits come and go but its famous Corpse Flower, named for its unpleasant odor, is reportedly on the verge of blooming. $15.
The Incline: They are Pittsburgh icons, little red cable-cars that go up and down the slope surrounding downtown. There are two Incline cars. The Duquesne Incline takes you to the top of Mount Washington, giving you a stunning view of Pittsburgh’s skyline and The Point, where the two rivers famously meet and form the Ohio River. It’s a tourist must-stop. The Monongahela Incline is farther up the Monongahela River and also has good views. It’s a good round trip, for $5.
Point State Park: The whole triangular-shaped point of land where the rivers meet is a state park. It’s a popular place to walk around, enjoy the scenery and the large fountain. Plus, it’s free, although you’re going to have to pay to park somewhere downtown and it won’t be cheap.
Carnegie Science Center: It’s west of downtown, near the casino, and besides the usual interesting science stuff, there’s an interactive golf exhibit that runs through Open week. You can hit balls in a simulator and compare yourself to the eight previous U.S. Open champs from Oakmont. The simulator also allows you to hit hickory clubs and balls from the 1930s, steel shafted clubs and balls from the 1960s and modern titanium drivers and balls. There are multiple ticket plans but a $19.95 ticket buys you admission plus a tour of the submarine parked outside on the river, the USS Requin, which is pretty cool unless you’re claustrophobic.
Riverboat cruise: It is touristy, yes, but it’s still fun to ride the Gateway Clipper or one of the other ships that gives you a tour of Pittsburgh from its rivers. They resemble old-fashioned paddle-wheelers. There are evening cruises and dinner cruises and other options but a basic one-hour tour is $20.
Jerome Bettis Grille 36: If you’re downtown and want to worship at the altar of one of the heroes of the Pittsburgh Steelers, stop in his sports bar, located along the riverfront near Heinz Stadium, where the Stillers (as locals call them) play. Bettis was a running back known as The Bus. It’s better than your average sports bar—the food is stellar. Check out the deep-fried cheeseburger and the firecracker shrimp.