Pittsburgh lands spot on Travel Channel's All-American Vacations list

| Monday, June 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh — long overlooked as a vacation spot in favor of bigger, flashier places like New York City, Orlando and Los Angeles — has bested almost all of its big-city competition in the Travel Channel's All-American Vacations list.

For the Travel Channel's 2014 list, announced June 2, network officials polled staff members and a network of industry advisers, who considered factors such as historic sites and landmarks, appeal to young people, family-friendliness and the arts.

Don Wildman — host and narrator of the channel's shows “Off Limits,” “Mysteries at the Museum” and “Monumental Mysteries” — has a fondness for Pittsburgh and recommended it, says Jodi Bettencourt, vice president of digital content for the Travel Channel in Chevy Chase, Md.

“His suggestion of Pittsburgh really spoke to the younger crowd,” said Bettencourt, a Pittsburgh Pirates fan originally from Fort Ashby, W.Va. “A lot of times, when people think of Pittsburgh, they think of a blue-collar steel town. ... It's very artsy now, and it's very hip. There (are) a lot of great museums.”

Another appeal of Pittsburgh is the surrounding area, with all of the parks and nature and other attractions in the suburbs and countryside, Bettencourt said.

Craig Davis, chief executive officer of VisitPittsburgh, said he and his colleagues “couldn't be more thrilled” for the recognition.

“That's the kind of stuff that we cannot purchase on our own,” he said. “That kind of publicity cannot be received ... through placing ads.”

Davis calls the Travel Channel and National Geographic Traveler magazine the top two travel authorities. The magazine named Pittsburgh one of the 20 Best Trips of 2012, which covered vacation spots around the world.

The other nine Best All-American Vacations locations for 2014 are Bannack State Park in Montana; Black Hills in the Dakotas; Crater Late National Park in Oregon; Everglades National Park in Florida; Finger Lakes in New York; Joshua Tree National Park in California; Nantucket Island in Massachusetts; the Washington, D.C., metro area; and Moab, Utah.

Interestingly, of the most obvious American big cities to visit — like Chicago, Boston and New York City — only Washington, D.C., made the list. Bettencourt said Pittsburgh's manageable size and more economical cost factored in to its rank.

People who “take these wonderful family trips every year might be a little nervous about taking on a New York or a city like Chicago,” she said. “Pittsburgh kind of has the best of both worlds. .... It's not quite as scary.

“Pittsburgh is a great alternative” to the biggest major cities, Bettencourt said.

Although the Travel Channel might follow up with a television show spotlighting the winning areas, they have no definite plans now, she said.

Though all 10 of the picks are equal and not ranked, the Travel Channel on its website is asking fans to pick their favorites during the next few weeks. You can vote for Pittsburgh on the website: www.travelchannel.com.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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