Neville Island: Enjoy an island getaway without leaving Pittsburgh
Neville Island may not be a Jimmy Buffett-style tropical paradise, but the island in the Ohio River is probably the closest thing Pittsburgh has to a Margaritaville.
And yes, there really is stuff to do on Neville Island. It's only the southeastern half of the island that has the industrial plants and scrapyards. The other half of the five-mile-long island has cute neighborhoods, a few restaurants, a Marriott hotel, a bowling alley and the island's crowning glory: The Robert Morris University Island Sports Complex, which stands at the northwestern tip of the island on Grand Avenue.
If you have plenty of physical energy and are eager to get moving, you and your companion can enjoy an entire day of active play on Neville Island, while only having to move your car across the street once. You can enjoy ice skating, miniature golf and dining on the beach in the same small area. Come in jeans for the ice skating, but bring a pair of shorts to change into for later.
Come to the Island Sports Complex, rent some skates, and enjoy gliding around on the ice at the complex's indoor skating rink, which has a Saturday session from 1:15 to 3 p.m. Maybe you and your companion have decent skating skills, or maybe you're the types who seldom let go of the wall. No matter what your level, you can enjoy the sensation of moving around on ice while music plays, getting exercise while cooling off, and maybe holding hands. You can laugh when you fall and help each other back up. Think of the Winter Olympics figure skating competitions from back in February, and fantasize that you are Evan Lysacek. Two hours will quickly pass.
Note to skaters who prefer it warmer: Neville Island has a roller skating rink, the Neville Roller Drome, Inc., which is closed for the summer, but re-opens on Sept. 7. Details: 412-264-9856 or www.nevillerollerdrome.com .
Aren't you hungry and a bit tired• Grab a snack or light meal -- or even a Starbucks brand coffee -- at the complex's cafe, sit down, relax and enjoy. Recoup your energy while you talk with your companion: a second, but less demanding, round of active play is next.
After you've changed out of your ice rink clothes, head outside and play a few rounds of miniature golf at the complex's "Island Rapids" course. The 18-hole course has beautiful scenery; its green turf is surrounded by trees and ornamental grasses, and a waterfall gushes from a tall rock formation in the center of the course. A river from the waterfall winds throughout the course and under bridges along the walkway.
While you play putt-putt golf, enjoy the stunning view of the Ohio River and the green hills backing it. Watch for boats and ducks moving through the water and birds above and around you.
The Robert Morris University Island Sports Center, 7600 Grand Ave., Neville Island, has varying hours for several activities throughout the week.
The public ice skating schedule is noon to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with additional sessions at 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 7 to 9 p.m. Fridays; and 1:15 to 3 p.m. and 7:30 to 9:20 p.m. Saturdays. Always call ahead, as the schedule is subject to change. Fees are $6; $5 for age 12 and younger, and age 60 and older. Skate rental is $3.
The Island Rapids miniature golfing course is open noon to 11 p.m. daily. Cost is $6; $3 for age 5 and younger; $5 for people in groups of 10 or more. Daily specials are offered.
Details: 412-397-3335 or www.rmuislandsports.org .
Now, you're going to cross Grand Avenue, and go directly across the street to Paradise Island Bowl & Beach, which has a riverfront property that is made to look like a tropical beach -- sand and all. Enjoy walking down the path -- lined with neon-illuminated, artificial palm trees -- toward the outdoor beach restaurant, and listen to the beach-theme music playing. Enjoy drinks and food from the large menu, which includes wings, salads, burgers, pizza and sandwiches. Don't worry about calories: You've burned plenty of them today. Watch the boats pass by on the river, and enjoy the sights, sounds and feel of summer.
After you're done dining and relaxing, you can go home and retire to the couch and television, having had a very full day. But, if you're still up for more activity, you can head inside for a few rounds of bowling.
Paradise Island Bowl & Beach, 7601 Grand Ave., Neville Island, is open at 9 a.m. Sundays to Saturdays, and stays open until around 11 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Details: 412-264-6570 or www.paradiseislandbowl.com .