Check out all that Pittsburgh has to offer
By Kim and Stephen Hirtle
FFRF is bringing this year's convention to Pittsburgh, Pa., on the weekend of Oct. 7–9, a city that has been garnering national and international attention for its quality of life and unique features.
Recent accolades for Pittsburgh:
- Listed as one of the best places in the world to visit (Travel + Leisure).
- Rated as the No. 1 food city in 2015 (Zagat).
- Offers America's most stunning views (USA Today).
- Listed as the "coolest American city you haven't been to" (Huffington Post).
Pittsburgh, with a population slightly more than 300,000, is also known for having more bridges than any city in the world, including Venice. The three main rivers — Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio — join downtown at Point State Park. Two inclines (funicular railways) dating back to the late 1800s take tourists and commuters up the side of Mount Washington, just as they did when steel was the main industry.
Downtown Pittsburgh, where the FFRF convention will be held, is known for its striking and varied architecture, notable restaurants and cultural amenities. The Andy Warhol Museum (named for a Pittsburgh native) and the Carnegie Science Center are just across the river on the North Shore. The Carnegie Natural History and Carnegie Art Museums are housed together, a short taxi or bus ride away, in the Oakland neighborhood, which is also home to Phipps Conservatory and two world class institutions: the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.
Across the street from the Cathedral of Learning is the Carnegie Natural History Museum, known for one the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world, including the Diplodocus Carnegii, named in honor of Pittsburgh native and freethinker Andrew Carnegie.
For those seeking outdoor activities, there are bike rental locations downtown, with bike trails throughout the city and along the rivers. Kayak Pittsburgh operates on weekends in October, just a short walk from the hotel, and for a modest fee, you can get out on the Allegheny River for an hour or two of exercise with excellent views of the skyline and stadiums.
FFRF visitors are encouraged to check out Market Square, a large European-style plaza surrounded by 14 restaurants near the hotel.
Those coming to the conference a day early will have the opportunity to visit Fallingwater. Considered to be the most iconic of all of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs, the house was built on top of natural waterfall.
Stephen Hirtle is chair of the FFRF Executive Board and professor of Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh.
After the tour of Fallingwater, there will be a reception from 3-5 p.m. with workshops and complimentary appetizers. Friday dinner is on your own. The formal program begins at 7 p.m. Friday, ending with complimentary dessert and hot beverages. The convention resumes Saturday morning with an optional Non-Prayer Breakfast at 8 a.m. The morning program starts at 9:30 a.m. After a two-hour lunch on your own, the program resumes at 2 p.m. An optional dinner banquet will be followed by evening speaker/entertainment. Annual meetings of the membership and the state representatives are Sunday morning, ending by noon.
Photo: Courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Friday, prior to the start of the convention, FFRF is hosting a tour of the impressive Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater site. The $40 ticket includes admission to Fallingwater and round-trip coach bus transportation. There is also an optional, although highly recommended, box lunch available for $12. (The cafeteria is expected to be too busy to accommodate FFRF on this tight schedule.) The 43-mile route to the captivating Fallingwater is through scenic Pennsylvania countryside during the most beautiful time of the year. Buses depart from Wyndham Grand every 30 minutes beginning 7:50 a.m., with returns beginning 2:10 p.m.
Extra rooms have been set aside at the Wyndham Grand for FFRF members for Thursday night for those interested in going on the tour. FFRF will provide tour times, tickets and other information with mailed convention registration confirmation.
Important Visitor Guidelines
- Fallingwater is a fragile environment. To help protect Fallingwater and its collections, all group tour registrants must adhere to these Fallingwater policies:
- Only small wallets and handheld cameras are permitted on tour. Please leave all larger backpacks, purses, camera bags/equipment, and other cumbersome items on the bus.
- Eating, drinking and chewing gum are prohibited in the house while on tour.
- Smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes, is only permitted in the parking lot. The rest of the Fallingwater site is a smoke-free environment.
- Visitors are asked not to touch the woodwork and collections or to sit on or touch the furnishings.
- Cell phones and other electronic devices must be turned off while on tour.
- Photography is not permitted during one-hour guided house tours. Exterior photography for personal use only is welcome. Complete photography guidelines are available upon request.
- Children under 6 years old, including infants and toddlers, are not permitted on house tours.
- Fallingwater is a carry-in/carry-out facility. We ask that you take your trash with you when you leave.
The tour involves considerable walking and there are challenges on site, including 100 steps (not all at once) and uneven gravel paths on a 1/4 mile walk from the Visitor Center to the house. If you have concerns about mobility, vision or hearing challenges, please read the following details.
For more details about getting the most out of your visit, please see the Fallingwater website .
Check back soon for updates! Register today!
The Freedom From Religion Foundation will return to Middleton High School, Wis., tomorrow to counter the weekly "Jesus Lunch" provided by Christian parents.
"A generous Middleton FFRF member has provided a donation toward providing pizza for the protesting students," explains Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
"We also wish to thank Ian's Pizza for providing several free pizza pies for the students."
FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote an April 21 letter to the Middleton City Council pointing out last Tuesday's "near-melee during the 'Jesus Lunch' was a lesson in why religion does not belong in public schools." The Jesus Lunch turns the majority into "insiders" and the minority into "outsiders."
The school leases Firemen's Park, which abuts the back entrance and contains a pavilion. But the city has argued that an ambiguity in the lease permits the evangelists to set up shop during school hours. FFRF says the city should clarify that the school has exclusive use of the park during the school day, or amend the lease.
"As noted last week, we don't think any adults, whether missionaries or atheists, should be allowed to move in upon what is essentially a captive audience of students," Gaylor adds. "But if the 'Jesus Lunches' aren't going to be stopped, the Freedom From Religion Foundation plans to be there too, providing some balance — and some fuel to the protesters."
The Madison, Wis.-based organization works to keep state and church separate, and has more than 23,700 members nationwide, including 1.300 members throughout Wisconsin.