Sometimes the hotel is more interesting than the destination itself. Plus, sometimes you need a break from doing anything at all.
Recently, we took a trip to Pittsburgh, where we were reminded of this. Pittsburgh is great in it of itself—a venerable, underground music destination all its own—but half of the time, we were so enthralled with The Oaklander Hotel, we just kind of wanted to hang.
Besides, with grand, sweeping views of the city skyline, who just wouldn't want to roll all around in a suite and get some solid me time?
(It was still possible to take a Zoom call from the road there, as we found out. Hey, if we're going to be trapped inside somewhere, it might as well be somewhere *amazing.*)
Digging through a city's musical roots
Perhaps, there's no better way to check out one of the country's most underrated music trails by staying directly in a former music venue itself.
For a more bespoke experience, The Oaklander Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa., offers a lovely, reconverted Marriott experience without breaking tradition. Known as the Syria Mosque in its former incarnation, the property itself was previously a performance venue that has seen Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan and The Who pass through its doors.
Though these days the Syria Mosque has been redesigned as a posh suite of luxury hotel rooms, The Oaklander still stays true to its humble heritage, showcasing live music at its Spirits & Tales bar while local residents drinks and imbibe.
These details are reflected in the hotel's design from its earthy, sumptuous colors that call back to a rich past. Gold accents and oak paneling adorn the hotel rooms and throughout for an elevated—figuratively and literally—stay.
For a more musical aperitif, The Oaklander also has its own proper recording booth via the Rock N' Oak program. Guests are allowed to book a 30-minute complimentary session (with 24 hours in advance), with a proper vinyl sent home as a souvenir. 🎵
Diving into Pittsburgh's cultural trail
The most unexpected places are often the best places, in our experience. Pittsburgh is no exception.
If you ever missed the old days of Austin, Tex. before the tech bros claimed the land all for themselves, it may be worth it to make a pit stop to Pittsburgh. Pun thoroughly intended.
Traditionally known for its steel manufacturing—steel magnate and famed patron of the arts Andrew Carnegie established his empire here—Pittsburgh is a small city that can stand up to the heavyweights in its focus on culture and art.
P.S. Though food wasn't the focus of our trip (the hotel bar serves up some pretty tasty grub! thanks to executive chef Chris Noonan), be sure to check out our map for restaurant recommendations.
Though sports aficionados and baseball fans can drop in on a Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park, behemoths like the Carnegie Museum of Art and The Andy Warhol Museum offer an insight into Pittsburgh's innate creativity and willingness to be different.
Pittsburgh also boasts and hosts the birthplace of Andy Warhol, with a captivating homage in the the The Andy Warhol Museum chronicling the life and work of the esteemed visual artist just a 13-minute drive away from The Oaklander Hotel.
Beyond Warhol's involvement with The Velvet Underground, Warhol fans can complete their visit to Warhol's final resting place at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery with their own Campbell soup can tributes.
Though the Syria Mosque may not be around in its former incarnation, the Thunderbird Café & Music Hall is only a quick drive or Uber away from The Oaklander.
The multi-level music venue hosts a local empanada! and drinks bar alongside a vibrant, ongoing music line up.
Most importantly, there are two levels where music patrons can enjoy from a distance, or partake depending on how close to the action they want to get.
It's a great way to finish off the night—and a stay—in Pittsburgh. How is that to stay on theme?
From New York, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is a 1 hour, 27-minute flight. From there, The Oaklander Hotel, which is part of Marriott's Autograph Collection—yes, you can earn Bonvoy points for this!—is approximately 28-45 min by Uber or car dependent on traffic.
There's no need to rent a car unless you're planning to be in Pittsburgh for more than a few days; most attractions are only short drives (around 10 minutes) or a don't mind a short walk.
But, you might find yourself missing the artfully decorated touch of each room that calls to mind its glorious musical roots, and that plush bed. For those that enjoy a sensual touch to their pampering, each room boasts Le Labo toiletries.
The hotel hosts a top-floor restaurant and bar, Spirits & Tales, offering unparalleled, skyline views of the surrounding areas of Pittsburgh and in proximity to the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum.
Unlike most hotels, the main lobby and restaurant sits on the top floor of the hotel: Be sure to ask for a high floor to take advantage of the views!
Rates start from $250 and up, depending on the season. Book on the website directly.