Off the field, entertainment options around Steelers training camp abound
There likely are die hard Steelers fans who will park their canvas chairs on the Saint Vincent College playing field’s sidelines, eyes glued to the training camp action from start to finish each day.
As the players report to the 53rd training camp in Unity on Wednesday, fans will follow, eager for the first public practice the following day.
Local residents taking a day to check out the season’s preview will be joined by faraway fans who gather up the family and make camp part of their summer vacation.
With 15 public practices set for 2:55 p.m. July 26-30 and Aug. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11-14, fans making a day - or more - out of a training visit will have some free time on their hands.
Luckily, the Westmoreland/Allegheny counties and Laurel Highlands region offer plenty of dining, entertainment and cultural options.
Where should we eat?
Whether it’s pre-practice lunch or a post-practice dinner huddle, food and football go together like, well, nachos and cheese, hot dogs and fries, pretzels and mustard.
But if it’s a more substantial meal you’re craving, with a nod to sports as a side, we can make a few suggestions.
Sharky’s Cafe, 3960 Lincoln Highway, Latrobe, bills itself as the “area’s most complete sports restaurant.”
Players and coaches have been known to wander into the eatery for a bite, and the menu is reliably relatable for many appetites, with burgers, sandwiches, pizza, salads and wings hearty enough for a linebacker or two.
Touchdown Club II, 3850 Route 30, Unity, is another option close to Chuck Noll Field, and has a name that screams football.
Its menu offers appetizers - including more upscale nachos with beef, chicken or crab - on up to steaks and seafood for those interested in hearty fare before or after an intense day of hillside quarterbacking.
A favorite game night hangout is nearby Dino’s Sports Lounge, 3883 Route 30 East, Unity, where sports memorabilia adorns the walls.
With “warm-ups” like Buffalo fries, and a menu ranging from ribs to gourmet hot dogs and burgers, along with the restaurant’s signature “wings of joy,” your final score will read hunger - zero.
Heading home to Pittsburgh or staying in the city? Check out Bella Luna Trattoria, 5060 William Penn Highway, Monroeville, just past Murrysville.
Bar seats are at a premium during game day, but there is plenty of additional dining space.
Baskets of breaded zucchini, platters of wings, pasta, pizza, seafood and sandwiches make it a nice halftime stop between practice and home, or home away from home.
Where can we quench our thirst?
If you’re looking to sample some local suds, Four Seasons Brewing and Pub, 745 Lloyd Ave. Ext., Latrobe, offers happy hour specials Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
If you will be in, or near, Latrobe on July 28, stop by for Jambrewzle, an outdoor music festival with live bands, vendors and more.
If wineries are on your free time agenda, Westmoreland and Allegheny counties are home to several.
One to try is Greenhouse Winery, 1048 Pinewood Road, Irwin, where weekend entertainment and wine sipping can provide a relaxed atmosphere to review the players’ performances after practice. Yoga and pizza events, along with Friday band nights, also are listed on the events calendar.
Mom, dad, we’re bored
When the littlest of fans have had enough (gasp) of football, and have energy to spare, herd them off to a local amusement park.
Happily, there are a couple of terrific ones to choose from close to training camp.
Closest is Idlewild & Soak Zone near Ligonier, where kids big and little can enjoy rides, swimming and one stop on a salute to Latrobe native Fred Rogers.
Closer to Pittsburgh, and a siren call to those who love roller coasters, is Kennywood.
In fact, some fans might want to plan their visit to training camp 2019 now, in anticipation of the West Mifflin park’s newest planned attraction, a section called Steelers Country and a roller coaster named the Steel Curtain.
Meanwhile, it’s got plenty of rides to keep tweens and teens happy.
And little ones will enjoy Thomas Town, opening July 27.
Looking for culture?
If you came for some history, along with some football, we suggest a visit to Bushy Run Battlefield, in Penn Township, to learn more about Pontiac’s War.
A 255th anniversary marking the Battle of Bushy Run is set for Aug. 4-5.
Or, take a trip to downtown Ligonier, where one can shop, dine, and visit Fort Ligonier, a British fortification from the French and Indian War.
One of the most fun - and loudest - events taking place during the first weekend of training camp is the annual Westmoreland County Airshow, held just across Route 30 at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.
This year’s show, on July 28-29, will feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the U.S. Army Golden Knights, numerous other in-the-air performances and static displays.
What if it rains?
Among the factors no one at training camp can control is the weather.
But if the skies darken and getting soaked looks probable, point the family wheels toward Pittsburgh and find some indoor fun.
The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh offer education and fun at the Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History in Oakland, and the Science Center and Andy Warhol Museum, both on the city’s North Side.
Happy training, towel twirling, and touring.
This story has been altered to correct the dates of the Westmoreland County Airshow.