City lands on top of travel ratings

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The travel experts at Frommer's released their 13 top travel destinations for 2008 yesterday, and Pittsburgh was on the list.

First on the list, actually, although a Frommer's spokesman said the names are in no particular order.

While Pittsburgh has landed on an extraordinary number of top-city lists this year -- the most notable being No. 1 in the "Places Rated Almanac'' -- it is unusual to find the 'Burgh in such company as St. Lucia; Essaouira, Morocco; Cardiff, Wales; and Quito, Ecuador.

"Each destination is selected for what it has to offer -- big city fun, rural relaxation, the opportunity to test your mental and physical mettle, or simply the fact that it often falls under the radar and deserves a little attention," Frommer's said in announcing the list.

David Lytle, editor of Frommers.com, who also has relatives in Johnstown, said the choices are meant to be subjective." and a native of Johnstown, said the choices are meant to be subjective.

"Each year, we put together a small collection of places that can inspire people to travel," he said. "We look for locations that will appeal to all different types of travelers.

"It's not rocket science," he added. "You can't compare two different destinations equally. Each offers its own reasons for being noteworthy."

Frommer's primary demographic is American leisure travelers, he said, and they like places that are reached easily by car for a day trip or a long weekend. Pittsburgh fit the bill, in part, because so many Americans live within driving distance.

"There are a lot of interesting places close to Pittsburgh, and a lot to do in the city," he said, citing The Carnegie museums, Fallingwater, The Andy Warhol Museum and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as examples. And, he said, "The 250th birthday coming up is a big deal.

"Pittsburgh has been overlooked in the past, especially since the economy petered out in the 1980s. But you guys have taken that opportunity to look at yourselves and remake the city."

Frommer's puts out the list in December because people start planning in January for the coming year's vacations, he said. This is the fourth edition, and no places have ever been repeated.

"The whole point is to inspire people and give them ideas for someplace different to go," Mr. Lytle said.

Joe McGrath, president and chief executive officer of the tourism and convention agency VisitPittsburgh, said he's not surprised that Pittsburgh made Frommer's list, given that the city already has received so many other honors in 2006 and 2007.

Among them: Best arts destination for midsize cities by American Style magazine; in the top 10 of the world's cleanest cities by Forbes Magazine; and the top city for computer geeks by Wired magazine.

VisitPittsburgh has no direct involvement in how the Frommer's list is developed but the organization does keep the travel industry apprised of what's happening here. "Hopefully ... they're impressed by the sheer weight of things coming online in southwestern Pennsylvania," Mr. McGrath said.

He said recent events like the Bassmaster Classic, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the U.S. Open golf tournament give the city name recognition and have people saying, "I just saw something about [Pittsburgh] and I'd like to experience it myself."

Also on the Frommer's list for 2008: Denver; New Orleans; The American Whiskey Trail (Mount Vernon, Va., through Tennessee, Kentucky and Pennsylvania); Exit Zero on the Garden State Parkway, N.J.; Romania; Seoul, South Korea; Bras d'Or Lakes, Nova Scotia; and Kosrae, Micronesia.

When told of Pittsburgh's entry on the list, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said: "Our city is friendly, it is dynamic, but most importantly it is a city with many stories to tell. I invite families, adventure-seekers, history buffs and cultural fanatics to put Pittsburgh on their destination map."


Correction/Clarification: (Published Dec. 13, 2007) The Places Rated Almanac that named Pittsburgh as Most Livable City in 2007 is no longer published by Rand McNally. The incorrect reference was made in this story as originally published Dec. 11, 2007 about Frommer's travel experts naming Pittsburgh as a top destination for 2008. Also, while Frommers.com editorial director David Lytle has family in Johnstown, he himself is from Kokomo, Ind.

Staff writer Monica Haynes contributed. Sally Kalson can be reached at skalson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1610.


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