So tell me about Western Pennsylvania!

Well, due to an unlikely series of weird events, it appears that the wife and I and the Tristanling may be moving to beautiful Western Pennsylvania in about a year or so.

What’s it like?

I’ve only really lived in Montana and California, so I have no idea what to expect. We’re looking around Pittsburg, though not in Pittsburg.

How is schooling? Weather? Gun laws and smog requirements? Minimum wage and such?

I have no idea what life on the other coast, or even near it, is like. I just now that friends that have been bi-coastal say it’s a whole other world over there.

So… I await your glowing reviews and outright hatred in equal anticipation.

Well, it’s darn convenient for going to Pennsic, but you probably knew that.

There are many areas around Pittsburgh that have excellent schools, especially if you’re looking at the suburbs. People with kids can probably answer this better than me, though, if you’re looking for which specific areas have the best schools.

The gun laws here are pretty owner friendly. No permits of any kind are needed to own long guns or pistols, although you should probably check with the PA State Police if you’re planning on transferring firearms that you own where you live now into the state, as I’m not sure what those regulations are.

For PA residents to buy firearms, it’s pretty simple. You have to go through the NICS check and fill out the BATF 4473 and there’s one other state form if you’re buying a handgun. There are many wonderful shooting ranges and gun clubs in the area, as well as outdoor ranges at most of the state game lands. Obtaining a concealed carry license is done through the county sheriff’s office, and they can provide you with all the info that you need. It’s not expensive, but you do need to apply in the county that you live in. Pittsburgh is in Allegheny County. Counties in the immediate area are Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland.

Public transportation isn’t up to the level of say, NYC or DC, but it does exist. Smog requirements are more relaxed than California, although most counties do require emissions test with annual inspection. Allegheny and Washington definitely do, although I’m not sure about the others. The two seasons of the year here are winter and construction, so be prepared to see lots of orange barrels when the warmer months hit.

Not sure about the minimum wage here, since I haven’t had a minimum wage job in a long time. I think it’s currently $5.15 an hour.

Western PA is a nice area, lots of scenery and forests, and there are many state parks and things like biking trails if you like to get out and do things like that. I’m not sure if you like things like canoeing, kayaking or rafting, but there’s a place kind of southeast of Pittsburgh called Ohiopyle that’s good for those sorts of activities, and there are camping areas located within a 90 minute drive of the city.

There are quite a few Pittsburgh area Dopers, so I’m sure you can get answers to any questions you might think up.

We lived in Meadville for about 5 years. Pittsburgh has some good points, although we didn’t make it down there as often as we would have liked, especially in the winter. Winters were pretty fierce, due to the lake-effect snow from Lake Erie. There were some interesting aspects. It’s in Amish country, for one thing.

I would expect that there would be some good schools around the Pittsburgh area. We didn’t have kids at the time, though. Liquor laws are much stricter than California. I’m sure the smog laws aren’t any stricter–we didn’t have any trouble bringing our old CA car. Don’t know about gun laws, although I can tell you that the opening of deer season is some kind of school holiday. Summers were hot and humid. There were occasional tornado warnings. For about 3 weeks in May/June and 3 weeks in October it was absolutely gorgeous.

That’s all I can think of right now.

This is great stuff… and while I have to admit that I’m pretty much out of the SCA, I may dig up the gear and do Pennsic, even if it’s just the one time.

Guns laws… certainly more liberal than CA. Sounds like I shouldn’t have any problem getting my old WW2 rifle cleared. Cars is good to hear as well.

What is the condition of houses and housing in general? My wife is looking at Warrendale, which is a small town from all appearances. She fell in love with the houses when she visted her father in Vandergrift, so she’s a bit biased. Are we going to be looking at small rooms and hard to heat in the winter or what?

Thank you all… this is a wealth of information that you just can’t get from looking online at real estate sites!

It’s a decent area from what I remember. Winters here get pretty cold, but usually not until January and February. Heating costs and such really depend upon the age of the house and how well insulated it is. Big, older homes with poor insulation cost a lot to heat. There are old houses and new houses here. If you spend some time looking around, you can find what you’re looking for.

My house is really new (4 years old) and well insulated, so it doesn’t cost much to heat it at all. If you’re coming up here for winter, you should definitely invest in some good snow tires for your car. We tend to get snow, and the secondary and tertiary roads don’t get plowed and salted right away. Snow season lasts until about the end of March, although we have had snow as late as early April.

Where will you need to commute to? I live in the South Hills, the suburban area south of Pittsburgh. You’ll find very good schools outside of the city of Pittsburgh in the North and South Hills. I don’t know a lot about Warrendale per se, but the Wexford area is nice, and seems to be a developing area. North and South Hills residents rarely mix, probably due to geography and terrain.

Unless you buy a particularly old or unusual house, I wouldn’t anticipate having particular difficulties heating it. I also don’t find the winters to be particularly harsh (in fact they are too mild for my liking) but that may be due to having roots and having lived in New England for a time.

People here complain that there aren’t enough sunny days during the year. Again, I don’t notice this so much, but it seems a common observation.

As others have noted, there are no particularly unusual regulations or requirements regarding automobile exhaust. I have no knowledge of gun laws or gun owning. I do know that you can now drive a motorcycle without a helmet here.

I like the people here better than those I met in and from California, but I was dealing with a limited exposure time to Californians.

One thing, however - Please don’t leave off the “h.”

Yeah, except for last winter when I was leaving for work as it was 3 degrees or less outside. That was fun. Flat spots on the tires, anyone?

I do wish we got more snow.

Other people have shown the good parts; here are some of the bad.

Road conditions. If it’s not full of potholes, there are orange barrels and cones all over the road. The nature of the hills and valleys confines traffic to a few roads that are easily congested; scout for the back roads and byways to get around if you hate traffic jams.

People. While many people here are nice, there are bad neighborhoods (as far as crime goes) in the older city sections and larger towns. Strangers are watched; the local news keeps everyone on edge, with some good reason. There are a lot of Christian conservatives living here, and they act accordingly- which can be a problem if you’re different.

Sports. If you like basketball and baseball, there’s not much interesting happening now (with the pros- there are a lot of colleges around.) Football looks good, and hockey just got a shot in the arm- although the owner still threatens to take his team and go away if he doesn’t get his new arena.

Jobs- Pittsburgh is still in transition from heavy industry to service-based industries, and it shows. There are minimum wage jobs to be had, but unless you have something lined up it’s difficult to get into the higher-paying vocations.

Warrendale is one of the newer neighborhoods, and you’ll be OK if you work on the north side. If you have to use the parkway you get the commute problems.

Christian Conservatives don’t bother us to much. After the first goat sacrifice, they usually leave well enough alone.

Just kidding.

We’re pretty excited about the idea, and my wife in particular is looking forward to snow. Having both grown up in Montana, the idea of winter isn’t all that scary to us, but then we’re weird.

Keep it coming, if you can folks!

Thanks again!

You should really consider eastern PA. Then you’d be up front for all the MAD (mid-atlantic-dopers) activities, and you wouldn’t have to speak a different tongue (yinz?) and you wouldn’t have to root for the Stillers n’at. :stuck_out_tongue:

Don’t get pissy-I love yinz even if ya talk funny

Come north a few hours into western New York. You know a real state, not some silly Commonwealth.

Western PA is nice. If you want to be in the Pittsburgh area, but not in Pittsburgh itself, may I suggest one of the counties surrounding Allegheny? Among other things, you’ll save considerably in property taxes and not have an extra 1% sales tax. I live in Beaver County.
When you are house hunting, be aware that many of the old neighborhoods in Western PA were constructed with the idea of cramming the maximum amount of proletariot (mill workers, miners) into the minimum possible amount of real estate. Houses are only a couple feet apart and yards are nearly non-existant. Streets are narrow and parking is extremely limited.
On the other hand, there are communities, like Chippewa here in Beaver County, that are somewhat “yuppiefied” and have newer homes and larger lots.

Amen, brother. It really pays to live close to where you work around here. I moved from the eastern suburbs to the south hills in order to turn a 1-1/2 hour commute into a 15 minute one.

I’m a native, and therefore biased, but I’ve had many non-native friends tell me how freindly the area is. I agree, but the other side of this is that you’ll quickly find out what the word “nebby” means.

Snow is kind of funny here - we get it but usually not a whole ton. Most of it falls just north of here. Due to the hilly nature of the area, I think they do a pretty good job with the roads during a normal (1-3") snowfall. A lot of this depends on your local municipality.

Overall, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Welcome in advance!

huh. huh huh. “Beaver County”
Philly has some gun restrictions and mayor Street has been trying to reduce gun ownership. Nearly everywhere else in the state, it’s simple to find guns, clubs, ranges, taxidermists etc.

PA liquor laws remain bizarre and confusing. Strange restrictions on hours. Restrictions on what kinds of liquor can be sold. There are shops that sell beer and nothing else.

Be warned that certain parts of PA still have a strong KKK presence.

I don’t remember if it is in Western Penn., but I visited the town of Needmore, years ago. Very small, very pleasant. Beautiful views You have to walk down off the sidewalk to get to the stores on main st. As I recall, they also had a natural spring bathhouse, which is in no way to be confused with a spa.

We changed it from “Cooze County.”

Yeah, my Father in Law has talked about those, but since he is the head bartender (I think) for a “private fireman’s bar and club” I can get the hooch with ease, as necessary.

We’re not really for certain where we’re going to end up yet. She’s looking to transfer to the Verizon center in Cranberrywood, and the final decision will be up to her. She’s the one with a transferable job, after all.

Me, I’m just excited to go to a new place. Once the lease is up on our apartment, we start packing.

I’m terrified, of course, but also pretty hyped.

Verizon, huh? Verizon has a bunch of offices in the Baltimore area which are within driving distance of York County. That way you get the benefits of living in PA with the pay of Maryland.

Sorry for the resurection on this one, but there are new devlopments!

My wife got the job, and we will be leaving Sacramento on the 19th and driving to PA.

We’ve already got a house lined up, and in fact purchased, we just have to sign some papers.

We will be living in the lovely little town of Vandergrift, which is right alongside the Kiskeminetas (sp?) river. That’s West of Pittsburgh by about an hour or so.

We’re gonna be in Allegheny County.

I’m pretty excited.

The wife starts her job on the 26th, and I’ll probably start looking for work within a few days of hitting the ground. Tech stuff, like I do now, but if I can get into the New Kensington Campus of PITT, I’ll probably just do school full time and find some local part time work.

So… anymore advice?