Bikes, Mannequins, Music and More in Steel City

By Vanessa Orr

Bikes, Mannequins, Music and More in Steel City

When you think of a museum, what first comes to mind? Priceless art? Imposing dinosaur skeletons and “taxidermized” beasts? Civil War relics or Revolutionary War cannons?

While Pittsburgh has all of those and more, it is also home to some odder—but still just as intriguing—museums that cater to more specific interests. Bicycle Heaven Shop & Museum, for example, has more than 6,000 different types of bicycles on display; Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff is filled to the brim with rock-n-roll history and collectibles from the 1950s. And Randyland pretty much defies description—part art museum, part Pittsburgh social hub and one of the happiest places in the ‘burgh, it’s main attraction is its owner and artist-in-residence Randy Gilson.

While all of these museums are well worth a visit simply for their cool factor alone, the fact that they are all free, and located on the Northside of Pittsburgh, makes them a must-visit when stopping in the Golden Triangle.

Bicycle Heaven

Bicycle Heaven is what happens when a guy likes to collect things…and then he rides that passion right into Trip Advisor’s #1 spot of things to do in Pittsburgh. Back in 1991, Craig Morrow found a bike in the trash that he decided to repair; flash forward three decades, and Morrow is now the curator and owner of the world’s largest bicycle museum.

You’d think that if you’ve seen one bike you’ve seen them all, but nothing could be further from the truth. Two floors of a massive warehouse are filled with everything from Howdy Doody and Donald Duck kids’ bikes to the red-and-white striped racer that Pee-Wee Herman rode in his big adventure.

And while you may consider bikes playthings, they are serious investments, too. Bicycle Heaven is the only place in the world to see 17 Bowden Spacelander bicycles (only 30 still exist); each is worth about $18,000 now, down from $50,000 in their original condition.

You can spend hours in this museum, and you’re still not going to see everything inside, though I highly recommend making a stop in the Groovy Cranky Panky Socket Room—part art project and part, well, bike parts, it’s a psychedelic experience that you won’t soon forget.

If you happen to be a bike rider, you can also find bike parts, bikes to trade, and even bikes to rent so you can see even more of the city.

Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff

Located just a couple doors away in the same building, Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff is a tribute to the artists that created some of the most memorable music of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and it is curated by no less than well-known Pittsburgh performer Johnny Angel (aka Jack Hunt), lead singer of Johnny Angel & the Halos.

Angel, who has shared the stage with The Marvelettes, Ben E. King, Lou Rawls, Mary Wilson and more, began collecting signed records, clothing and other items from the people he performed with over the years. When his attic, basement, second floor, mother’s house, sister’s house and a warehouse was full, they suggested (and he agreed) that he should create a museum honoring his idols. The result is an impressive collection of musical history, up to and including the shirt right off of Jimmy Merchant’s back, which was given to Angel when the member of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers was having dinner at his home.

It’s an added plus if Johnny is there when you visit; he’s a storyteller as well as a musician, and it’s pretty impressive to hear about the history of three decades of music straight from the man who lived it.

If you happen to be in the mood for shopping, the front part of the museum is also full of collectibles to buy, so if you need gifts for any pop culture fans, this is absolutely the place to stock up on Marilyn Monroe figurines, Elvis memorabilia, Mick Jagger figures and more.

Both Bicycle Heaven and Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff are located in the R.J. Casey Industrial Park on Preble Avenue on the Northside, and there is free parking on-site. Bicycle Heaven is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff is closed Monday and Tuesday, but open the rest of the week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., unless Johnny has a gig. Best to call to make sure it’s open.

Randyland

You don’t get to call yourself a true Pittsburgher until you’ve spent some time hanging out at Randyland, located in Pittsburgh’s Mexican War Streets neighborhood. When Randy Gilson moved to the area more than 40 years ago, he started planting gardens and taking care of neighbors’ yards to beautify the area, while also using it as a way to help himself focus. Diagnosed with ADHD, he found that gardening, painting and creating art out of recycled objects gave him a much-needed outlet.

Once he got his own property, an investment of $15,000 which is now worth approximately $1 million, he started expressing himself through art—all over the outdoor courtyard and up and down the block as well. The area is awash with colorful murals and attracts people from all over the world; one fence wall is dedicated with welcome signs in more than 100 different languages.

Other sights include mannequin heads, brightly colored chairs strung from the ground to the roof, and a row of rocking horses. On most days, you can also talk with Randy, who likes to share his inspirational story with visitors while jumping into group selfies. If the weather is good, you’ll find a lot of locals as well as visitors hanging out in the vibrant spot; just be prepared to smile a lot as this is about as far from a staid, boring museum as you can imagine.

Randyland is located at 1501 Arch Street in Pittsburgh, and there is usually plenty of free street parking. It is open from noon to 5 p.m. every day.

About the Author: Freelance writer. Roadtripper. Travel diva and dog rescuer. Will write for food or kibbles and bits. Based out of Pittsburgh, PA, via Juneau, AK, Vanessa has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years. An avid traveler, she always brings home amazing memories…and often more dogs. Find out more at www.VanessaOrrInk.com or follow www.EveryRoadaStory.com.

Bicycle Heaven

1800 Preble Ave

412-734-4034

Bicycleheaven.org

Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff

1800 Preble Avenue

412-766-1846

Jaginchystuff.com

Randyland

1501 Arch Street

412-342-8152

Randy.land

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