Just Ducky Tours
125 W. Station Square Drive, Station Square
412-402-3825 or www.justduckytours.com
"Quack, quack, quack!"
A ride with Just Ducky Tours means visitors truly get their duck on: quacking, traveling over land, quacking, taking to the river and more quacking. But unlike local waterfowl, who live and quack in a state of ignorant bliss, Just Ducky riders will learn a lot about Pittsburgh.
The tour takes place in an amphibious World War II-era DUKW nicknamed "duck." Visitors load up into the open, but canopied, carrier — like its namesake, the duck tour runs rain or shine — and head out from Station Square. Tours can vary depending on events such as a baseball game, but generally the duck spins around Downtown, crosses the Allegheny on a bridge, rolls along the riverfront path and goes for a swim in the river.
According to the tour guide, the first rule of riding the duck is: "You have to have fun." At Just Ducky, they're not kidding. Expect to quack — a lot (quacks aimed at folks on the sidewalks and bleated just for kicks numbered over 60). The informative tour is heavily laced with humor, from puns, Pittsburghese, irreverent digs at passing landmarks and misrepresenting the county jail as a nice riverside hotel ("room, meals, gym"). The tour guide did warn us: "These jokes are fowl, if you're not down with them." "We're quacking up," replied the game — sorry — tourist behind me.
But the hour-long tour also conveys plenty of useful and interesting information, sure to keep a visitor intrigued with our town. The history of Downtown and its various buildings. The Cultural District and all the arts. Pittsburgh's great sports teams. The confluence and our unique waterways. (Oh, did somebody just mention the mysterious fourth river?) Fun takeaways included learning about the Mr. Yuk sticker, Pittsburgh's first movie theater and the region's other favorite birds, the Hays bald-eagle family.
In fact, while acknowledging Pittsburgh's smoky and polluted past, the tour also emphasizes the city's more recent and laudable environmental achievements, from parks and green buildings to fish-friendly waterways.
And speaking of the rivers, truly the highlight of the tour is when the vehicle simply drives into the river. It seems to defy everything one knows about safe travel, and the shifting sensation from traveling in a heavy vehicle along a bumpy road to gently floating is quite thrilling. The driver — now a "captain" — explained how the DUKW works, where the wheels go and so on, but it is all rather magical. Once on the river, lucky passengers can take a turn at piloting the duck, and this is a Facebook photo-op that most of your friends can't touch.
For out-of-towners or locals, Just Ducky offers a lot on one ticket: an open-air tour of historical neighborhoods, a boat ride, a crazy-quilt of facts and funnies, and a chance to unleash your inner duck on unsuspecting pedestrians.
"Quack, quack, quack!"