a heroine’s travel guide to Pittsburgh’s Oakland / by Kristin
Pittsburgh — city of enchanting bridges, a rich history of steel and industry, and capital of putting french fries on everything. It’s a tricky city in that there’s so much to do, and while the city isn’t very big, it’s not exactly compact. Broken up into little neighborhoods, the various areas around Pittsburgh are known for their own particular specialties: Bloomfield is the region’s “Little Italy”; Lawrenceville is filled with trendy, hipster-friendly coffee shops and galleries; and the South Side is known just as much for it’s drastic slopes and city steps as it is for its many bars.
It would be impossible to explore the city in a day, which is why I’m whisking you away to Oakland — the main college hub and my haunt for four years while I attended the University of Pittsburgh. Some parts reek of college life (hello cheap housing, dive bars, and end-of-summer move-in traffic nightmares), but the pros outweigh the cons. Oakland is full of life and culture; there is always plenty to do, from ice-skating at Schenley Park in the winter, to exploring the gardens of Phipps Conservatory. And even amidst the hustle and bustle, you can always manage to find a quiet corner or shady knoll for respite.
In my eyes, being a heroine means being cultured and well-rounded. As a literary nerd myself, I’m all about books and learning, and Oakland is the perfect stomping grounds for a heroine-in-training looking to refine her mind and flaunt her classy, intellectual side.
> Have brunch at Pamela’s.
A heroine is nothing without a balanced breakfast to start the day, and Pamela’s is a local treasure. Spend the morning catching up with friends over a cup of coffee and plate of Pamela’s famous crepe-thin pancakes and Lyonnaise potatoes.
A stop at the Carnegie Museum allows you to learn a bit more about whatever tickles your fancy. Whether you’re into art or want to see the fighting Tyrannosaurus-rex display, the museum has a plethora of permanent and rotating exhibits that allow you to interactively engage with ancient and modern cultures. You might even spy the bookshelves of the neighboring Carnegie Library peering out at you from behind the enormous fossils (and don’t forget to say hello to Dippy the diplodocus who stands guard at the corner between the museum and the library!).
> Curl up with a good book.
Books should be a steady part of any learned heroine’s diet! The Carnegie Library has branches all over Allegheny County, but it’s the Main Branch in Oakland that is a spectacular sight to behold. Rows and rows of bookshelves intersect with wrought-iron staircases to create a bibliophile’s heaven. Find a cozy nook amidst the stacks, or venture into the library’s cafe to sneak in a few pages.
> Eat ice cream in the plaza.
Take that good book with you if you can’t tear yourself away! Across the street lies the trimmed, grassy field known as Schenley Plaza. Take it easy and bask in the sun (or clouds and occasional shower, as Pittsburgh only gets a handful of truly sunny days a year), but don’t forget to grab a sweet treat beforehand! Dave & Andy’s ice cream parlor is a few blocks away, but worth the walk to curb your sweet tooth!
> Explore the Cathedral of Learning.
Look up and you’ll see the towering Cathedral of Learning — a 42-story-tall building done in the Gothic Revival style that serves as the University of Pittsburgh’s central landmark. Classes are held inside throughout the day, but the Cathedral also offers tours of the 29 Nationality Rooms, which are designed and decorated in the fashion of each room’s respective country (i.e. the Norwegian Room has a sloped roof to lessen “snow” accumulation, and the Austrian Room resembles the splendor of one of Vienna’s concert halls). Find your way down one of the many, “secret” staircases into the Common Room, which is open to everyone 24/7, and looks like an awful lot like Hogwarts’ Great Hall.
> Lindy hop!
Carnegie Mellon University offers free swing dance lessons each week through Tartan Swing. A heroine should certainly be able to dance with class! No partner necessary as the lessons are always well attended by both men and women of all levels. Conclude the evening’s lesson with a dance, and you won’t even mind when your feet hurt later.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; there are plenty more things to see and do in Oakland, let alone Pittsburgh!
Kristin [My Life As a Tea Cup] is a twenty-something bibliophile, list-maker, and Star Wars enthusiast. Her blog merges the practical side of life with a healthy dose of whimsy. She also runs the NovelTea Book Club.
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