Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood is the education center of the city. Each year thousands of students move into this area to attend one of the universities located there. Being a newcomer, or even a resident who hasn’t ventured to this area of the city recently, can be a bit overwhelming and disorienting. But, the beauty of Oakland is that there is something of interest for everyone. From historical to sports sites to spiritual centers, Oakland is packed tighter with points of interest than a pincushion.
Popular Pittsburgh wants to help you get the most of your time in Oakland and have a bit of fun while you explore this part of the city. Unlike a traditional scavenger hunt where you collect items from the various points of interest along the way, we’re suggesting that you take selfies. In addition, we’ve also made the tour a bit of a mystery. For each landmark, we’ve included some information and a question. Each question contains a hint to the answer. Correct answers are posted below.
You can begin the tour at any of the 11 points of interest and pick up the hunt from there by going to the following site. Along the way, feel free to take in the other venues. Many of the sites highlighted on the tour require extra time to fully explore them. Forbes and Fifth Avenue are the two main thoroughfares in this area, with most of the attractions located near one of these streets. The Cathedral of Learning also is a great way to orient yourself. This tower can be seen from most locations in the area. If you get lost, head to the cathedral or just ask someone for directions to one of these streets and you will be fine. Pittsburghers are a friendly lot and most will be eager to help.
The time to complete the tour will vary according to your pace and curiosity and whether you explore in more depth some of the sites along the way. It should take a few hours, but there is no reason to rush. Enjoy Oakland and don’t forget to tag your photos with #popularpittsburgh.
1. The Cathedral of Learning
The University of Pittsburgh’s most identifiable building, The Cathedral of Learning, is the second tallest educational building in the world. It is only dwarfed by The University of Moscow’s main building. Located at 4200 Fifth Avenue, the Cathedral of Learning stands 535 feet tall with 42 floors. The building houses the famed Nationality Rooms on the lower floors. If the Nationality Rooms are open, wander about and be amazed at these working classrooms.
If you go inside the cathedral, take a photo in front of one of the Nationality Rooms. If you choose to remain outside, there are limitless vantage points where you can capture a shot with this iconic building.
In addition to the Nationality Rooms, the Cathedral of Learning is home to some of these. Although their name may suggest it, they do not hail from Atlanta.
The cathedral is situated nearly in the center of a distorted rectangle, bordered by Fifth Avenue to the north, Bigelow Boulevard to the west, Forbes Avenue to the South, and S. Bellefield Street to the east. Head east on the pathways toward S. Bellefield Street, and you will soon find a smaller, gothic style building, which is:
2. Heinz Memorial Chapel
This non-denominational chapel was a gift to the University of Pittsburgh from H. J. Heinz as a way to honor his mother, Anna Margaretta Heinz. It was dedicated in 1938. Of the many events held every year at the chapel, among them are nearly 200 weddings. To be married at Heinz Chapel, you must be affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh or be employed by Heinz Corp.
Like the cathedral there are numerous views for photographing this lovely gift from the Heinz family.
All of the stained glass windows were created by one man, Charles Connick, which is usually not the case. You’d be “pressed” to find a stained glass artist with stronger ties to Pittsburgh than Connick as he was once on staff of this defunct Pittsburgh newspaper.
On S. Bellefield, turn left and head toward Fifth Avenue. When you reach Fifth Avenue, turn right and walk until you come to S. Dithridge Street. Cross Fifth Avenue and at 108 N. Dithridge Street, you will find another iconic house of worship:
3. St. Paul Cathedral
The cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of Pittsburgh and its more than 750,000 Catholics. The Gothic style cathedral was built in 1906. At that time, many Pittsburghers had moved from downtown Pittsburgh, which was becoming an industrial center, to suburban Oakland. The diocese decided to move the cathedral too from downtown Pittsburgh to Oakland.
Take a photo on the steps of St. Paul Cathedral.
Many questioned the bishop at that time for selecting Oakland for the cathedral. What was the name of that bishop? I have a good “feelin” you might know the answer.
From St. Paul Cathedral head west toward the direction of the Cathedral of Learning, until you come to 4141 Fifth Avenue and:
The nation’s only military museum dedicated to those who served in any branch of the service, Soldiers & Sailors was originally built to honor the Civil War veterans of Allegheny County. Today, it honors all those who have served the nation from Pennsylvania. Dedicated in 1910, Soldiers & Sailors is situated on an expansive lawn dotted with canons and other military apparatus, and it houses war artifacts and unique exhibits from the Civil War until today’s conflicts.
Pose with one of the many military artifacts on the lawn. Who can resist a photo with a torpedo?
It’s hard to “keep quiet” about this creepy movie that was filmed here and had people “flocking” to the movies.
From Soldiers & Sailors head northwest toward the back of the hall. Make a slight right onto O’Hare Street, heading up towards Chevron Science Center. Head left past the building. You’ll know you’re in going in the right direction when you pass the large glass Periodic Table of Elements. Head up the hill until you get to a set of steps on your right. Take the stairs all the way up. Once you reach the residence halls of upper campus you’ll make a left down the street. Just slightly past Panther Hall, you’ll be at the back of the Peterson Event Center. Make your way down the steps to the front of the building. You’ll even be able to head inside to take the escalators and catch a bit of the A.C.
5. The Peterson Events Center & Salk Hall
This arena is where the University of Pittsburgh plays basketball. It opened in 2002 on the former site of Pitt Stadium. Continue past The Peterson Events Center to Salk Hall at 3501 Terrace Street. There on the lawn is a historical marker commemorating the site where noted medical researcher Jonas Salk conducted research on the first polio vaccine.
Take a photo next to the plaque honoring Jonas Salk’s work. Then take one at The Peterson Events Center.
For Pete’s sake you better get this answer. What is the nickname of the Peterson events center?
Head down De Soto St. in front of the The Pete. This hill is commonly referred to Cardiac Hill, but don’t worry, UPMC Presbyterian Hospital is on your right. As you approach Fifth Avenue, the School of Public Health is on your left. Turn left in front of it and cross the street at the next intersection of S. Bouquet. Pitt’s freshman dorms known as The Towers will be right in front of you. Continue down, past Five Guys, until you come to the other major street in Oakland, Forbes Avenue. At the corner is where The Original Hot Dog Factory used to sit before it had to close during the 2020 global pandemic. Head left along Forbes, making your way towards Bigelow Ave. You’ll pass the Law School, The Pitt Shop, and Lawrence Hall. At the Corner is:
6. Hillman Library
Located at 3960 Forbes Ave., Hillman Library contains approximately 1.5 million volumes, over 200 computers, study capacity for 1500 users, numerous departments, service points, and specialized collections. was built on land that had bordered Forbes Field and was donated in the 1950s to Pitt by coal magnate J. Hartwell Hillman, Jr.
Head inside to explore each of the five floors. Just remember the 4th floor is a silent study area, so shhh. Find a book to take a picture with on the 2nd or 3rd floor.
What Netflix original series does Hillman Library appear in episode 1? Don’t hunt around in your mind for too long to find the answer.
When you come out the front of the building, make a right to head towards Roberto Clemente Drive. The red bricks you’ll pass represent the outfield wall of:
7. Forbes Field & The Wall
All that remains of that baseball park is part of the outfield wall and flag pole in their original location on Roberto Clemente Drive. It was over this wall that Pirate Bill Mazeroski hit his legendary home run to win the 1960 World Series. To commemorate that occasion, fans visit the wall and the adjacent field named in honor of the second baseman.
Take your photo in front of the outfield wall at one of Pittsburgh’s most historic sports sites.
What was the name of the Yankee pitcher who Mazeroski “terrorized” with his World Series blast?
Walk back the way you came to the corner of Schenley Drive, turn right and follow it across the bridge until you come to the complex of large glass buildings on the right, which is:
8. Phipps Conservatory
Henry Phipps built the conservatory as a gift to the City of Pittsburgh 1893. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! This paradise is home to beautiful gardens and exotic plants and has been a must-visit place for decades. If you don’t have time to tour it now, be sure to come back when you can properly enjoy Phipps’ wondrous beauty.
A good photo spot is one that captures the Victorian greenhouse in the background. If you go into Phipps, you will find incredible scenes where you can pose for your photo.
You will be “dead” on if you can name the flower that blooms every six to ten years at Phipps and gives off a horrible stench.
If you traveled further on Schenley Drive, you would enter Schenley Park, but this is a vast play land for Pittsburghers, so we recommend scheduling a visit for Schenley Park on another day. Inside the park there is a golf course, swimming pool, outdoor skating rink, tennis courts, soccer fields, and the Schenley Oval running track. If you do visit the park, there is a magnificent view of the city and Oakland from the hill atop the Frisbee golf course.
Cross the street from Phipps where you will see Flagstaff Hill. Locals like to gather here to watch movies in the park. Head back over the bridge, but not before noting the statue on your left honoring Edward Bigelow, friend of Andrew Carnegie and “Father of City Parks.” We will talk more about Bigelow when we get to Mary Schenley. On your left, in front of the Frick Fine Arts Building is:
9. The Mary Schenley Fountain & Schenley Plaza
This fountain and the swath of green space across the street known as Schenley Plaza honor Mary Schenley, who donated most of the land in this area. Mary Croghan Schenley was the granddaughter of pioneering Pittsburgh businessman James O’Hara, and as an only child was the heir to her mother’s considerable land tracts. When she was 15, Mary eloped to England in 1841 with the 43-year-old Captain Schenley. It was his third elopement and caused scandal all over the country. Her widowed father tried to stop the marriage but was unsuccessful. However, he succeeded in stopping her from inheriting the land. Unfortunately, the Schenleys fell on hard times and Mary and her father eventually reconciled.
In 1889, Edward Bigelow, Pittsburgh’s Director of Public Works, got word that a developer was going to London to convince Mary Schenley to sell him the Mt. Airy Tract. Bigelow immediately sent a lawyer to England, beating the developer by two days. Schenley gave the city 300 acres with the option to purchase 120 more, providing that the park Bigelow had in mind be named after her and never be sold.
Across the street from the fountain is Schenley Plaza, which features take-out food kiosks and The Porch restaurant as well as a green space and a spacious garden area with ample seating that invites visitors to sit and chat. The signature piece in the plaza is the PNC Carousel, where for $1.25 you can take a spin on the merry-go-round.
A beautiful spot for a photo is with the Schenley Fountain and the Cathedral of Learning in the background.
It’s no “secret” that Mary Schenley’s romance shocked this English monarch. Which Queen of England refused to receive the Schenleys at court for years?
After exploring the Schenley Fountain and Plaza areas, head toward Schenley Drive extension and walk toward the Cathedral of Learning. When you come to Forbes Avenue, turn right and you will come to:
10. The Carnegie Library, Carnegie Music Hall, Carnegie Museum of Natural History & Carnegie Museum of Art
What Schenley was to parks, Andrew Carnegie was to libraries and museums in Pittsburgh. At 4400 Forbes Avenue is the Carnegie Library, which is the flagship for the 19 other Carnegie branch libraries in the city. It opened in 1895 and was funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie Music Hall hosts lectures and musical entertainment.
Next door, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has one of the most extensive collection of dinosaur fossils in the world. The T-Rex will give you nightmares of Jurassic Park proportion. A day could be spent wandering around these exhibits. But if you did that, you wouldn’t have time to visit next door at the Carnegie Museum of Art, where you can see masterpieces by artists such as Winslow Homer and James A. McNeill Whistler.
Take a photo in front of one of these big guys. dippy
There are four statues outside the Carnegie of geniuses: Shakespeare, Galileo, and Bach are three of them. The fourth is the creator of The Pieta, which I referenced at the beginning.
Continue further on Forbes Avenue if you would like to explore the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, which was originally called Carnegie Tech and was founded by you guessed it Andrew Carnegie in 1900. If your tootsies are tired, cross Forbes at the intersection of Craig Street and head back toward the Cathedral of Learning, passing on your right St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, at 419 S. Dithridge Street, which is the seat of the Greek Orthodox diocese in Pittsburgh. On Forbes near the lawn of the Cathedral is:
11. The Log Cabin
To celebrate the University of Pittsburgh’s bicentennial in 1987, this log cabin was reconstructed to symbolize Pitt’s beginnings as a frontier academy of higher learning. The cabin dates to the 1820s/1830s and came from the Yatesboro/Rural Valley area, which is approximately 50 miles from Pittsburgh. It was reassembled on this lawn.
Take a photo with the log cabin and a portion of the Cathedral of Learning to show just how far learning has come in the area.
It may be “academic,” but what was the name of the first school that eventually evolved into the University of Pittsburgh?
- Cathedral of Learning: Peregrine Falcons have been nesting at the top of the cathedral in recent years.
- Heinz Chapel: Connick created the windows in his Boston studio, but he was once on the staff of The Pittsburgh Press.
- St. Paul: Bishop Richard Phelan was the bishop at the time of the cathedral’s construction.
- Soldiers & Sailors: Some scenes from The Silence of the Lambs were filmed at Soldiers & Sailors.
- Peterson & Salk: The Pete
- Hillman Library: Mindhunters
- Forbes Field: Ralph Terry
- Phipps: The corpse flower is one of the rarest and largest flowers on earth and smells awful when it blooms. It last bloomed in August of 2013.
- Schenley: Queen Victoria
- Carnegie buildings: Michelangelo
- Log Cabin: The Pittsburgh Academy is believed to have begun in the 1780s in a log cabin such as this and later became The University of Pittsburgh.