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10 Cool Things to Do and See When You Tour Carnegie Mellon + Pitt University

Explore Pittsburgh's universities including Pitt and CMU with a former student. Tour the Carnegie Mellon University campus.
Pittsburgh's universities are world famous. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh is the best college in the United States for Computer Science. 

I found myself in Pittsburgh for the weekend between two halves of a business trip and decided to explore the CMU campus with a friend who is an alumnus of the school as my guide. 

As an added bonus, we also spent some time at Pitt. When traveling for business, it's always worth it to make time for some fun. 

In Pittsburgh, I get bonus points for enlisting an accomplice to show me around. Friends with local knowledge know the best places to see and eat and the special stories that accompany those places enrich the experience. 

Let's take a look at some of the best things to do near Carnegie Mellon and Pitt University.

Carnegie Mellon University's Kraus Campo

1. Sliding into Home Plate Like a Real Pittsburgh Pirate

Home Plate from Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, now on the Pitt campus
Thanks to my friend's insider knowledge of all things Pittsburgh, I learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball stadium used to be located where the Pitt campus stands today. 

Wesley W. Posvar Hall now stands on the site and hosts the former home plate from Pittsbugrh's Forbes Field. Baseball greats like Hank Aaron and Honus Wagner once swung their bats over this very plate. 

Apparently, Babe Ruth hit the final three home runs of his career while standing behind home plate at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field.  Pitt is home to some fascinating history that I would have missed entirely without my local friend showing me around.

2. CMU's Textured Brick

Textured Brick at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh

On to CMU! The buildings at Carnegie Mellon University feature a lovely textured brick. My friend gave me a hot tip about this photo spot looking up the staircase. 

If I didn't know a student or alumnus, I might not have even ventured inside. It definitely pays to have friends when you travel.

3. Science or Art at CMU's Kraus Campo?

Kraus Campo at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh

Continuing our tour of CMU, we walked to Kraus Campo, a lovely spot on a warm summer's day. Kraus Campo was commissioned by CMU alumna Jill Gansman Kraus and Peter Kraus and represents what you can do when you have a donor with deep pockets and an eclectic interest in art. 

Integrating landscape and contemporary art from well-known Carnegie Mellon graduates, Kraus Campo is meant to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of CMU. Regardless of the significance, it's a cool spot for a photowalk on-campus on a summer's day.

4. Paint the Fence at CMU

Painting the fence is a CMU student tradition in Pittsburgh

"The thing that students paint" seems to be a recurring theme at colleges and universities. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, student groups painted the tunnel. 

At CMU, they paint the fence. My friend tells me that there are well defined rules for painting the fence at CMU. 

You can only begin in the middle of the night and if you leave the fence unguarded, another group can paint over your work before dawn. Paint and defend seems to be the mantra at CMU.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for more fun things to do in Pittsburgh? Check out Randyland and the Mexican War Streets neighborhood or go birdwatching at the National Aviary.

5. CMU's Margaret Morrison Carnegie College

Margaret Morrison Carnegie College in Pittsburgh
My friend took me to see Margaret Morrison Carnegie College, formerly the women's college at CMU. Once again, if I wasn't with someone who knew their way around and was familiar with all the local stories from campus, I would have missed this entirely. 

Margaret Morrison Carnegie College closed as a separate entity in 1973 and the buildings are used to this day for other CMU programs. 

My friend pointed out the words encircling the courtyard of the Margaret Morrison Women's College building (click the photo below to access the full panorama).
Panorama of Margaret Morrison Carnegie College in Pittsburgh
However humble, these are woman's high prerogatives,
To make and inspire the home
To lessen suffering and increase happiness
To aid mankind in its upward struggles,
To Ennoble and adorn life's work, 

I'm really glad times have changed. It's hard to imagine going to an institution of higher learning with the expectation that your sole goal is to make and inspire the home and aid your man. 

Inside the building, we found quotes from students who attended Margaret Morrison Carnegie College and CMU and the struggles they faced as aspiring scientists and engineers who happened to be women.
Historic quotes from women scientists and engineers at Margaret Morrison Carnegie College in Pittsburgh
I went to night school for six years for my masters because women could not enroll in the day school in engineering. I was the only woman surrounded by curious males. I completed my courses in metallurgy, but they gave me a chemistry degree because the engineering department would not grant degrees to women --1937
Historic quotes from women scientists and engineers at Margaret Morrison Carnegie College in Pittsburgh
I was a brilliant mathematician and appealed to the Dean to take advanced math and science classes. The answer was unequivocally no. --1938
Historic quotes from women scientists and engineers at Margaret Morrison Carnegie College in Pittsburgh
As a freshman in secretarial studies, I chose the highest math course offered in Margaret Morrison, but I had studied most of the material in high school. I went to the Dean for special permission to take math courses in the engineering school. She went to bat for me, and I got necessary math credits to become certified to teach high school math. --1943
Historic quotes from women scientists and engineers at Margaret Morrison Carnegie College in Pittsburgh
You have this bridge you have to walk over and you just don't look down --1999
I earned a PhD in Chemistry from Stanford in 1999 and faced none of these roadblocks. I'm grateful to these women for paving the way.

6. Bleeding Tartan at CMU

Tartan flags at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh

Continuing our tour of the CMU at the student union, I looked up and saw tartan flags flying overhead. I learned that CMU was founded by a Scot, thus making plaid a logical choice for the school colors.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: I love visiting college towns because they have such great energy. In the U.S., visit Stanford if you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, the University of Michigan if you are in Downtown Ann Arbor, or Vassar College if you are visiting Poughkeepsie, NY.

7. Chihuly in the House at CMU

Chihuly Chandelier at the student union at CMU in Pittsburgh

At CMU, fine art is definitely appreciated. We spotted a Dale Chihuly chandelier brightening up the student union.

8. Walking to the Sky at CMU

Walk to the Sky Art Installation at CMU in Pittsburgh
My favorite art installation at CMU had to be Walking to the Sky. The sculpture is essentially a giant metal rod with people walking up it. 

According to my CMU alumni friend, people either love or hate this work of art. I guess I just have a strong sense of whimsy and found this thing inspiring.
Walk to the Sky Art Installation at CMU in Pittsburgh

9. The Gates Center at CMU: Nerd HQ in Pittsburgh

The Gates Center of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh

Carnegie Mellon boasts the top computer science department in the United States. I had a chance to visit the Gates Center, home to the CMU CS department. 

The building almost pulses with brainpower. It's also pretty architecturally interesting with a leafy looking metal fence leading the way to what I like to think of as Nerd HQ :-).

10. Pitt's Cathedral of Learning

University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh

We came full circle and finished our tour of the university campuses of Pittsburgh back on Schenley Plaza and the nearby Pitt Cathedral of Learning. 

I discovered the awesome Cathedral of Learning on my last trip to Pittsburgh but it was great to visit again and go up in the elevators to enjoy sweeping views over Pittsburgh. Apparently, the Cathedral of Learning is a popular study spot for both Pitt and CMU students.

Are the universities of Pittsburgh worth a visit? Both Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh are tremendously interesting campuses with a rich history. The college campuses both really come alive when you have a chance to explore them with a former student.

Useful Links for Exploring Pittsburgh's CMU and Pitt

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Pittsburgh Universities: Touring Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)Pittsburgh Universities: Touring Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

Post Archive

This post has been updated since it was originally written to remove out of date content. The sections that I've removed are included below to preserve the record of my trip.

Permanently Closed - Pittsburgh's Conflict Kitchen - Juneteenth

Pitt's Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh University is adjacent to CMU and I'm including some sights from the Pitt campus as highlights from the walk since CMU and Pitt students tend to mix freely. The border between the two universities is definitely wide open. 

I met my friend, Andrew, in Pitt's Schenley Plaza and started with a bite of lunch. Conflict Kitchen serves a changing menu but always from war torn regions. 

Imagine our surprise when we found out they were serving a Juneteenth menu featuring Southern comfort food. I suppose Conflict Kitchen was harkening back to the American Civil War in this case. 

I enjoyed barbeque chicken and a strawberry lemonade to fuel my tour of Pittsburgh's elite universities.

Permanently Closed - Dave and Andy's Ice Cream, A Pittsburgh Institution

Dave and Andy's Ice Cream in Pittsburgh's Oakland Neighborhood

Despite a large lunch, I still somehow managed to save room for ice cream at Dave and Andy's, a Pittsburgh institution. My friend fondly remembers visiting here regularly as a CMU student. 

Dave and Andy's smells divine thanks to the freshly prepared waffle cones. Worried about leaks? Dave and Andy's has you covered. 

Dave and Andy's secret is to place a single M&M at the bottom of the cone. It's a brilliant and elegantly simple solution! 

You'd never guess that I was at CMU, a university full of the country's best engineers and computer scientists :-)


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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 10 Cool Things to Do and See When You Tour Carnegie Mellon + Pitt University
10 Cool Things to Do and See When You Tour Carnegie Mellon + Pitt University
Explore Pittsburgh's universities including Pitt and CMU with a former student. Tour the Carnegie Mellon University campus.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog