Things to do in Oakland

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (photo by Brian Cohen), The University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, Dippy the Dinosaur outside of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (photos by Jodi Tandet) and Carnegie Mellon University (photo by Brian Cohen)

Oakland is the educational epicenter of Pittsburgh, with several universities and thousands of students residing there, alongside museums, startup companies, historical landmarks and restaurants galore.

Stats (via Niche)

  • Population: 15,797
  • Size: 2.25 sq. miles
  • Median Rent: $776
  • Median Home Value: $77,900


Oakland is made up of many distinct sections, including South Oakland, North Oakland, West Oakland, and Central Oakland. You can find data on individual neighborhoods using Niche.

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On a clear day, the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning can be seen for miles, dominating Oakland’s skyline. This is the educational and medical heart of the city and a major cultural community with Roman and Gothic-style buildings. Squint and you might feel like you’re in Europe.

The neighborhood is urban and diverse, home to Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC and nearby Carlow University, as well as museums, the Carnegie Library, restaurants and hookah bars.

Students, of course, are everywhere.

Officially, Oakland is divided into four neighborhoods—North Oakland, South Oakland, Central Oakland and West Oakland. Central is where most of the students dwell, an area teeming with activity when classes are in session, especially along the main thoroughfares of Forbes and Fifth.

The architecture on both campuses is impressive, from the Cathedral, which is the tallest university building in the western hemisphere, to the French Gothic Revival Heinz Chapel and Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. Within a stone’s throw is the towering St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Restaurants, independent coffee shops and ethnic eateries abound to feed the thousands of hungry students. Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop, aka the O, is known for heaping mounds of French fries. Students and locals also love Piada Italian Street Food, Hello Bistro, Mount Everest Sushi, and Dave & Andy’s Homemade Ice Cream.

Oakland is an emerging center for startup companies as well, with incubators like CMU’s Project Olympus, Idea Foundry, and Avenu that provide affordable work environments in the creation of new technologies.

It’s an affordable alternative to the West Coast for many, with all the charm and grit that Pittsburgh ingenuity can offer.

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