Digress from stress: Pittsburgh’s Slices of Serenity


(Image by Thomas Yang | Visual Editor)

It’s no secret that finals week can be a stressful time for students, but there are many places Pitt students can go for relief — both on and off campus. With these study break destinations, students can try to focus their mental energy on staying calm and relaxing.

Stress Free Zone — William Pitt Union (Oakland)

Throughout the school year, the Stress Free Zone offers scheduled classes and workshops, but students can also go to walk-in hours instead. Some of the options available to walk-in students are yoga and meditation, light therapy and mindfulness audio stations.

The Stress Free Zone also provides materials to educate students about mind and body stress reduction techniques, and can be found on the third floor of the WPU. During finals week, it’s open Monday to Wednesday, with walk-in hours from 1 to 9 p.m.

Center for Creativity — The University Store on Fifth (Oakland)

This spot offers Pitt students a variety of art materials to express themselves and relax by focusing more on the creative process. Some key features include whiteboard desks — which are great for studying or doodling — 3D pens, a painting station, musical instruments, a knitting station and computers equipped with Adobe Creative Cloud software.

The Center for Creativity will be having “Late Night Study Break” hours from 8 p.m. to midnight on Monday through Wednesday during finals week in addition to their regular hours. While the center is usually a quiet space where students can work on creative projects, in the coming week it will be “a study-free zone” during the late night hours, where music and conversation will be allowed and encouraged. Regular hours will remain study-friendly throughout the week.

Located in the basement of The University Store on Fifth, the Center for Creativity is regularly open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from 9 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens — Oakland

The large greenhouse and gardens at Phipps Conservatory feature a wide variety of beautiful plants and artwork during every season of the year. Phipps is currently featuring a Tropical Forest Cuba exhibit, featuring the flora of Cuban forests, carvings of native Cuban birds and a replica of a Cuban pharmacy where visitors can learn about traditional medicine.

Along with the Tropical Forest Cuba exhibit, the Butterfly Forest opened Saturday at Phipps, where visitors can view many different species of butterflies alongside a sound installation. Students earn free admission with a valid Pitt ID at Phipps, located at 1 Schenley Drive and open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Fridays until 10 p.m.

Colony Cafe — Downtown / Cultural District

The therapy dogs at the Cathedral may be popular, but another option for animal-loving students is the Colony Cafe, which features a dual cafe and cat loft. Visitors can purchase food in the cafe and bring it to the loft where they can enjoy a meal or play with the cats. Since only a certain number of people can be in the loft at one time, the peaceful atmosphere is never too crowded.

There are two main options visitors can choose from when buying tickets — the one-hour “Cat Loft Visit” package for $8, or the three-hour “Co-Working with Cats” package for $20 or $15 with a student ID. It is recommended visitors buy tickets online in advance because of the limited space and popularity of the cafe. The cost of each package goes directly toward caring for the cats who live there until they are adopted.

Colony Cafe is located at 1125 Penn Ave. and is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the cat loft open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. for the “Cat Loft Visit” package, and Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. for the “Co-Working with Cats” package.

The Candle Lab — Lawrenceville

Aromatherapy can be helpful in times of stress and The Candle Lab is the perfect place to practice this. Customers at The Candle Lab get an immersive experience in creating special scents to put into candles, body sprays and room sprays.

Customers can choose from more than 120 fragrances to combine into their product — from typical floral and fruity scents to scents like bacon and Santa’s pipe. Cost varies with each product, ranging from $16 to $32. Once the scent is chosen and poured into the customer’s product of choice, they can design their own label to attach to it.

The Candle Lab is located at 4409 Butler St. and open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Paint Monkey — Homestead / The Waterfront / North Hills / Lawrenceville

Painting is a great way to express yourself, but not everyone has the artistic ability to create their own masterpiece from scratch. Paint Monkey helps customers with this issue by providing a variety of pre-sketched canvases all ready to be painted over.

Paint Monkey offers a diverse set of designs from flowers and animals to Pitt-themed canvases, like the Cathedral of Learning and the school logo. It is also BYOB, so participants over 21 can crack open a drink while painting their stress away.

While Paint Monkey is often reserved for parties and group events, there are walk-in hours at The Waterfront location at 146 West Bridge St. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Games N’ At — South Side

If you aren’t very artistically inclined, Games N’ At has you covered as an activity to blow off steam. This establishment offers multiple old arcade games — many from the 1980s — along with pool tables, air hockey tables and duckpin bowling. Friday nights are college nights, when those with a valid student ID get unlimited playing time for $10 from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Games N’ At is also BYOB.

Games N’ At is located at 2010 Josephine St. and is open Thursdays from 4 p.m. to midnight, Fridays from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturdays from noon to 1 a.m. and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.