Free for students: Art, exercise, buses and more!


Graphic by Christian Snyder | Editor-in-Chief

By The Pitt News Staff

One of the best perks of being a student at Pitt is the Panther Card. In addition to all of the traditional purposes a student ID serves, like holding dining passes, granting access to dorms and registering for on-campus events, a Panther Card can be a ticket to a new world of entertainment for students to explore — for free. From the museums that the Pitt Arts program allows students to visit for free to on-campus spots, there are plenty of options.

The Andy Warhol Museum // Sarah Connor, Culture Editor

Sitting just blocks away from PNC Park in Pittsburgh’s North Side is a museum displaying the works of Pittsburgh legend — and the king of pop art — Andy Warhol. Other artists are also often featured at this seven-story universe of bursting colors, vintage photography, video and paintings. From Warhol’s classic Campbell’s soup artwork to artifacts from his days managing rock band The Velvet Underground, there is something to catch the eye of guests at every corner.

My favorite aspect of the Warhol museum is how interactive it can be. There is a booth where guests can record their very own silent, black-and-white screen tests and a whole room dedicated to giant, metallic balloons floating through the air. Guests are encouraged to tug and swing the balloons, and look at their reflection in the metallic shimmer.

Port Authority Buses // Joanna Li, Staff Writer

The bus might not be a shining, artistic museum, but the journey is better than the destination — an old lesson with several variants that seems just like another philosophical adage.

But with a Pitt ID, this adage is literal — and there’s nothing more real than Port Authority.

Whether taking the 61D to Downtown or the 75 to Shadyside, the entertainment on the bus is of the same caliber as Broadway. When stepping onto the crowded bus, there’s always that person who takes up two seats — sitting on the aisle seat and placing their bag on the window seat. After finally finding a seat, the man across the aisle gets a phone call — and for the next 10 minutes what was supposed to be a private phone call is now definitely public.

With Pitt IDs, students are able to ride the Port Authority buses wherever they please. But no matter if you use one app or five, the buses are unpredictable — giving a constant rush of high hopes when the roar of an engine or the hiss of air brakes coming from around the corner.

The Mattress Factory // Prachi Patel, Staff Writer

Take a bus across the Allegheny River to the North Side and you’ll find The Mattress Factory. Beyond the building’s brick facade lined with ivy and graffiti, you’ll find rows upon rows of mattresses.

Just kidding — while the building used to be an actual Stearns & Foster mattress factory, during the late 1900s, it was converted into a contemporary art museum with a focus on installation art work.

Unlike a painting hanging on a wall, installation work occupies an entire room. For instance, as you wind through the museum, you’ll come across the work “610-3356” by Sarah Oppenheimer, which features a room with a gaping cylindrical hole — a ‘wormhole’ — cut out of the fourth floor’s wooden floorboards, giving a glimpse of the street below the museum.

At The Mattress Factory, you won’t always find white, pristine gallery walls. Instead, the creaking floorboards and rooms remind you of a place you can get comfortable — like entering your best friend’s home.

Center for Creativity // Elizabeth Donnelly, Staff Writer

Heading off campus for entertainment is always fun, but for students with busy schedules like me, it’s often difficult to balance work and play. Pitt’s Center for Creativity, conveniently located in the basement of The University Store on Fifth, has a wide variety of artistic materials available to any student with a Pitt ID. One free swipe is all it takes to enter a world of artistic imagination.

Other available items for students are iPads with Apple Pencils, Arduino open-source computing kits and a full 3-D printer. If you don’t have much time to spare, the Center for Creativity is a great place to go to de-stress and have fun, whether you’re alone or with others.

Phipps Conservatory // Salina Pressimone, Staff Writer

Butterflies and flowers and botany, oh my!

At Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Schenley Park, escape is free with the swipe of a Pitt ID. The green oasis showcases flower exhibits, light shows, sustainable architecture, glass art and outdoor gardens, and is open to all Pitt students. Whether taking in the sweet smell of orchids — some of which promise the scent of chocolate — or posing under a European fan palm for a photo, they can evoke a sense of tranquility among students.   

Phipps can rescue students from exams and essays, and serve as a quiet alternative to the noisy tables in Starbucks. Phipps encourages visitors to walk leisurely and aimlessly as a way of unravelling and de-stressing for a while.

Phipps also brings sustainability to the Steel City with its Center for Sustainable Landscapes, which is one of the world’s greenest buildings. So don’t stress out or get caught up in what can feel like a monotonous routine of work, class and often icy Pittsburgh weather — because the sun is always shining at Phipps.

University Fitness Centers // Janine Faust, Contributing Editor

If you’re like me and don’t enjoy running outside, where the weather isn’t always great and it’s too easy to get held up by crowds or stop signs, being able to exercise in an air-conditioned room on campus for free is a gift.

With their Pitt ID, students can swipe into a Pitt fitness center for no cost, including at the Petersen Events Center, Bellefield Hall and the William Pitt Union. Those living in certain residence halls such as Litchfield Towers or in the Schenley Quad dorms have designated fitness centers open 24/7.

Each fitness center varies in size but usually offers several treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and other sorts of equipment, enough so that you’ll never have to stand around waiting for someone else to finish their workout. The Baierl Student Recreation Center in the Petersen Events Center also has dozens of different weights and strength-training equipment available to everyone, not just to student athletes.

Carnegie Museums of Art and National History // Victoria Pfefferle-Gillot, For The Pitt News

Just down Forbes Avenue, right across the street from our beloved Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel, lie the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. For everyone else, a glimpse at the exhibits in the Carnegie Museums means shelling out a sweet $20  — meaning inevitable, repeat visits quickly add up.

But thankfully, not for Pitt students.

During the fall and spring terms, one scan of a Panther Card can get you into one of the top natural history museums in the country for free.

The exhibit that always draws me back to visit is the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, gifted to the museum by the same American billionaire who gifted Pitt its library — Henry Hillman.