This neo-gothic building is free to explore and kids can’t resist checking out the old oaken desks in the enormous (4-stories high) Commons Room that has stone pillars, vaulted ceilings, huge fireplaces, gothic arches, and fertile ground for exploration. The main room, where the information center is located, is at street level if you approach from the Fifth Avenue side. The pamphlet says this is the tallest (42 floors) academic building in the U.S. and most of the floors are easily accessible by those using wheels.
A huge lawn surrounds the building, located on a 14-acre city block that also houses Heinz Chapel (a neo-gothic masterpiece that’s also free -- don’t miss it) and the Stephen Foster Memorial theaters. Parking can be difficult on school days but we are often able to find space at the large lot that’s next to Carnegie Museum down the street (at the Craig Street/Forbes Avenue traffic light).
If you have time, tour the 26 Nationality Rooms that line the corridor of the first and third floors (the room key and an audio tour machine costs $3). Each room was a gift from an ethnic community in Pittsburgh (the English community donated the England Room, Norwegians built the Norway Room, etc.) and each one reflects beautiful craftsmanship. However, these rooms are sometimes used as classrooms, so some might not be accessible.
There’s a magic in the Cathedral of Learning. I felt it the first time I visited, and it’s there still. This is like finding a well preserved castle in Pittsburgh. Check it out.