Party Scene

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Party Scene


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3 College Sophomore

Party Scene: CMU is not a school for parties. Most everyone spends their nights studying or relaxing in dorms. Bus transportation is free but hardly anyone goes out unless it's the weekend.

3 College Sophomore

Party Scene: Most parties are off-campus and hosted by members of group organizations. These gatherings tend to be tailored to that particular group.

3 College Sophomore

Party Scene: Parties are there if you want to go to them, and if it's not a party there's just a group of people getting together and drinking. There are a ton of bars around Pittsburgh but it's really hard to get around if you don't have a car.

3 College Sophomore

Party Scene: The bigger parties are at frat houses, but a lot of students just hold their own house parties off campus. The parties are ok if you're with a group of friends, they just consist of music, dancing, and drinking games.

4 College Freshman

Party Scene: Athletes tend to throw the best parties and it is typically a great bonding experience for all.


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Student Author OverviewWhat's this?

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Freshmen have the easiest available nightlife at Carnegie Mellon—hands down. Upperclassmen tend to be the most interested in the "fresh meat" that arrives on campus each year, both guys and girls. While they may not be able to frequent the bars or clubs like the 21-year-olds or the sophomores with fakes, they are invited with open arms to virtually any house, frat, or apartment that is throwing a party. It's typical for girls to get in for free to most house parties, unless they are thrown by girls. Guys aren't so lucky—it's not uncommon for them to be asked to fork over $5. To get into frats, you won't have to pay; you will simply have to know somebody and be on the guest list! For these reasons, freshmen really are lucky because if their intent is to be supplied with cups and cups of free alcohol, these opportunities are made readily available.

After freshman year, most students have acquired an ID in some way, or if not, they are good friends or at least know the people throwing the parties. The parties are usually within walking distance from campus. If the house or apartment is a bit farther or the weather is a bit colder, students often call a cab to take them there, and it is rarely over $8. Split that between the five or six you can cram in a cab, and you do the math. As for the bars, CMU students mostly frequent Shadyside, Oakland, and South Side. Shadyside is the most lenient with IDs, but the other neighborhoods aren't impossible. Most students leave Peter's Pub and PHI bar to their 21st birthdays, though. You have to have some new way to celebrate!

Facts & Statistics

Primary Areas with Nightlife
  • Lawrenceville
  • Oakland
  • Shadyside
  • South Side
  • Station Square
  • Strip District
Other Places to Check Out
  • Altar Bar
  • Bossa Nova
  • Buffalo Blues
  • Charlie Murdoch's (Piano Bar)
  • Dee's Café
  • The Fishbowl Bar (Qdoba Bar)
  • Fuel & Fuddle
  • Harris Grill
  • Jimmy D's
  • Rizzo's Margaritaville
  • Saddle Ridge
  • Tiki Lounge
Local Specialties
  • Big Azz Margaritas: Only at Mad Mex-if you see it somewhere else, they are most likely ripping you off in price and the amount of alcohol they give you.
  • Iron City: Local beer
Favorite Drinking Games
  • Beer pong
  • Card games
  • Century cup (100 cup beer pong)
  • Flip cup
  • Kings
  • Power hour
  • Quarters
Useful Resources for Nightlife
  • City Paper
Closing Time
2 a.m.
Cheapest Place to Get a Drink
Panther Hollow Inn (PHI)
Organization Parties
The larger student organizations that host parties will usually rent out a club so tons of students can go. They can cost anywhere from $7 to $20, but that is usually the difference from a pre-sale and buying the ticket at the door. The event is usually an after-party for a campus event that the organization produced. For example, Mayur Sasa has an after-party for Mayur Show; Lunar Gala has an after-party for the Lunar Gala Fashion Show, and Spirit has an after-party for the Spirit Fashion Show. The Asian Student Association (ASA) usually hosts an official Labor Day party at a club each fall. These organization club parties are usually really fun, although it's best to arrange your own transportation because the buses provided can get viciously cramped. The organization parties hosted at houses are OK, but they invite so many people that it is usually really crowded and the "jungle juice" runs out quickly, making that $5 that you paid (even girls) a waste.
Did You Know?
  • Students ride the Pittsburgh buses to parties a lot, because a CMU ID gets you on free. Keep in mind that the buses stop at around 1:30 or 2 a.m., so if you leave the party later than that, plan accordingly.
  • Become friends with the bartenders at William Penn Tavern and Shady Grove, which are both in Shadyside. They tend to give cheaper or free drinks to their friends. If you are lucky enough to progress to that level, make sure you tip them an absurd amount-it's less than what you would have paid anyway.
  • South Side is notoriously hard to get into with a fake ID. If you try, you better know someone, be with someone who knows someone, or be very confident.
  • If your ID is rejected at a bar or club, they usually won't call the cops-they'll just either turn you away or take the ID. Don't argue-just say thank you and walk away!

Club ListingsWhat's This?


The music at Whim usually flips between hip-hop and a Top 40 mix, so if you are more of a house music or "reggaetone" lover, you will be sorely disappointed. Whim is a very mediocre club, but the thing that makes it worth listing is its "College Night." Every Thursday, this club is 18 to enter, 21 to drink, and the cover is only $5. Unfortunately, Whim is never usually super packed, and if it is, there are a lot of older men. CMU students go, though, because it's not too hard to get in, even on nights other than Thursday.

7 E. Carson St.

Station Square

(412) 281-9888


Diesel has three levels, five different lounge areas, and is connected to a live music venue. Whether you want to dance to house music, live DJs, or rap, you'll have a great time. You can hit up Diesel during the main party nights, Thursday through Saturday, and if you're up for celebrating, rent a VIP room on either the first, mezzanine, or second level. Valet parking is available Friday and Saturday, but keep in mind that Diesel is 21-and-up-notoriously hard to get into without a real ID.

1601 E. Carson St.

South Side

(412) 431-8800

Bar ListingsWhat's This?

Peter's Pub

If you want to escape the monotony of seeing the same people at common CMU hangouts, Peter's is the place to go. It's in the heart of Oakland, so the main clientele are University of Pittsburgh students. Every day of the week they offer $5.50 Miller High Life pitchers from 7 until close, and with 50-plus import beers and 20-plus domestic, they offer one of the most eclectic beer selections-on a student's budget.

116 Oakland Ave.


(412) 681-7465

Shady Grove

This place is popular among CMU students because Wednesday is wine night-which means half-price bottles of the house wine until 12 a.m. and a very crowded atmosphere. Shady Grove is a great place to see other CMU students; however, there is a fair share of older Shadyside residents here, as well. This busy environment makes it easy for students under 21 to head upstairs to Walnut Grill (an upscale restaurant) for late dinner.

5500 Walnut St.


(412) 697-0909

William Penn Tavern

Also known as "WPT" or "Will Penn," this bar is arguably Shadyside's most popular bar, at least among CMU students. It's not a large place, but the endless sports memorabilia decorating the walls makes for a great, relaxed environment. The drink specials aren't exactly anything special-beer on tap is cheap, similar to other places. The key is to get to know the bar and wait staff, because once you're in, you'll find yourself paying a whole lot less and leaving a lot more wasted. The wings don't suck, either (try the kitchen sink sauce!).

739 Bellefonte St.


(412) 621-1000

Mad Mex

Due to the great student discounts and happy hour specials, this is one of the popular bars that attracts not only CMU students, but also University of Pittsburgh students. Their claim to fame is the Big Azz Margarita. During happy hour and late nights, you can get a 22-ounce goblet of margarita, which is really all you need to start your night off the right way. They recently opened another location in Shadyside on South Highland Avenue, which has a lot more tables and space. No matter which location you go to, though, you are sure to have a great time, but be cautious with fake IDs-servers tend to look carefully.

370 Atwood St.


(412) 681-5656

Mario's East Side Saloon

Opening in the summer of 2011, Mario's has a lower-level indoor seating area, and the second floor is split between an indoor and outdoor patio. This is a great place to go out on Tuesdays: It is near campus, there's karaoke, and there are classy half-price bottles of wine-the perfect Tuesday outing before an 8:30 class the next morning. CMU students also frequent this place on Wednesdays, where there are $3 giant goblets (32 ounces) of Miller Lite.

5442 Walnut St.


(412) 681-3713

Panther Hollow Inn (PHI)

This bar is a CMU tradition, although you won't read about it in any brochures. Thursday nights at PHI are packed with CMU students taking advantage of $4 pitchers. It's a couple of steps away from the dorms, right on Forbes.

4611 Forbes Ave.


(412) 682-0588

What to Do if You're Not 21What's This?

Sphinx Café

Sphinx Café is a hookah bar located right off of the University of Pittsburgh campus. Housed in a refurbished church, this café provides a relaxing evening and late-night experience. They offer more than 40 different hookah flavors and often will have a live performer crooning soft songs or strumming away at his guitar. There is never any cover charge; however, there is a minimum of one order per customer.

401 Atwood St.


(412) 621-1153

Sushi Too

This relatively cheap Japanese restaurant is a must-visit while at CMU. The main attraction is the private room upstairs that can seat up to 30 people. CMU students will reserve the room for a large group, and as long as you order with confidence, they rarely ask for an ID. The sushi isn't bad, but face it-the main reason to go is to try a sake bomb. Order a Sapporo (beer) and a sake, and on the count of three, you drop the sake shot in the beer and chug-lather, rinse, repeat, until you have trouble paying the bill.

5432 Walnut St.


(412) 687-8744

Club Zoo

Club Zoo is the hottest spot for under-21-year-olds to dance and party the weekend away. This club boasts 20,000 square feet, four levels, a VIP room, and five bars. The bars serve free soft drinks, bottled water, and energy drinks, as well as food and snacks. The high-tech lighting and sound systems keep underagers dancing on the bars and cages throughout the club.

1630 Smallman St.

Strip District

(412) 201-1100

Hookah Bookah

This hookah bar offers a lively atmosphere with its belly dancers and upbeat Arabian music. Located on South Side's lively East Carson Street, the outdoor seating allows customers to be part of the colorful scene of bar hoppers, even if they aren't yet 21. There is no cover charge, and there are dozens of flavors from which to choose. One thing to remember is that it gets quite crowded. Even though there are tables, it is hard for a group of more than four to really sit together.

2506 E. Carson St.

South Side

(412) 307-5236

Student Polls

Rate the off-campus bar and club scene on the following topics    Based on 83 responses

Very poor
  • Convenience to get to
  • Cover charges
  • Distance from campus
  • Drink prices
  • Fun
  • Variety/number of options

What is the party scene like on campus?    Based on 100 responses

  • 0% Tons of raging parties almost any night of the week.
  • 16% Lots of options Wednesday-Saturday.
  • 58% Some decent frat/house parties, weekends only.
  • 15% Good parties are few and far between.
  • 11% Parties? What parties?

What is the biggest party event of the year?    Based on 40 responses

  • 98% Carnival
  • 2% Nnn
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