Happy Valley Kids Summer Bucket List — What’s on Yours?
Minimalism is all the rage right now, and its mantra — buy experiences, not things — resounds with parents. Think about our own childhood: while there are probably some scuffed baseball cards or Cabbage Patch dolls stuffed in some box, the freshest memories are not of the things we got, but the stuff we did.
Luckily, summer in Happy Valley is the perfect time and place to make memories with your kids. From the family-friendly fests to free movies to bowling on the cheap, here are a few of my favorites to take advantage of these precious few months of summer:
Yes, we all know that Tussey is a grownup’s dream playground with skiing, wings, live music and craft beer. But there's tons for the younger set too! Movies on the Mountain is free again this year, with offerings like Lego Batman, Doctor Strange, Beauty and Beast and Mary Poppins. You can buy movie popcorn, hot dogs, ice cream, beer and more while you enjoy a fun flick outside (check social media before you head out, due to weather). The Fun Centre is fun for the whole family with Go-Karts, golfing, batting cages, (renovated!) skate park and the Mountain Mini-Golf Course.
Del Grosso’s expanded its water park last year, and it made our favorite little amusement park even better. It’s easy to cover the whole park in a few hours, and just as easy to take it slow and enjoy. Laguna Splash, the only Italian-themed water park in America, features a lazy river that winds past a mini Leaning Tower of Pisa, a wave pool with 300,000 gallons of water, as well as a wading pool for the littles and fun slides for bigger kids. There’s free parking and free admission. All-day ride passes are affordable at $29.95 (including the water park), with discounts for ordering online! Del Grosso’s is a super easy daytrip, just 30 miles south of State College on I-99 Tipton.
Parent perk: the food, OH, THE FOOD. No wilted fries and flat Coke here. Del Grosso’s, after all, is known for its locally-made tomato sauce, and you can enjoy it in the park on freshly-made pizza, sold by the slice or by the pie. (Sometimes we drive over just for dinner — it’s THAT good.) Every Wednesday, all summer long, it’s “Spaghetti Wednesday,” featuring NOT merely spaghetti, but also homemade Italian specialties like gnocchi, stuffed shells, lasagna, sweet sausage over bow ties, meatballs, eggplant parm, and a crazy-long list of Italian feasts that are so good, it’s actually kind of weird to be eating them off a disposable plate at an amusement park. But you’ll do it anyway. And you’ll love it.
Hey, that stalactite looks like bacon. No, seriously. Take a boat tour of Penn’s Cave and you’ll see George Washington, the Statue of Liberty and other uncannily familiar rock formations. It’s America’s only water cavern — meaning it’s one of a kind, and it’s right here in Happy Valley, five miles past Centre Hall on Route 192. You’ll marvel at the constant 52-degree temperature in the cave, and the legend of star-crossed lovers Princess Nitanee and a French fur trader will give you goose bumps on your goose bumps. Penn’s Cave is nestled among 1,600 carefully preserved acres of forest and field and you can see it up-close (from the comfort of an open-air bus) on the 90-minute Farm, Nature, and Wildlife Tour. Guides offer interesting history and facts, and the wildlife are out in full display.
Special treat: Kids will love panning for semi-precious gemstones, fossils and arrowheads from around the world at Prospector Pete’s Sluice. You can grab lunch or snacks in the Cave Café, or pack a picnic and eat in the pavilion.
You’ve undoubtedly dropped the kids at Northland Bowl for birthday parties or class outings, but when that inevitable rainy day arrives, lace up some shoes for the whole family. No matter your skill level, bowling is a blast, and usually involves lots of silliness and laughter. Before you go, have the kids fill their change bags with quarters for the arcade. Kid-friendly food is plentiful, and the Arena Bar & Grill next door serves grown-up food, too. Check the website for daily specials and coupons. Plus, in the summer, your kids can bowl free! Sign up at kidsbowlfree.com and get two free games every day all summer long!
Fun with friends: Make a date with another family for fun and a little friendly bowling competition. It’s become an annual summer tradition for us.
If you live in Happy Valley and you’ve never been to Raystown, don’t miss out on another season of summer fun in this outdoor recreation paradise. The WildRiver Waterpark is located in Lake Raystown Resort and is open to the public. Featuring two 380-foot twisting slides, the White Water Innertube Ride, the Atomic Blaster, a heated swimming pool and the Children’s Splash and Play Pool, WildRiver has cool fun for kids of all ages.
More family fun: Lake Raystown Resort is ideal for a family getaway that will get the kids off their screens and into the great outdoors. Hiking, biking, boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, the list goes on. Accommodations range from rustic to all-the-comforts-of-home and are available for weeklong or long-weekend rental. Up for a cool experience? Rent a yurt or a houseboat.
Show them your favorite Happy Valley Haunt
While there is plenty that is “kid-focused” in the area, some of my favorite times with my five in Happy Valley are doing the things that make this area great. Meander through Arts Fest, listen to a Police cover band at WingFest at Tussey, get them to weigh in on whether Peachy Paterno is, indeed, the best flavor at Berkey Creamery. Slow down and just be at the Arboretum. Play Frisbee golf at the Bernel Road Park by the airport. Scale Mount Nittany. A whole new summer of favorite memories is waiting for you.
What’s on your family’s summer bucket list? Weigh in at facebook.com/happyvalleypsu.