Take the Happy Valley Detour
By Cara Aungst
Say the words “football weekend,” and you already have a picture in your mind. You know where you are going to order that pizza, what you’re going to pick up at The Book Store to bring home with you, and the bottle of wine you’ll buy. (See, it’s right there.) That’s the great thing about being in one of the best small college towns in the world, after all — it’s small! We know it by heart, and we love it.
What you may not know, however, are all the places that are about to be your new favorites, and they can be found on your way back home. Take any major highway out of State College, and you are going to run into one of these places with personality and a flavor all their own. So, on your next trip, take a little detour. You never know what you’ll find.
The Saturday & Sunday Brunch at the Hublersburg Inn near Bellefonte is a detour well worth taking! Start off with a mimosa and a custom-made Bloody Mary from the Bloody Cart to get into a relaxing brunchy mood. The brunch menu includes traditional breakfast entrees like homemade waffles, pancakes, omelettes, French toast and a Hubie Breakfast. However, with six styles of Eggs Benedict to choose from deciding what to eat can be tough. Try the Crispy Pork Belly and Crab Cake benedicts – and they come with lovely red skinned home fries. The eggs are perfectly poached and the hollandaise is spot on! Make sure to save room for their amazing peanut butter pie. The Hublersburg Inn serves lunch and dinner as well and the patio and dining room settings at this historic inn are really unique to the area.
If you live south of Penn State, take a different route home! Not only will you avoid the mind-numbing construction on 322 the Seven Mountains, but you get to take 305 through one of the most scenic routes you’ll find. You’ll drive through Rothrock State Forest, passing Whipple Dam (even our Texas friends swear by the smoked goodness at Doan’s Bones!), Greenwood State Park and then you’ll head into Amish country in Belleville. Stop in at Taste of the Valley at 4417 Main Street. It’s a great little coffee shop with a full coffee bar (hello, espresso) along with locally-made bagels, sticky buns and pies. Get a breakfast sandwich like the Farmer’s Sandwich – bacon, egg and pepper jack cheese on a homemade bagel – or fill up with a panini and soup of the day. The prices and charm are happily small-town, and the flavors will make you decide to take the scenic route home more often.
If you do take 322, however, you are in for a treat. Maine Bay & Berry, located at 201 Elmwood Street, is an exclusive provider of the freshest seafood from Maine and other reaches of the world in addition to Maine-made products in Centre County. You’ll find fish like Arctic Char, Black Grouper, Norwegian salmon, shellfish, haddock (Ask and they’ll tell what time they came in to the store! At press time, fish were coming in an hour, just in time for an amazing tailgate meal.) along with freshly made seafood chowders, jams, gourmet pies, and more. Starting in November, they will expand into the entire building, featuring high-end local foods, wines and goods along with their stellar seafood offerings. “It has a vast variety,” one Facebook reviewer said. “It’s a great place to spend your money with good ethics.” We agree—this is a can’t-miss stop on your way home.
Continue south and you’ll find The Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum in Boalsburg. This large complex of historic structures was constructed over the 200 years of the eight generations of the Boal family. The historic mansion was built around 1800 by David Boal. He was an early settler to the Centre Region, and the community that formed around him would take his name.
If you’re an avid American history fan, you’ll love the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum. It has numerous displays that detail the history of the Boal family and their ties to many historical figures including Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, Richard Henry Lee, and Simon Bolivar and are explained by a 1.5 hour guided tour. The museum recently opened an environmentally-controlled room where 150,000 pages of Columbus family manuscripts dating from 1450 are housed.
The museum owns the largest collection of Columbus artifacts in North America. Other collections of note include an armory with weapons from the medieval through WWI periods, a transportation exhibit with nine of the family’s carriages, and over 300 original works of art dating from the Renaissance through the 19th century. For more information, visit boalmuseum.com.
Just across the road from the Boal Mansion is the Pennsylvania Military Museum. It was constructed in the late 1960s and situated on the grounds of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division Shrine.
Today, the Pennsylvania Military Museum is one of Happy Valley’s most visited museums. It features war time relics, retired tanks and cannons. Check the museum schedule as there are often reenactments, lectures and active displays throughout the year. For more information, visit pamilmuseum.org.
Head west out of State College for 10 miles, and you could experience a view of Happy Valley from the sky! Ridge Soaring Gliderport is a world famous glider airport located between Julian and Unionville. They offer flight training and glider rides, so visitors can soar above the beautiful landscape of the region and admire the once in a lifetime view. Ridge Soaring Gliderport offers four different altitude options for rides, from 2,000 feet up to a mile high! Minimum age to fly is only nine years, and every passenger flies with an FAA Certified flight instructor. For more information or to schedule a glider ride, contact Ridge Soaring Gliderport at 814 355 2483 or visit eglider.org. Don’t forget to bring your cameras because you’ll want to look back on that view.
Continue west on Rt 26, and you’ll end up in Huntingdon, home of “Happy Valley’s backyard” – Raystown Lake. It’s also home to adventure outfitters and a martini bar you just have to try.
Check out Rothrock Outfitters (rothrockoutfitters.com) for canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, mountain bikes and related gear. Rothrock Outfitters has a new super premium option with the mountain bike rentals that allows you to try out a high-end, dual suspension, carbon frame mountain bike for a really sweet ride on the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake.
The Lobster Bisque at the Inn at Edgewater Acres and Riverside Grill (edgewaterinnandriversidegrill.com) is absolutely divine. This historic house-turned-inn was originally built in 1762, and you can book a room for a weekend or just enjoy a quiet, great meal... and some pretty great lobster bisque.
Tops Diner & Catering is right along Route 22 past Huntingdon. It has an old-timey friendly diner feel and features my favorite “Tops Signature Hamburger.” They also have breakfast all day!
Mimi’s Restaurant and Martini Bar in Huntingdon is a spot for a finely chef-prepared meal in a casual dining atmosphere. The martini selection will wow you with more than 30 delicious martini options ranging from traditional to my dessert favorites: Tiramisu Martini and the Banana’s Foster Martini. (Now go look at all the flavors: mimisrestaurant.net/martini-menu) Gage Mansion Bed & Breakfast is right across the street for a historic stay.