Raystown Perfect Nature's Playground in Our Backyard

By Cara Aungst

My husband and I got married in the Old Stone Church in Manor Hill in Huntingdon. We wanted an off-the-map venue and were captivated by the building, and its stories. There were doors, for instance, on each side of the pulpit, through which no living person ever went. Caskets shuttled in the door on the right, and after the funeral, they went out the one on the left, into the graveyard. We ourselves came in the back doors – the ones for the living – and stood on that cold wooden floor, 23 years old, cautiously hopeful, helplessly in love. It was unseasonably cold that September, and everyone wore parkas over their wedding clothes and sat in shuttered pews. We decorated with pots of chrysanthemums, and when we were done, we tucked them in our arms and took them with us. 

And then we went to Raystown. We changed out of our wedding duds, picked the flowers out of my hair, and played. All of us – the old college roommates, the new relatives, the aunts, the babies, and the coworkers. We ate picnic food – a cheeseball the size of a kid’s head, summer's-end fruit, locally-catered roast beef, and salads. We played volleyball, took boat rides, and ran under the trees that had turned a million colors of autumn just for that day. 

It was 2000, and those were the days before every moment was parsed and Instagrammed, but I remember the technicolor moments of that Raystown day as though each one had been hashtagged #RaystownPerfect. 

I have an affinity to Raystown, and not just for that day. It has outlined our life together. The early years with babies slathered in SPF 50 and an absurdly heavy swim bag. Kids in the boat. Packed lunches, bald eagle spotting, feeding the carp, lazy Sundays, sandals, sun tans, and kids falling asleep on the way home with pine cones in their laps. 

To feed a love of hiking, boating, kayaking, biking, tenting … heck, LIVING...  Raystown has been just an NPR radio program away from State College – close enough to go for just an afternoon or a weekend and yet worlds away. Just ask Matt Price, Executive Director of the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau. “If Happy Valley is home,” he says, “the Raystown Lake region is the coolest backyard ever.”

It's been voted one of 100 Best Scenic Views in America by Reserve America's The Camping Club, and it needs to be part of your summer. Take an extra day or two to kick back, reconnect and enjoy one of central PA's happiest places! You can go for a boat tour and be back in time for your reservation at Kelly's, or come in town for Arts Fest and stay for a long weekend at one of Lake Raystown Resort's exclusive villas. Where to start? We have a few ideas...

STAY

The Raystown Lake surrounding area boasts over 200 vacation homes, cottages, and cabins. And the fact that 'cottages and cabins' is our reigning #2 search on HappyValley.com tells us that this is a very good thing (The number one search is always Penn State football!). For a complete listing of accommodations, you can go to raystown.org/lodging. Here are a few notable mentions: 

Lake Raystown Resort 

 (814) 658-3500

The Lake Raystown Resort has a variety of overnight options. They feature a 52-room lodge, villas nestled in the woods in their own peninsula, pine cabins, and house boat rentals. 

Raystown is the only lake in Pennsylvania where you can rent a houseboat, so add this to your bucket list! Choose from houseboats at Lake Raystown Resort, or go to the Seven Points Marina (814-658-3074), where they have 19 houseboats in their fleet. Insider tip: At both marinas, you will get the same price for four nights midweek as you would for three nights on the weekend.  

The Inn at Solvang

(888)-814-3035

This Southern Colonial bed and breakfast sits on 80 acres, features a full gourmet breakfast, and offers all rooms with private bath, whirlpool, jet shower, and feather beds. 

Windfall Farm

(814)-669-4234

Located on the Frankstown Branch of the Little Juniata River, this bed and breakfast features walking trails, fishing, beautiful scenery, and a quiet atmosphere. Enjoy a delicious breakfast in historic manor house.  

Gage Mansion Bed & Breakfast

(814)-506-8411 

This historic getaway is located in downtown Huntingdon. Under new management and recently renovated, this luxurious Victorian retreat will be a high point of your Happy Valley visit! 

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