Fun's Waiting... Get Out There!

Spring just might be the most beautiful season in Happy Valley—well, it’s definitely in the top four. Sure, we’re emerging from a winter that was milder than usual, but it’s still a great pleasure to welcome chirping birds, blooming dogwood and crab apple trees, longer days and outdoor farmers’ markets. Take advantage of the blissful months between crippling cold and insufferable heat with outdoor activities suited for young and old, cautious and gutsy, social butterflies and lone wolves. No matter your style, ample fun awaits, so get out there!

In true valley fashion, this one is surrounded by peaks, and spring is prime time to climb. For the traditionalists, begin with the rite of passage Mount Nittany hike. You'll be in good company. It's a relatively easy hike suited for the whole family, and customizable to be a quick, brisk climb or a leisurely afternoon loop. Before packing your picnic basket, study up on Mount Nittany history and climbing protocol. Bill’s Hikes has compiled a “Best Hikes in Happy Valley” list to find the loop that suits you best.

If you’ve never paid a visit to Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, now is the perfect time. Recently, bald eagles have been singing shrilly in the Raptor Center, not because they’re bored or hungry for attention, but because they’re nesting—history in the making, and patriotism to boot. The public is invited to check out exhibits, join in on bird walks and enjoy festivals and local music.

Right down the road is Shaver’s Creek’s kin, Stone Valley Recreation Area, a natural wonderland. With 29 miles of hiking trails, ample picnic space and tranquil Lake Perez, serenity is available from dusk to dawn. For those who are more interested in a thrill, check out Vertical Adventures, Stone Valley’s challenge course. There’s nothing else like it in the region. Groups are invited to have a new kind of team building experience, so if you’re looking to bring cooperation and excitement to your crew, check it out! If you’re heading out from State College, stop at the Naked Egg Cafe as you pass through Pine Grove Mills fill up on your favorite breakfast eats and get a jolt courtesy of Standing Stone Coffee Company.

Whipple Dam is another great picnic spot, and about as close to the beach as you’ll get in landlocked central PA. A perfect low-key getaway on a sun soaked afternoon, Whipple Dam combines wooded expanses with open water. It’s also the site for SUP State College—stand up paddleboard yoga. Definitely a far cry from the traditional yoga studio.

Penn’s Cave is another can’t-miss central PA destination. Opt for a guided tour of the only all-water cavern in the nation and take in the limestone formations by boat. Outdoor tours of the Wildlife Park are also available and may afford you a glimpse of mountain lions and timber wolves. Prospector Pete's Miners Maze is another onsite adventure. Be sure to hit the gift shop on your way out and pan for gemstones and pass a souvenir along to someone who missed out. As an added bonus, the Nittany Antique Machinery Association hosts their shows and auctions at Penn’s Cave. The 42nd annual Spring Show, a flea market on steroids, will take place the first weekend of June. After spelunking, pay a visit to the Whistle Stop, a Centre Hall treasure that preserves history with railroad décor and serves a mean steak fry.

Millbrook Marsh features walking trails and beautiful views open to the public. The marsh ecosystem is conveniently accessible through the Centre Region bike paths and is right down the road from Spring Creek Park, which offers basketball, tennis and beach volleyball courts along with jungle gyms and vast fields for picnics and play. The Millbrook Marsh barn and Spring Creek Education Building hold public programs for children and adults to learn about the ecosystem and history. They host fun, free events for the public events like an eco-friendly scavenger hunt on April 23 or Birds and Bagels on April 30, for bird enthusiasts of all ages—no prior birding experience required.

Tussey Mountain might be best known for its slopes, but it’s got a lot more to offer. Tussey is the place to be for outdoor fun even after the last snow of the season has melted. Go-karts, mini golf, driving range, batting cages and even a skate park—it’s a mecca for couples, families and groups who are tired of the usual routine and seeking a thrill. Check their website frequently to find out when you can expect live music and other events.

Finally, for the sports fans who would rather sit back and enjoy from the sidelines, visit Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to watch the State College Spikes, our very own minor league baseball team. The season starts officially in June, but tickets are available now, and a Spikes game is the perfect setting for a fundraiser or kid’s birthday party; it’s never too early to start planning summer fun!

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