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Visitors always ask us "What should I do while I'm here?" While State College and the Penn State campus is a favorite stop for many of our visitors and new residents, the region beyond campus offers endless possibilities. Whether you're visiting Victorian Bellefonte, Historic Boalsburg or the natural beauty of Penns Valley there are plenty of opportunities to do something amazing.
If you're going to visit a destination you want to get the most out of your trip. To complete our list it might take you a few trips to our neck of the woods, but is well worth the effort. Check these activities off your bucket list to experience the best of what Happy Valley has to offer.
1. Catch an intimate performance at The State Theatre
This beautiful 1938 theatre is a community-owned space in the heart of downtown that hosts live music, theater and dance performances plus movies, opera viewings, stand-up comedians, local fundraising events, national acts and everything in between.
2. Learn about true legends of the Blue and White at the Penn State All-Sports Museum
Highlighting the best and brightest of the university’s athletes past and present, this museum covers everything from basketball to bowling, fencing to football. Visitors young and old will gain an appreciation for the Penn State traditions of sportsmanship, excellence and success with honor.
3. Discover EVERYTHING at Discovery Space of Central PA
The children’s science center has expanded to three times its original size, offering dozens of hands-on exhibits and learning stations for curious young minds. There’s a special area for tiny tots to explore and learn, and a separate “maker space” for older kids and teens to take on creative challenges.
4. Check out the Wall of Fame at the Bryce Jordan Center after a show
The Bryce Jordan Center has seen plenty of top performers come to this 15,000+ seat arena including Elton John, Paul McCartney, Jay-Z and more. The arena is very accessible to downtown State College and I-99 visitors from out-of-town.
5. Support the fight against pediatric cancer at THON
THON is Penn State’s proudest endeavor, for a good reason: The 46-hour dance marathon benefiting children battling cancer is the world's largest student-run philanthropy and has raised $147 million since its start in 1973. For one weekend in February each year, the Bryce Jordan Center is transformed into a giant bubble of color and energy and love. One visit and you’ll be displaying your ‘diamonds up’ For The Kids.
6. Race the go-karts or go snow tubing at Tussey Mountain
Whatever the season, Tussey Mountain has fun covered – skiing and snow tubing all winter long, go karts and mini golf in the warmer months. And if you’ve never been to a Movie on the Mountain or a round of finger-licking goodness at WingFest, don’t miss out on both forms of summer fun.
7. Get the best view of the lake at Nature Inn at Bald Eagle
This nature-based inn is unlike anything in the PA parks system. Everything in and around the beautiful building was designed and built with the environment in mind. Guests can enjoy all that Bald Eagle State Park has to offer – or just sit and watch the birds from a private balcony.
8. Float through Penn's Cave
Penn’s Cave is the only cave in Pennsylvania on the National Register of Historic Places, and you can take a boat ride through it at Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park. You can also opt to ride a bus through the park’s grazing pastures and mountain trails to see wildlife galore; wind your way through a 4,800-square-foot Miner’s Maze; or hop aboard a Jeep for some off-roading fun.
9. Cast a line in world-famous fishing streams
From the world-renowned “green drake hatch” in Penns Creek to the wild trout of Spring Creek, these well-known tributaries are a fisherman’s dream come true. Drop a line from shore or bring your waders and fly rod – the fish always seem to be jumpin’ in Centre County creeks.
10. Challenge yourself in a race like the Tussey Mountainback, The Sue Crowe Memorial Arts Festival Races or the Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run
Whether you’d rather jog 5 miles through campus and “finish at the 50,” or get a team together to tackle 50 miles around the winding gravel roads of Tussey Mountain and Rothrock State Forest, there’s a race for every level of runner here. Get out there and find yours!
11. Grab a microbrew growler or an award-winning bottle of wine on the Central PA Tasting Trail
There are three microbreweries, two cideries, two distilleries making local spirits, and four wineries on this Centre Region trail of bountiful beverages. Grab a passport and check them all off your list one delicious drink at a time.
12. Stroll through the beautiful gardens of Penn State’s Arboretum
There you’ll find several different gardens, hundreds of plant and flower species, tranquil reflecting pools and the Children’s Gate Children’s Garden, which has lots of natural and manmade treasures to discover and learn about as little ones wander and play.
13. Celebrate Memorial Day in Boalsburg, the nation's birthplace of the festivities
Boalsburg does Memorial Day first and best, with a carnival, a 5K race, a parade, homemade pies, food vendors, military fanfare and more over the long weekend.
14. Hike the blazed Blue and White trails of Mount Nittany
Hiking Mount Nittany is a rite of passage for any Penn State grad or local resident. Your hike can range from 2 to 8 miles, depending on which loop you take – but either way the view at the top is worth the climb.
15. Be amazed by the history at Boal Mansion & Columbus Chapel
The historic 1789 Boal Mansion contains two centuries worth of Boal family furnishings and fine art, weapons and tools from medieval times through World War I and lots of other interesting objects. Also on the mansion grounds is unassuming Columbus Chapel, which houses the most significant collection of Christopher Columbus artifacts in North America – including two pieces of the True Cross of Jesus.
16. Schedule a date night during Happy Valley Culinary Week
There are good eats all year ’round here, but something special happens during Happy Valley Culinary Week, when new dishes and cooking demos are offered around town. Taste your way through the Centre Region during this fun week celebrating local food and exotic flavors.
17. Get a brain freeze at Berkey Creamery
Everyone knows the Creamery has the very best ice cream in Pennsylvania and beyond. Whether you’re in State College for the day or putting down roots for a lifetime, a one-size-fits-all cone or cup of your favorite Creamery flavor is a bucket list imperative.
18. Jam out at Remington Ryde Bluegrass Festival at the Grange Fairgrounds
This festival brings crowds of bluegrass fans to the Grange Fairgrounds for an extra-long weekend of pickin’ and grinnin’ each summer. Whether you camp out for the whole festival or just come for the day, you should bring your favorite stringed instrument – field pickin’ and jammin’ is encouraged 24 hours a day.
19. Enjoy America's 3rd best fireworks display at the Central PA 4th Fest
State College’s own 4th Fest fireworks have been rated among the best in the nation. But before that explosive finale, festivalgoers enjoy a parade, food vendors and a host of interesting entertainment – everything from a BMX bike show, to live music, to chainsaw woodcarvers.
20. Channel your inner photographer at the Nittany Lion Shrine
The Nittany Lion Shrine has been standing sentinel near Rec Hall since 1942, but the landscape and hardscape around it have been upgraded in recent years, providing an even more picturesque selfie spot. Lights around the shrine shine blue and white at night, which can take your Penn State pic to the next level.
21. Watch something incredible emerge from a 25-ton pile of sand at Arts Fest
The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts has a lot of annual traditions, from the banners that line downtown streets to the buckets of water splashing kids on Allen Street. And one of the most unique things to check out each year is the three-day creation of a giant sand sculpture in Sidney Friedman Park.
22. Compete in the Watermelon Eating Contest at Philipsburg Heritage Days
Intentionally coinciding with Arts Fest, this annual celebration of Philipsburg’s history and heritage includes a car show, live music, children’s activities, a 5K, a parade and fireworks.
23. Fill a basket of fresh produce at a local farmers market, or pick your own from the field!
It seems there’s a farmers market for every corner of the county, and that’s because this area is so rich in farms and folks who care about locally sourced food and products. The freshest produce, eggs, meat, cheese and so much more can be found each week at farmers markets around town.
24. Load up on peanuts and Cracker Jack at a Spikes game
State College’s minor league baseball team’s games are a highlight of the summer, with special activities for kids inside Medlar Field at Lobrano Park, and plenty of themed nights to keep the crowd entertained. Plus fireworks cap off the game on several nights each season!
25. Get a birds-eye view on a ride with Sky's the Limit Ballooning
This year-round venture is a whole new way to see Happy Valley, no matter the season. The balloon lifts off twice a day, weather pending, and offers a peaceful one-hour ride above State College that you won’t soon forget.
26. Find peace and quiet in nature at one of our state parks
Downtown State College is mere miles away from some of the prettiest state parks and forests in PA. Whether you’re up for a run in Rothrock State Forest, a swim at Bald Eagle State Park, fishing at Whipple Dam State Park or a hike through Black Moshannon State Park, this place is a playground for nature lovers. Try them all!
27. Spend a day (or 10) at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair
A visit to The Grange Fair is a must for anyone who wants to consider themselves a local. This 10-day fair at the end of the summer includes amusement rides; livestock and horse shows; competitions; national, regional and local entertainment; and more food vendors than you can dream up. Families have been camping there every year for generations.
28. Discover Centre County on a unique ride with Vamos! Lion Chariot Pedicabs
The fun fleet of pedicabs can give you a different view of State College as you ride around town or through campus to spots that are tricky for cars to navigate to and park. It’s a favorite among alumni wanting a fun way to get to the stadium from downtown, and for Penn State brides and grooms to be pedaled to the best picture-taking spots on campus.
29. Learn about birds of prey at the Shaver's Creek Raptor Center
Shaver’s Creek has been undergoing immense renovations and they’re reopening on Labor Day weekend with a new Visitors Center, classroom buildings and a Raptor Center that houses majestic birds of prey, including owls, falcons, eagles, hawks and more.
30. Get caught in a Beaver Stadium Whiteout, shout at Hockey Valley's Pegula Ice Arena or sit courtside cheering on the Nittany Lions during a Big Ten Conference matchup
There is nothing like being among 107,000-plus fans inside Beaver Stadium on a home Saturday Whiteout game. But that Penn State pride is also on full display at the many other sporting venues on campus, from ‘The Peg’ to Rec Hall and every field in between. Go cheer on the home team!
31. Soar gracefully over Happy Valley in a glider plane from Ridge Soaring Gliderport
Every good bucket list should have some adventure on it, and soaring high above ground in a plane without an engine fits the bill. Located just outside State College, this is one breathtaking experience you’ll be happy to check off the list.
32. Be greeted by Ebenezer Scrooge at Bellefonte's Victorian Christmas
Characters from the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” stroll the Victorian streets during Bellefonte’s annual holiday festival, which also features an arts and crafts fair, live performances, breakfast with Santa and much more.
33. Spend First Night (which is your last night of the year) with a Resolution Run, ice sculpting and a horse-drawn carriage ride
First Night State College is an annual New Year’s Eve tradition that’s filled with live entertainment and family fun. From finding creative ways to declare your New Year’s resolution, to zipping down a slide made of ice, the downtown event brings families and friends together to ring in the new year with smiles and good cheer.