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Be in the center of it all -- Midweek in Happy Valley


Happy Valley, Penn State’s home nestled in the center of Pennsylvania, is a great place to visit all year round. It’s a best-of-both worlds escape with all of the culture of a small city and the bucolic charm of the Appalachian Mountains’ ridge-and-valley province. And there’s something extra special about what it offers for midweek getaways. 

Most visitors enjoy Happy Valley during football weekends, and for good reason. The area is alive with great food, live music, entertainment and one of the largest college football stadiums on the planet. Experiencing one of those famous Saturdays should be on your bucket list, if it isn’t already. But do yourself a favor and book a midweek visit to the happiest place in Pennsylvania. Here’s why:

All the amenities, at your own pace

Visiting Happy Valley in the middle of the week feels like a backstage pass to something magical. There are fewer people in the area’s shops and restaurants; fewer vehicles on its roads and bike paths — which means you can fit more fun and relaxation into your trip. The area is inclusive and welcoming to all, scenic every time of year (look for iconic Mount Nittany when you come into the area and you’ll see what we mean) and filled with charming small towns, unique museums, fantastic food and fun that you’ll be talking about until your next visit.

In addition to how uncrowded it is in the middle of the week (honestly, the ease of getting around is a favorite amenity!), it’s easy to get seats at one of their amazing farm-to-fork dining establishments like RE Farm Cafe, Elk Creek Cafe or Pine Grove Hall, or enjoy a laid-back trivia night in a repurposed match factory while enjoying a cocktail made from house-made vodka at Big Spring Spirits.

Lodging options fit your adventure

Happy Valley is truly inclusive and welcoming to all, and that’s evident from the food to the fun to the lodging. The options are nearly endless — and it’s easy to book a midweek stay. Our tip? Pick something that fits the adventure you’ve chosen for your getaway. Roughing it? There are campgrounds that are both privately owned as well as many spots in the state parks that cover more than 750,000 acres of public land surrounding Happy Valley. There’s even one that has both cabins to sleep in and a cave to explore!

If you want your adventure to be a little less rustic, you can stay at one of Happy Valley’s hotels, motels, and inns. The options range from budget to high-end, and include a golf resort and a nature inn, in case you want to hit the links or go birding.

There are also lodging and vacation rentals, two of which are on farms; and bed and breakfasts, including a half dozen in Bellefonte, which is 12 miles north of State College and well-known for its Victorian homes. 

Beat the lines

“There is less competition for hotel rooms and access to the best restaurants in the area without the crowds. You have the opportunity to experience Happy Valley like the locals do, in a relaxed and stress-free atmosphere, taking in the sights on your own time,” Lee Anne Jeffries, Executive Director of the Downtown State College Improvement District (DSCID) said. 

This means that it’s a snap to get reservations to favorites like The Allen Street Grill or The Tavern, and no long line at the Berkey Creamery on campus to get a scoop of your favorite ice cream. 

[Insider tip: Be sure to check the schedule as you plan your visit to Happy Valley]

Discover events

While you are here in the middle of the week, you can enjoy community events you can’t find on the weekends. In State College, check out Live After 5, a free monthly summer music series outdoors utilizing the picturesque Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on Fraser Street. The series, which features some of the best local musicians in the area, starts on Wednesday, June 29 and will continue weekly until the end of August from 5:30-7:30pm. 

Friday in the ‘Fonte, held in Bellefonte on the last Friday of each month, features free live music and activities for the entire family. Residents and visitors alike are invited downtown to celebrate Bellefonte's shopping, dining, arts and craft beverages!

On the first Friday of each month, head to downtown State College for First Friday, with after-hours access to galleries and shops, free bites and beverages, live music, retail and restaurant specials and more.

Take a craft beverage tour

Happy Valley is home to a thriving craft beverage maker community, and a midweek visit is the perfect way to explore it. With the Central PA Tasting Trail, you can visit a secluded winery nestled against a mountain, tour a cidery (check out their live music events!) or enjoy the freshest beer ever poured in a repurposed metal factory. The tasting trail offers a passport and map that promise a wandering day or two (or three) of windy roads, great stories and amazing, PA-made craft beverages. 

Explore nature and agriculture-centric destinations

Part of Happy Valley’s best-of-both worlds charm is found in its outdoor scene. Happy Valley has some interesting geology and you can get an inside view of it at Lincoln Caverns and Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park. Outside, you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the region’s best-known ridge thanks to the Mount Nittany Conservancy. Its volunteers maintain nine miles of trails that offer the most popular hikes in Happy Valley and seven scenic overlooks that provide views of Nittany Valley, Penns Valley and other ridges in the area.

The area’s state parks and forests feature numerous trails that can be traversed by mountain bike, and, in some cases on horseback, as well as by foot. They also have lakes for fishing, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing, and give adventurers a chance to see a wide range of nature’s creatures, including beavers, bald eagles, and bats.

It is also a location with a rich agricultural heritage that is reflected in the local ag-centered experiences like farmers markets, driving tours and Amish-made foods and hand-crafted finds.

Find more fun with shopping, museums and art

After enjoying Happy Valley’s outdoor fun, head back into one of the area’s thriving downtowns for shopping opportunities that allow you to remember your adventure by taking home everything from antiques, gifts and furnishings to Penn State apparel and souvenirs.

Happy Valley also has many historic sites; an abundance of arts and entertainment venues; multiple museums; and, if you’re a nocturnal adventurer, a thriving nightlife. Spend some time visiting the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum, where you can learn about George Boal and his family, as he was one of the founders of what is now Penn State University.

There’s more history to explore at the PA Military Museum in Boalsburg, which features stories about Pennsylvanians who served in various wars, and the newest permanent exhibit at the Bellefonte Art Museum titled “A Journey to Freedom,” which centers on Bellefonte’s role in the Underground Railroad.

Art and entertainment abound in Happy Valley, from featured musicians at The State Theatre, to bands and comedians at the Bryce Jordan Center, to the national tours of hit Broadway musicals at Eisenhower Auditorium

When you’re ready for something a bit lighter, start by shopping the charming downtowns of each community in Happy Valley. You’ll find high-end vintage items at Shindig Alley in Phillipsburg, handmade items by local artisans at Belle Mercantile in Bellefonte, Amish cheese at Goot Essa in Howard, family fun at Discovery Space and Climb Nittany in State College, and one-of-a-kind gifts at A Basket Full in Boalsburg. 

Scheduling your adventure

No matter how you choose to spend your time, your mid-week Happy Valley adventure will be a happy one. For help planning it, visit The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau website.

Midweek Bucket List

  • Shop at quaint boutiques and unique shops

  • Check out museums

  • Do guided tours

  • Sowers Harvest Cafe in State College

  • Schedule an appointment at Bellefonte Art Museum

  • Take a walk around Talleyrand Park

  • Visit the Penn State Arboretum 

  • Friday in the 'Fonte on the last Friday of the month in Bellefonte

  • First Friday (the first Friday of the month) in downtown State College

  • Hike at Black Moshannon State Park 

  • Rent a kayak

  • Explore the Central PA Tasting Trail.

  • Visit The Allen Street Grill or The Tavern

  • Get a scoop at the Creamery

  • Enjoy Live after 5 Wednesdays at the MLK Jr Plaza

  • Walk Downtown State College

  • Walk Penn State Campus

  • Hike Mount Nittany

  • Bike through Rothrock State Forest

  • Visit Bellefonte’s shops, restaurants and antiques

  • Book a "Tap into History" walking tour of Underground Railroad sites and black history of Bellefonte

  • Explore trails at Scotia Barrens and Musser Gap

  • Head to the Art Alliance in Lemont for their figure drawing sessions

  • Get takeout from Lupita’s

  • Get coffee at Café Lemont or the Pump Station

  • Visit the Palmer Museum of Art

  • Take in the sunset on Mount Nittany

  • Hike to the amazing vistas on top of Mount Nittany.

  • Mountain bike the challenging technical trails of Shingletown Gap

  • Pedal the many bike paths in and around State College.

  • Bike, then quench your thirst at Big Springs, Good Intent or Axemann 

  • Wingfest at Tussey Mountain, Thursdays in July and August

  • Wednesday trivia night at Big Spring Spirits

  • Music in the Speakeasy at the Gamble Mill on select Thursdays