25 Best Things to Do in State College, PA

State College, PA
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State College in Pennsylvania is the largest borough that was incorporated in 1896.

The borough lies in the Nittany Valley and is nestled between Bald Eagle Mountain to the northwest and Tussey Mountain to the southeast.

This place’s quaint main street hosts a collection of quirky shops, bakeries, galleries, and restaurants.

Additionally, State College is widely known for its Penn State Nittany Lions Football team, which causes an influx of over 100,000 fans into the Beaver stadium on its home games.

Interested to know more about this stunning place?

Here are the 25 best things to do in State College, Pennsylvania:

Hang Out at Otto’s Pub and Brewery

Exterior of Otto’s Pub and Brewery
SLM185, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Otto’s Pub and Brewery is a vibrant place to have lunch and among the best places for nightlife.

The food is delicious, be it tacos, hot dogs, burgers, pretzels, or lamb gyro.

The servings are also large, and the range of beers would tickle even the most serious of beer lovers’ pink.

So, if you are looking for a place with good food, great drinks, and a pleasing ambiance, Otto’s ticks all the boxes.

Beer cans from Otto’s Pub and Brewery
SLM185, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pay a Visit to the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau

A great way to jumpstart your trip to State College is to visit their visitor’s center, Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

While not necessary, visiting this center will give you an excellent overview of what State College offers.

Happy Valley Adventure Bureau is quite attractive, as they have some exhibits here for learning.

There’s also a lovely outdoor area where you can relax and take in the picturesque charm of the municipality.

Located along West Beaver Avenue, try meeting the friendly volunteers and learn a thing or two about State College.

See Various Artworks at the Palmer Museum of Art

Exterior of Palmer Museum of Art
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The Palmer Museum of Art collection includes American and European paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs.

It also includes contemporary American and Japanese ceramics, jades, and prints.

The museum has about 11 galleries, and the artwork feature early 19th-century and 20th-century collections.

One of the more famous works is a pair of towering bronze lions that hedge the entrance steps.

This evokes the traditional lions flanking Beaux-arts structures like the New York Public Library and also pays tribute to the Nittany Lion, Penn State’s mascot.

There is no admission charge for visiting the museum.

Get Entertained at Champs Downtown

Located in the heart of State College along South Allen Street lies Champs Downtown—one of the most famous restaurants in the municipality.

Famous for being a sports bar, Champs Downtown has huge TV screens to watch sports and hearty classic American pub food servings.

However, the other arcade games you can try at the bar are where it truly shines.

Pool tables, pinball machines, and other fun retro video games make this a top hang-out spot with friends.

Live music is also a staple here, so check it out when visiting State College.

See the Historic Old Main

Exterior of Old Main
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If you are a person that loves visiting historical landmarks, this is a must-visit.

The building was completed in 1863 and was renovated in 1930 due to structural inefficiencies.

This new building retained most of the older limestone structure and was rechristened “Old Main.”

History marker of Old Main
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Today it acts as the administrative center of Penn State.

After visiting the Old Main, you can stroll around the breathtaking campus grounds and conclude the evening with a visit to the University Creamery.

Trail leading to Old Main
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Do Some Reading at Pattee and Paterno Library

Signage of Pattee and Paterno Library
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Pattee and Paterno Library is not your typical municipal library, as it’s regarded as one of the best libraries in the country.

A big reason for this is its vast collection of academic resources along with state-of-the-art facilities.

In fact, it’s named Pattee and Paterno Library because it’s two libraries merged into one.

The grounds of Pattee and Paterno Library
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While it has everything you want in a library, such as high-speed Wi-Fi and computer access, its ambiance truly shines.

It’s a great place for reading and naps inside, and there’s also a garden where you can appreciate the library’s exterior aesthetic.

Pattee and Paterno Library are found along Curtin Road.

Exterior of Pattee and Paterno Library
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Take a Stroll at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center

Boardwalk at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center
Ruhrfisch (talk) 04:12, 18 March 2011 (UTC), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, a 62-acre nature preserve, is home to many amphibians, fish, reptiles, and birds.

This unique marsh environment, open from dawn to dusk, is a paradise for wildlife viewing, a perfect place for picnics, and one of the best places for camping.

Have a Drink at Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery

This quaint vineyard is off the beaten path and a stone's throw from State College.

It offers a healthy farm atmosphere where they craft fine wines and cheeses.

The vineyard is a great way to spend an afternoon with the beautiful views, tasting various wines, and sampling locally made crackers, cheeses, and salami.

They also offer private and group tours across the estate while leading you through every step in the wine-making process.

Watch a Hockey Game at Pegula Ice Arena

Hockey players in Pegula Ice Arena
Kkr1122, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pegula Ice Arena is a multipurpose arena with a seating capacity of 6,014.

There are two ice surfaces: the main rink is used for Penn State’s varsity home games, and the other surface is the community rink.

It is well worth it to be in town during the home games.

The community rink is open throughout the year and offers public skating sessions four days a week for visitors to enjoy the world-class infrastructure.

The panoramic view from the rink rolls over the sweeping campus and grounds to Mount Nittany in the east.

Experience the Wilderness at Gerhold Wildflower Trail

Gerhold Wildflower Trail is both scenic and rustic, giving you a glimpse of the natural wilderness of State College.

While it may seem obscure, Gerhold Wildflower Trail is quite close to Penn State’s arboretum.

The various trees and shrubberies are the best features of this trail.

With it comes a lot of various animals, most prominently different birds and critters like squirrels and deer.

If you want to visit this tranquil spot, access the trail along McKee Street.

Go Sightseeing at Penn State University

A building at Penn State University
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Initially founded in 1855 as an agricultural college, Penn State University houses many significant buildings.

Visitors can opt for a self-guided walking tour of the campus, which features various points of interest.

The walkways, sights, and alluring campus aid in the merriment towards a fantastic day out.

Have a Picnic at Sunset Park

Sunset Park got its name because of its beautiful outdoor scenery, best enjoyed during the late afternoon when the sun is about to set.

A park with tons of wooded areas, Instagram-worthy nature areas are abundant at Sunset Park.

If you bring kids, they have various amenities to keep them engaged.

Basketball courts and outdoor gym equipment add a lot of diversity to your plans when visiting Sunset Park.

Directly linked to the Gerhold Wildflower Trail, this is a great spot to visit after doing your trek.

Enjoy Various Outdoor Activities at Stone Valley Recreation Area

Located about 17 miles (27.36 km) from University Park is a natural treasure with scenic mountains and wooded trails.

Stone Valley Recreation Area is a recreational and educational facility offering many fun activities, such as boating, fishing, hiking, and cabin lodgings.

This is home to the 72-acre Lake Perez, where you can use the in-house boat rental services.

They offer 20-plus miles of hiking trails for all hiking enthusiasts.

Immerse in Science at Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania

Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania is an exciting and vibrant science center of interactive exhibits and firsthand experiential programs.

This is an excellent place for kids and adults alike.

They aim to design and provide informal and valuable science education, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in a fun way.

This is worth visiting if you are looking for a fun and informative way to fill an afternoon.

Visit the Centre County Historical Society

The Centre County Historical Society (CCHS) is one of the oldest and biggest CCHS organizations.

It is headquartered in a restored and furnished iron master’s home.

This historic building, known as the Centre Furnace Mansion, represents 18th-century architecture and the inception of the charcoal iron industry in the area.

If you are a history buff, this is another compelling site to visit.

It takes you back in time to a simpler era when people walked up the small stairs instead of using an elevator.

Explore Rothrock State Forest

Daytime view of Rothrock State Forest
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Located about 15 minutes from the University Park is the Rothrock State Forest.

To witness nature at its finest, you must earn it as you go along multiple trails, from easy to complex.

Good hiking shoes are recommended, as there will be quite a bit of rock hopping, and the hills will be pretty steep.

Bring the Family to Tom Tudek Memorial Park

Nature view at Tom Tudek Memorial Park
JohnDziak, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

A beautiful park providing recreational amenities for all ages, the Tom Tudek Memorial Park provides a wide area for playing, hiking, and biking.

Within 10 minutes from State College, this local park offers a playground, a butterfly garden, and a vast expanse of great trails and trees.

There is also a large pavilion with picnic tables for a fun evening with the family.

It is a great place to plop yourself against a tree and read a good book, go for a walk, or observe some time for yourself.

Take Photos of the Nittany Lion Shrine

Daytime view of the Nittany Lion Shrine
Nathaniel C. Sheetz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nittany Lion Shrine is a gift of the class of 1940 and rests in the natural setting of trees by the Recreation building on the University Park campus.

This was created by an animalier named Heinz Warneke from a 13-ton block of Indiana limestone.

If you are a Penn Stater, this iconic statue is an absolute must in your list of places to visit, as it symbolizes the university.

Its popularity is matched by its artistic beauty, which is evidenced by the fact that there are usually long lines waiting to take a picture straddling the mighty lion.

Front view of the Nittany Lion Shrine
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Appreciate the Bug Exhibits at Frost Entomological Museum

An insect in Frost Entomological Museum
Frost Museum, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Frost Entomological Museum houses a vast collection of insect biodiversity, estimated at 2 million specimens, a public exhibition, and educational space.

Although founded in 1969, the specimen collection dates back to the late 1800s.

Not all the specimens are on display, but scientists and researchers have access to the entire collection.

This is an excellent way to spend an hour, and the kids will be interested in looking at the various creepy crawlies in the eastern United States.

Have an Intimate Time at The Arboretum at Penn State

A flower at the Arboretum at Penn State
Colin Gillette / Shutterstock.com

If you are in central Pennsylvania and only have a few hours, The Arboretum at Penn State has to be a go-to spot.

Adjacent to the University Park campus, the 370-acre arboretum has many attractions.

The children’s garden is lovely, houses many native plants, and is a microcosm of the territorial landscape.

It also includes a limestone cave, an arena for holding events, and other attractions like animal and bird sculptures.

You can also visit Joel N. Myers sundial, a large granite sculpture that is a functional and artistic attraction.

The Bellefonte Central Rail Trail, a crushed limestone trail of 1.3 miles (2.09 km), offers a peaceful setting for a leisurely hike.

You can also stop by the Hosler Oak, dubbed the “Witness tree, " the first tree planted in the nursery.

There is no admission charge for visiting the arboretum.

Other Things to Do Nearby

See the Artifacts at Pennsylvania Military Museum

Exterior of the Pennsylvania Military Museum
Robert J. La Verghetta, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pennsylvania Military Museum is located about 5 miles (8.05 km) from State College in the village of Boalsburg.

It opened in 1968 as a shrine to the citizen soldiers at the height of the Vietnam War.

It is currently run by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and is dedicated to the history of Pennsylvania.

Signage of Pennsylvania Military Museum
George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

The museum tells stories about what Pennsylvanians did to defend the country.

Whether you are from Pennsylvania or not, this place is a must-visit, as we can all empathize and co-relate with the great stories of the war.

Military tank at Pennsylvania Military Museum
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Catch a Game at Beaver Stadium

Exterior of the Beaver Stadium
Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Home to the Penn State Nittany Lions since 1960, this is the fourth-largest stadium in the world, with a seating capacity of 106,572.

During the home games, the atmosphere is electrifying and well worth a visit.

Aerial view of Beaver Stadium
acaben, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Skiing at Tussey Mountain Ski and Recreation

The gateway to the Rothrock State Forest, the Tussey Mountain Ski Area, is about 10 minutes from State College.

Tussey Mountain is a fantastic recreational place and is suited for all seasons.

It includes a Fun Centre, along with mini-golf, go-karting, batting cages, a driving range, and a skating park.

As the name suggests, it is a popular destination for skiing, offering over 30 acres of skiable area.

There are 13 ski trails in Mount Tussey, with difficulty levels ranging from beginner (at the Little Bear) to advanced.

Most trails have been equipped with snowmaking capabilities to cater to tourists all year round.

Snow tubing is also offered here, with around five tubing lanes.

The property also has an amphitheater for concerts or festivals and a lodge for parties.

Visit Penn State All-Sports Museum

While on the university campus, the Penn State All-Sports Museum is worth a look.

Penn State’s athletic history is rich, and the museum has done justice in capturing those monumental moments.

Located at the southwest corner of the Beaver Stadium, the museum will let you discover how much you know about the legends of the blue and white.

Even the most die-hard Penn Stater will be challenged and might learn a thing or two.

Watch Baseball at Medlar Field

Daytime view of Medlar Field
Robert J. La Verghetta, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once the Penn State baseball season ends, the rookie teams start to flex their capabilities.

Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is the home of the State College Spikes and is a great way to watch a baseball game in a relaxed environment.

A great way to spend an evening with good sports, affordable concessions, and easygoing vibes.

Final Thoughts

State College is one of the more unique municipalities in the United States because its personality is intrinsically linked to a renowned university.

Because of this, it feels like a giant university with sprawling attractions inside.

Make no mistake, however, as State College has tons of other attractions beyond Penn State.

With so much to do here, this list of the best things to do in State College, Pennsylvania, is just the tip of the iceberg.

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