You’ve found a simple travel guide for fun things to do in State College PA, whether you are a new Penn State University student, a parent visiting your PSU student, or someone who wants to see what the Pennsylvania State College area is all about! The list of fun things to do in the State College Area (a.k.a. Happy Valley PA) is a great day-tripping bucket list tour with a lot of fun stops along the way which includes a mix of free State College Pennsylvania attractions to affordable ticketed adventures that you really won’t want to miss!
Get ready for simple adventures indoors and outdoors that each provides perspective relative to the area, and some incredibly iconic destinations that begin the moment you enter the University Park Campus of Penn State University to Centre Hall and Boalsburg and beyond.
After a day of touring in Happy Valley PA, you will feel like you are part of the community and you’ll want to uncover even more PSU area adventures, this is a small spattering of local attractions in the Happy Valley PA area.
My personal thanks to Visit Pennsylvania, Visit Penn State, and GMC for providing me with this incredible trip. All opinions and images are my own, based on my personal experience, and all content and photos are copyrighted, do not reproduce without the explicit written consent of DanaVento.Com and Dana Vento.
Why You’ll Really Love The Penn State Area (State College PA)
There is a lot to do right on the University Park Campus of Penn State University (Penn State campus), so it is walkable if you want a nice dollop of exercise, or you can drive to each attraction, while you will find that the furthest point of this Penn State area travel guide, is a quick 25 minutes off of the PSU Campus sharing a scenic drive along the way.
- you will find a walkable and drivable mix of PSU area adventures
- there are indoor and outdoor adventures
- none of the ticketed Happy Valley PA attractions are expensive
- in your Penn State area adventures, you can choose anything from military to history, to underground adventures!
- Some of the local attractions on this Penn State area travel list are very Penn State-esque and iconic, but all are definitely must-see and try adventures you are sure to find interesting and of course, can mark off that Happy Valley PA bucket list.
Fun Things To Do In State College: On The Campus of Penn State University Park!
Let’s start off by walking the campus and visiting a few different areas close in proximity to one another.
Park your car and take a walk to experience the sprawling university.
It’s a relatively easy walking area with a few hills, and if you prefer you can drive from item to item on this checklist!
Remember, you can change up my PSU travel guide to better suit your preferences, and use it as a springboard for planning your stay in Happy Valley PA!
So what to do around Penn State is really in your hands, but these suggestions will help!
At the bottom of this post I will place a list of all of Penn State University Campus walking spots so that you can program your phone to walk along the same route.
In the Penn State Area? Why Not Start at Beaver Stadium?
You don’t have to love football to appreciate a famed college stadium and Beaver Stadium is a beloved piece of the PSU culture where its great football team and its rivalries go head to head on that natural grass field.
Big, bold, and confident, that’s my description of Penn State’s Beaver Stadium what is yours?
We got to go to the top and see outside and really enjoy the mammoth view of the famed Beaver Stadium, where PSU football puts rivalries to shame!
But it was not just Beaver Stadium that was captivating, albeit it was fabulous, the Penn State All-Sports Museum is also situated inside the Beaver Stadium and showcases the athletic talent of over 30+ sports all athletes of PSU!
Penn State All-Sports Museum Stadium Viewing and Museum
I actually had no idea what we were about to see, after all, I am not a graduate of Penn State and every time we have ventured here, we have spent time in Pegula for ice hockey games!
What will the Penn State All-Sports Museum showcase?
Imagine yourself standing inside of a museum with so much sports history and it is ALL made up of talent from Penn State University. It’s actually mind-boggling athleticism feats and achievements that will engage you from wall to wall and floor to floor as you walk throughout this museum.
Some of the most incredibly accomplished people in sports, from track to football and everything in between, are hosted in what I refer to as their own Penn State Hall of Fame, as they were graduates of Penn State University.
Gravitate to the sports you love and learn about those who excelled in the sport.
It is almost hard to grasp how many wonderous, athletically gifted students have walked before us and on the campus.
In my honest opinion, if you are not an athletic fan, the tour could last as little as 20 minutes (if you want to be able to say you were there) and this would be briskly walking by each different sport, and very much undervaluing the content and collection that is available, or you might spend an hour or 2, as it is a self-guided museum tour.
Parking + Other Tips for These PSU Area Adventures
- Pull up to the stadium area, park here we are going for a walk, and you’ll get to experience fun things to do in State College PA right on the PSU Campus first!
- Parking areas differ by day so refer to the Beaver Stadium and Penn State All-Sport Museum websites for where to park and when.
- Plan on spending anywhere from 1 hour or more here, depending on your level of interest in sports history and if you have planned a guided tour of Beaver Stadium with the links I left above!
- Wear walking shoes because from Beaver Stadium we will walk across the campus and then back to the car, and again you can move your car about all of the adventures around PSU but sometimes parking is tricky (at least in my multiple visits to the destination!)
#3 Fun Things To Do In State College Include Visiting Pegula
As you might recall I mentioned we’ve been in the Penn State area many times and on campus as well, but we never stopped for many of the attractions, we just came in for the ice hockey games played at Pegula and left!
Our trip was more about nostalgia and Niko described his shootout moment, play by play!
Really if the doors are open you’ll want to take a look at this state-of-the-art ice arena where great battles on ice happen during the school year!
P.S. If you are looking for restrooms and you are in Pegula, use them here before you keep on walking.
Again, if you have no interest in ice hockey just keep moving on to the next attraction as the PSU area adventures continue.
#4 Fun Things To Do In State College PA Will Give You A Roarin’ Iconic Moment
It’s time to walk on over to the famed Nittany Lion Shrine in University Park.
The Nittany Lion Statue is as iconic as it gets and a must to seek out when you are on the PSU campus, and it is free to visit!
You simply can’t go to Penn State and not seek out the Nittany Lion Shrine. It’s kind of like a rite of passage and it is totally IG-Worthy moment and we have been here quite a few times!
It’s lifesize and cool to see, and you won’t be the only people there! We waited through about 3 sets of people to get our photo with the famed statue!
In case you don’t know where it is, put this address into your navigation system: Curtin Road and Burrowes RD, State College, PA 16801.
#5 An Optional Walking Stop in The Penn State Area on Campus
Walk on by the Nittany Lion Inn!
Before we moved on to our next stop, I walked from the Nittany Lion Shrine over to the Nittany Lion Inn, as I love grand architecture design and beautifully landscaped inns, and as a travel writer, this checks all those boxes!
My one hockey mom friend swears by the Nittany Lion Inn and even checked herself into the Nittany Lion Inn while hosting a room for her son in the player’s hotel, so it is that amazing!
While I have not yet stayed there, it is so pretty to look at. At least stop here and see it and really earn that ice cream stop that is about to happen!
For those that don’t want to walk here, you can drive here and easily turn around in the wrap-around driveway!
#6 The Travel Guide Of Fun Things To Do In State College Wouldn’t Be Complete Without Ice Cream
By cone or by cup the Penn State Creamery will make you smile after 1 lick or bite of your delicious ice cream or sorbet.
You’ve earned this stop with all of the walking so far, and you will love the Penn State Berkey Creamery.
Really the Penn State Creamery is an essential part of any trip through Happy Valley PA no matter where you are venturing, stop!
Your ice cream serving is huge and reasonably priced and you will get a motherload of sprinkles when you request sprinkles.
Every single time we have come to the Penn State Creamery there is a line, but it moves fast, so be patient, get in line and get ready to lick your lips.
I placed it at the end of the walking tour portion so that you could walk back to your car with it.
If you scroll to the bottom of the article I will include a complete touring guide list for the PSU campus that I just shared so you can program it on your Google maps for walking!
Onward, we are headed to see fantastic views and learn the things to do in State College Outdoors!
#7 Keep Moving Throughout the Penn State Area And Take A Big Hike
Get ready to hike Mount Nittany to Mike Lynch Overlook and for a view that is just indescribably delightful!
However, getting there is a bit of work and I love my exercise and do about 19000 steps on any given vacation day, this was a different kind of stepping!
Pack up your car with water, hiking shoes, and a small backpack, and don’t forget your camera. Parking is limited, right at the base where we parked, however, there is an overflow lot, slightly below the main area.
As we began hiking, a few times I kept thinking to myself that I should turn around and quit but I did not, because I had been told how much I would love what was at the top and I did! mountain?
Other people were hiking Mount Nittany as well, saying exactly what my thoughts were, and some even turned around after a bit.
Allow yourself a couple of hours so you do not have to hurry as you will really want to enjoy the Mount Nittany hike.
Plus in all fairness, if you are an avid walker, but decide to take this hike, it is day and night compared to walking, thus, hiking is what this Penn State Area adventure truly is and it is fun!
Keep climbing (walking) and don’t let the pathway discourage you because I promise you the end game is so well worth the mountainous climb.
Do note that the terrain is all uneven and it is a fairly straightforward uphill climb in case you don’t see that in the photos!
Hiking Mount Nittany is Not for the Faint of Heart And It Is A True Happy Valley PA Adventure!
Sorry, not sorry, NO quitters here and we tamed the beast of a hike and once you ascend to the top, no matter how hard you struggle to get there, or how breathless you might be, or how crumbly and rough the terrain might become, you will so appreciate your will and determination and it will be rewarded!
Gaze across the way, and you will see a totally different vantage point of Beaver Stadium.
My guess is that it took us about 45 minutes up and about 1/2 hour down being careful not to misstep and kiss mother earth because remember you don’t go up a mountain without coming down!!
#8 The Travel Guide of Fun Things To Do In State College PA Continues Underground
Get in your car and program your navigation system for Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park you are about to go underground into caves that you will navigate through via boat!
Before you get there you will find that the road to Penn’s Cave from the Penn State area is curvy and needs your eyes and full attention.
From Penn State to here was about 30 minutes (17 miles) and it was a fabulous morning drive. Solid rain downpours complicated our drive a bit, but the ride was beautiful nonetheless.
As soon as I got into the boat, I knew it was going to be the best ever, and honestly, it was just that. My eyes kept roving, from the ceiling to the water and everywhere in between this is really one of that PSU area adventures you gotta do and we had a great guide!
Touch NOTHING but ogle at everything in the cave as it is maintained and a very natural environment so it can continue to live.
Guess where you are? If you said underground, with pastures above you are right!
When you get to the end of the cave or what you think the end of the cave is, you actually exit it and head out into the wildlife preserve which you can see from the boat.
You can get a great look at what the Penn’s Cave tour is like by watching my video that in above and making sure to visit this Happy Valley PA attraction!
9. Visit The Penn State Area PA Military Museum
As a non-museum kind of person, this was the best surprise of the trip. Our tour was brief but informative.
In fact, I think I learned more in 30 minutes about the war, than I did the whole time I was in High School.
What touched me the most was the outside monuments and grounds. A memorial for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team literally brought tears to my eyes.
This honors those 82 marines, soldiers, and sailors from the 2nd Brigade Combat team killed. Named the ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ because this is where they lost their lives from June 2005-2006.
The memorial stands, tall, and is constructed of both granite and steel.
What is beautiful, but also so eerie are the sounds the dog tags hanging on the inside make.
A deep sadness lives there, yet yields to both pride of service and remembrance.
#10 Looking For More Fun Things To Do In State College PA? Add the Boal Mansion to Your Travel Guide
For those looking for that hidden gem of an adventure with a side of history, consider it found.
What a marvelous mansion and oh the historical antiquities on the inside.
While the mansion is being fashioned for tours more and more, it is already primed.
In fact, this destination is part of the National Registrar of Historic Places.
There’s so much history inside the mansion, a timeline, and a family story that the best way to take it all in is a tour.
And here is a quick overview of the Boals Mansion Tour To Help You Out
- We were in a large group, of at least 20 people, touring room by room.
- From antique furniture to lovely china, your eyes will rove the whole time.
- The stairwell in the front room is inviting and you will go up.
- Upon entry to the second level, you will see 2 bedrooms.
- One is all the military items recovered right within the home.
- Conversely, the other bedroom is fashioned with Fashion items brought from France.
- Those items include a Louis Vuitton storage footlocker, which our tour guide credited the Boal family for launching the career of Louis Vuitton. I am still questioning that particular theory but loved the footlocker.
#11 Don’t Forget To Visit Duffy’s Boalsburg Tavern In As Part Of Your Penn State Area Adventures
I really don’t know if my pictures capture the beauty of the architecture of the tavern.
Once you saunter into the interior you will see why I am in love with it even more.
Helpful Things To Know About The Boalsburg Tavern
- Really, the tavern has a personality. Did I mention it also has a parking lot, as well as outdoor seating?
- If you park in the lot, look out for the roosters that are running around, that made my day!
- Truly the feel of this tavern is the feel of the area and it is quaint, and cozy, with brick and stone-filled walls.
- There’s a lot of seating and I imagine it gets very busy here.
- Simply put, it is a stone’s throw to the Boals Mansion and the food is good!
- Make sure while you are here, you walk around a bit to see all the rooms. Each room has its own personality and decor.
Where to stay when traveling from To The Penn State Area?
I’ll suggest Hyatt Place as it is convenient to everything and situated close to the Penn State Campus.
We walked to all the shops by night and the campus because we could.
Further, we had covered, garage parking that just took a swipe of our hotel key card to get in and out of.
I totally loved this feature.
Did I mention that right next door is a Target and a Starbucks?
When we pulled in to check in, there are 2 spots to leave your car.
We parked and then walked up to the top of the steps at the main level to the guest relations desk.
Here we picked up our key and checked into our room.
The room has a refrigerator, couch, 2 beds, and a bathroom, but no safe.
Inside the room, we found a coffee maker as well and if you belong to Hilton Worldwide your breakfast is included (we did, and Yeah!).
Breakfast offerings were plentiful and this allows us to break into our mornings slowly!
My personal thanks to Hyatt Place State College for hosting us! We truly appreciated the great amenities of the hotel!