State College, Pennsylvania is a vibrant and lively town nestled in the hills of central Pennsylvania. Known as the home to Penn State University, this college town offers activities and attractions for visitors year-round. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, a nature lover, or a history buff, there are plenty of things to do in State College, PA.
For sports fans, a visit to Beaver Stadium is a must. Home to Penn State Nittany Lions football, this iconic stadium can hold over 100,000 spectators and offers an unforgettable game day experience.
If you’re not a sports fan, State College is surrounded by beautiful hiking trails and parks, such as Rothrock State Forest and Mount Nittany, providing ample opportunities for outdoor adventures and breathtaking views.
For those who are interested in history and culture, the Palmer Museum of Art is a must-visit attraction. With its impressive collection of American and European art, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into various artistic movements and styles.
Best Things to do in State College, PA
State College also boasts a vibrant downtown area, filled with charming shops, restaurants, and cafes, where you can indulge in delicious dishes and explore unique boutiques.
These are our favorite things to do in State College, PA, so take advantage of some of these great spots during your next visit.
1. Tour Penn’s Cave by Boat
If you’re looking for a truly unique tour experience in central Pennsylvania, check out Penn’s Cave in nearby Centre Hall.
What sets Penn’s Cave apart is that it offers the only boat tour through an all-water-filled cavern in the entire United States. As you step aboard the flat-bottom boat, you’ll be transported into an underground world, surrounded by giant rock formations
Listen for the gentle sounds of dripping water echoing through the cavern.
The adventure doesn’t stop there. As part of the tour, you’ll venture outside the cave and onto Lake Nittanee when the water levels permit.
After exploring the beauty of Lake Nittanee, the boat tour takes you back inside the cave. Your tour guide will show you points of interest along the way. We won’t give away all of the surprises and ruin all of the fun!
If you’re planning to take this boat tour, have a jacket or sweatshirt, no matter what time of year. The caves are always 52 degrees!
This is a great activity no matter what the weather is like outside, even on rainy days.
An important note: This tour is not accessible. To board the boat, you’ll have to descend nearly 50 steep concrete stairs. While there are railings on each side, there is no other way to board the boat. You will also have to climb back up these same stairs after the tour is finished.
2. Explore the Beautiful Arboretum
Nestled within the picturesque campus of Penn State University, the Arboretum at Penn State is a hidden gem that showcases botanical beauty. Spread across several acres, this enchanting garden offers visitors a delightful escape into a world filled with vibrant colors, aromatic scents, and captivating sights.
Depending on the time of year, you can find various trees, shrubs, and flowering plants in full bloom.
Wander through the rose gardens or along the ponds and pollinator plots filled with flowering plants and fruit trees.
The Overlook Pavilion is another must-see spot in the Arboretum. From this vantage point, you can admire views of the surrounding landscape, taking in the beauty of the gardens below. This spot is so beautiful that it’s commonly used for weddings.
The Arboretum is open daily from dawn to dusk, and you are free to wander through the grounds for as much or as little time as you’d like.
It’s particularly beautiful when the flowering plants are in full bloom, and it’s a great free activity to enjoy while visiting State College.
3. Sample Delicious Craft Beer
We’re always on the lookout for a new spot to sample a few craft beers when we’re out and about, and you’ll find some fun spots in and around State College. Each offers its own unique brews and flavors.
Antifragile Brewing Company is a newer one in town, established in 2022. It’s made a big impression so far, though! We loved their Fluffy Little Puppy IPAs. The kombucha also gets great reviews!
Happy Valley Brewing Company is also a gem in the craft beer scene of State College. With a focus on using local ingredients, they produce a range of high-quality beers that perfectly capture the flavors of the region. Housed in an old barn on the edge of town, the spot is cozy and easily accessible from Route 322.
The popular Voodoo Brewing location in State College is also just up the street from Happy Valley Brewing Company.
For a little change of pace, you can head north about 10 miles to historic Bellefonte. You’ll find Axemann Brewing housed in a giant old industrial building. You can always find a solid brew and a game on one of many TVs. We especially like their fall beers!
Just across town in Bellefonte, you’ll find Robin Hood Brewing Company. While the outside of the building doesn’t look like your typical eclectic craft brewery, their beers are always good. The best orange creamsicle beer I’ve had to date came from Robinhood. They serve a variety and have plenty of food options, so come both hungry and thirsty.
4. Hike Mount Nittany
Mount Nittany is a popular hiking destination near State College, Pennsylvania for both locals and visitors. The hike offers a rewarding outdoor experience with stunning views of the town, university campus, and surrounding area.
The trailhead is easily accessible, making it a favorite for both locals and visitors.
The hike up Mount Nittany is known for its varying levels of difficulty, with several trail options to choose from. Along the way, hikers encounter a diverse range of terrain, including wooded paths, rocky outcrops, and steep ascents.
If you begin hiking the loop to the left heading clockwise, you’ll begin with the rockier ascent. You’ll also save those iconic views of the town and Beaver Stadium for the last overlook.
However, if you’re short on time and just want that one iconic view, take the trail to the right heading counterclockwise. You’ll navigate some switchback-type dirt trail to reach the best views. Once you reach the top, the hike around is fairly flat.
The hike is especially stunning during the fall when the foliage paints the landscape with vibrant colors.
It’s important to come prepared with appropriate hiking gear, water, and snacks, as you can spend several hours exploring the overlooks and connector trails, depending on the chosen route and your pace.
5. Enjoy a Sweet Treat at Berkey Creamery
If you find yourself in State College, Pennsylvania, be sure to indulge in the delicious treats and dairy products at the renowned Berkey Creamery. Anyone who is familiar with PSU is also familiar with this tasty spot.
Known for its rich and creamy goodness, the Creamery offers a wide array of ice cream flavors that vary by the day, satisfying any sweet tooth.
The fun flavors, including Grilled Stickies, Scholar’s Chip, Lion Tracks, Mint Nittany, and Whiteout, among others, are sure to keep you on your toes and rotate often. Grab a cone or a pint to take home with you.
The Creamery also has a great on-site cheese selection. Using a science-based process, the Creamery crafts delectable cheeses that are both flavorful and unique. Whether you prefer a sharp cheddar or a creamy spread, these cheeses are all made on campus.
If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat or some delectable cheese, make sure to stop by the Berkey Creamery in State College. You won’t be disappointed.
6. Explore Central PA Waterfalls
If you crave the beauty of the great outdoors, then the nooks and crannies surrounding State College have something special in store for you – we’re talking about some great waterfalls!
All within an hour of State College, you can explore and enjoy these 3 lesser-known waterfalls:
- Rosecrans Falls
- Yost Run Falls
- Kyler Fork Falls
Rosecrans Falls is just a short distance from Interstate 80 at the Loganton exit (exit 185). Structures being built have recently changed the area and it’s certainly not as remote as it used to be. However, the waterfall is still beautiful for now, and you’ll get a 2-for-1 view.
Yost Run Falls and Kyler Fork Falls are hidden gems along the Chuck Keiper Trail in the Sproul State Forest. They’re not far from each other along the trail, but they’re much more remote feeling than Rosecrans Falls these days.
A little further south, you’ll find Trough Creek State Park, home to Rainbow Falls. In addition to the waterfall, there is a swinging bridge, balanced rock, and a beautiful creek to explore. It’s one of our favorite lesser-known state parks in Pennsylvania.
7. Visit Black Moshannon and Explore PA’s Largest Bog
Just a hop, skip, and a jump from State College lies Pennsylvania’s largest bog in Black Moshannon State Park.
Take a stroll on the hiking trails that lead you around the bog, through the central PA woods, and along the lake’s pristine shores. The surrounding landscape is nothing short of awe-inspiring, with its characteristically dark-colored water, a result of those tannins lurking in the plants.
When you visit the largest bog in the Keystone State, be ready to encounter a variety of Pennsylvania’s unique plants and critters. Keep your eyes peeled for nesting bald eagles, busy beavers, and a symphony of waterfowl making the bog and its surroundings their home.
Whether you want to explore the short hiking trails within Black Moshannon, take a long-distance trek around on the Allegheny Front Trail, or enjoy a leisurely float on the lake, exploring Black Moshannon State Park is a great way to spend a day outdoors near State College.
8. Embrace Sports at the Penn State All-Sports Museum
Take a spin through the Penn State All-Sports Museum, located in the southwest corner of Beaver Stadium, while you visit State College. This place houses plenty of history and feats of Penn State athletes and Intercollegiate Athletics.
The collection showcases archival images, exhibits, and memorabilia from the 34 varsity sports, including 3 that have been discontinued. Everything from football, wrestling, and basketball to volleyball, softball, and fencing is covered here.
As you dive into the exhibits, you’ll find yourself immersed in the victories, the rivalries, and the legendary moments that have etched themselves into the university sports history.
From championship trophies to game-worn jerseys, from vintage photographs to personal artifacts, the museum unravels the tales and triumphs of past and present Penn State athletes.
9. Appreciate the Palmer Museum of Art
When you’re in State College, you absolutely can’t miss the Palmer Museum if you’re an art lover.
Inside, you’ll find an extensive collection of American and European art – paintings, sculptures, photographs, you name it. There are over 10,000 pieces in the Palmer Museum collection.
You’ll have to wait until spring 2024 to visit, though. The museum is getting a whole new look and expanding.
It will now be housed within the Arboretum. Visit two spots in one whenever you explore next and include both outdoors wandering through all of the plants and trees in the Arboretum followed by the Palmer Museum.
10. See Historic Old Main and Wander Around Campus
If you’ve made your way to town for a campus tour or to visit your student, you’ll likely find yourself near Old Main.
Step into the heart of Penn State University in State College, and you’ll find Historic Old Main – an iconic structure that’s one of the most recognizable spots on all of campus. It originally housed the Farmers High School and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built back in the 1860s, Old Main holds its own special place in Penn State’s story. It has been home to all of the university’s administrative functions, shaping the university’s growth and development.
While newer buildings have taken over some of those roles, Old Main still stands tall, reminding us of where it all began.
Take a wander around Old Main, and you won’t be able to forget its stunning exterior and architectural features like the clock tower and those elegant columns. Inside, you’ll find plenty more history including frescoes commemorating the Land Grant Act.
11. Enjoy a Coffee and a Book at Webster’s Cafe
Nestled in the heart of State College, the Webster Cafe is a cozy gem that’s as inviting as your favorite worn-in sweater.
Sip on a steaming cup of coffee and browse through well-loved used books, feeling like a treasure hunt.
It’s a slice of State College’s soul, a place where you can lose yourself in the pages of a good book while relishing the simple pleasure of a perfectly crafted cup of joe.
It’s the kind of place that beckons you to stay a while, where every corner has stories waiting to be discovered.
12. Ski Tussey Mountain (or Enjoy the Summer Fun Center)
Tussey Mountain, just 10 minutes east of State College, Pennsylvania, is not only a popular ski area in the winter but also a hub for recreational activities year-round.
The Tussey Mountain Fun Centre offers a range of exciting attractions for visitors of all ages. Try your hand at mini-golf, go-karting, batting cages, and even test your golf swing at the driving range.
For those looking for more adrenaline-pumping fun, the skating park is the perfect spot.
During the winter months, Tussey Mountain boasts over a dozen ski trails, catering to skiers of all skill levels. There are gentle slopes where beginners can learn and more challenging black-diamond trails for experienced skiers. If skiing isn’t your thing, you can still experience the thrill of sliding down the slopes by trying out snow tubing.
13. Catch a Football Game on a Fall Saturday
Attending a football game at Beaver Stadium on a fall Saturday is a thrilling experience that is on many sports fans’ bucket lists. As the home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, Beaver Stadium is an iconic venue where legacies are made and the roar of the crowd can be heard throughout Happy Valley.
With a seating capacity of over 106,000, Beaver Stadium is the second-largest college football stadium in the country. The atmosphere? Electric. Fans from all walks of life come together to cheer on the Nittany Lions.
From the student section to the alumni and local supporters, the camaraderie and passion for the team are contagious. For a really special treat, tailgate and enjoy the “Whiteout” game. Just don’t forget your white shirt, or you’ll stick out like a sore thumb!!
A fall Saturday at Beaver Stadium is not just about the game; it’s an experience. The sea of blue and white, the iconic Nittany Lion mascot, and the cheers of “We Are, Penn State” create an unforgettable atmosphere.
From the exhilarating energy of Beaver Stadium and the surrounding tailgate lots on a fall Saturday to the serene beauty of Mount Nittany and Black Moshannon State Park, this place has a little something for everyone.
Whether you’re a sports fanatic, a nature lover, an art enthusiast, or just someone looking to soak up the local atmosphere, State College has you covered. Make the most of your time in this vibrant corner of Pennsylvania. You won’t be disappointed with all of the things to do in State College, PA.