Nestled in the hills and valleys of the Allegheney Mountains, just 3 1/2 hours from the hustle and bustle of power brokers, power breakfasts, and newly powerful administrations, lies the scenic centre of Pennsylvania, perfect for a weekend getaway.
State College, home of Penn State University, along with Nittany Lions with their legendary coach Joe Paterno, isn’t always so quiet, though. On a football Saturday, over 200,000 fans from around the region stream into town, filling hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, and RV Parking Lots with boisterous fans. Its possible this could be JoePa’s last season at Penn State, so now is the time to visit Happy Valley.
Friday night before a game, you can stop at The Tavern Restaurant or The Corner Room for a bite to eat. Both establishments have been for years and cater to the University community. After dinner, you’ve got your choice of bar after bar downtown, all packed with students, alumni, and fans.
You can’t go wrong by visiting The Phyrst, with it’s Phyrst Phamily Band and a grand tradition of table wars. Or, you could try Zeno’s, with a slightly more hip crowd. Or, just wander up and down College Avenue until you find a spot that looks promising. With over 30 to choose from on the two main streets in downtown State College, it won’t be hard to find something that appeals to you. And after the bars close, head to Ye Olde College Diner, open 24 hours a day, for a post-drinking feast including world-famous Grilled Stickies.
Saturday is game day, and the tailgating starts early. By 8 AM, cars will start streaming in, charcoal and gas flames will be lit, and beers will be open. Fans are friendly and hospitable, so wander through and strike up conversations. Even if you haven’t brought your own tailgate supplies, you’ll find folks who will offer food and drink before and after the game. You don’t need a ticket to the game to make it a fun day, but it helps. You can find people selling tickets all around Beaver Stadium, so bring cash and good haggling skills.
There’s more to Happy Valley than just Penn State football, so don’t head back to DC right after the game. Grab a room in one of Bellefonte’s historic Bed & Breakfast’s (town motto: Pennsylvania’s Victorian Secret), and spend Sunday exploring Central PA. You could stop by Penn’s Cave for a boat ride through the only all-water cavern in the country. Or, you could visit Hyner View State Park for amazing scenery and the chance to watch hang gliders leap off the side of the mountain and sail over the Susquehanna River.