Why fall is the perfect time to discover this small Pennsylvania town
When it comes to the state of Pennsylvania, thoughts often dwell on United States history and the rival sports teams flanking the eastern (Go Philadelphia Eagles!) and western (Go Pittsburgh Steelers!) edges of the state. But there is a great expanse between those two major cities, and right in the middle lies the charming, lively area of State College.
The area encompassing State College is peppered with quaint towns amongst farmland and sprawling hills. In the fall, the air turns crisp and the landscape is alive with color as autumn begins. Fall in State College, Pennsylvania is a time filled with beauty, and the change of seasons is the perfect time to head that way.
Penn State University Campus
Not to be missed is the campus of Penn State University (PSU) itself. Many of the buildings were constructed in the early 1900s, and great care has been taken to maintain the stately structures. The grounds are impeccable, which is no wonder as the school was originally founded in 1855 as an agricultural college. Filled with gardens and areas to sit and reflect, the campus is a stunning attraction. Visitors shouldn’t miss a photo opportunity with the large statue at the Nittany Lion Shrine.
The Arboretum at Penn State
Open from dawn until dusk, The Arboretum at Penn State is an outdoor botanical garden with free admission to explore the gardens, lifelike sculptures, and massive stone sundial. A favorite for kids of all ages is the children’s garden, which features kaleidoscopes, interactive exhibits, and the opportunity to stack rocks into a towering cairn.
Bald Eagle State Park
There is no better place to view colorful foliage than to head outside. Located about 30 minutes northeast of State College is Bald Eagle State Park, which is filled with opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and soaking in the views. The park includes part of Sayers Lake, which offers kayaking, fishing, and boat rentals for a water-level view of the changing leaves.
To view the stalactites and stalagmites of Penn’s Cave, visitors board a flat-bottomed motorboat to learn how the structures are formed. Guides point out what certain shapes resemble, such as the Statue of Liberty, which is open to the viewer’s interpretation. The turn-around point for the cavern tour is Lake Nitanee, a small body of water with possible wildlife sightings.
Boal Mansion Museum and Columbus Chapel
The Boal Mansion Museum and Columbus Chapel is interesting for those who like to add a bit of history to their travels. The mansion houses the original belongings of the Boal family, who lived in the home for more than 200 years spanning 8 generations. The exhibits are not housed under glass, which gives this museum a homey feel. The Columbus Chapel, also on the property, was part of Columbus Castle in Spain and was imported and reconstructed in 1909. It contains European art and two small fragments of wood said to have come from the cross of Jesus. A stop by nearby historic Duffy’s Tavern to sample their Bavarian Soft Pretzel Sticks with maple butter dipping sauce is a delight.
Nittany Lions Football
Fall in a college town means football is a huge highlight. Whether cheering on the home team or a favorite rival school, taking in a Nittany Lions football game at Beaver Stadium is what fall in State College is all about for some folks.
Locals get their sweet fix at Berkey Creamery, which involves PSU from start to finish. The milk comes from university cows, and agricultural students make the ice cream. Student-workers serve up seasonal fall flavors, which include Monster Mash (vanilla ice cream with cookie pieces and caramel swirl), White Out (white chocolate chips in popcorn-flavored ice cream), and Pumpkin Pie (pie pieces in pumpkin ice cream). There also are school-centric selections year-round such as Alumni Swirl and Peachy Paterno, named for the university’s longtime football coach.
Big Spring Spirits
If spirits – not the scary kind – are on the menu, head 20 minutes northeast to Big Spring Spirits. Libations are made on-site and the results are blended into tasty cocktails. It’s an ideal place to sample a fall-centric Pumpkin Pie Martini or Cinnamon Whiskey while feasting on locally-sourced fare.
As one would figure by the sound of the name, grilled stickies aren’t necessarily healthy, but they are delicious. A local diner created these grilled, gooey cinnamon rolls, and the community caught on quickly – now they’re billed as being ‘world famous.’ The Corner Room in downtown State College is the official home of this delightful treat, served warm and often topped with ice cream.
State College is a great town for partying, and the night is alive and well at Champs Downtown. The upstairs is a typical sports bar, with TVs, gathering tables, and a large bar; but the real secret is downstairs. Filled with pool tables, arcade-style games, and foosball tables, the underground bar is the place to be.
Where to stay in State College, Pennsylvania
There are several accommodation options close to the PSU campus. Historic Nittany Lion Inn has an on-site restaurant, and is within walking distance of downtown. Graduate State College, is known for its beautiful rooms designed in collegiate style. For an eco-friendly option, the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle is within the state park and offers stunning views of the lovely colors of fall.