THE ULTIMATE FUSION OF TOWN AND GOWN
Peachy Paterno meets Chihuly glass and much more, all within walking distance.
Just across the street from one of the biggest land-grant universities in the country sits the consummate college town, replete with quirky shops, great food and captivating cultural events. It's almost impossible to think of State College without thinking of The Pennsylvania State University, or to imagine the university without the town around it. And why would you? Town and Gown complement one another here in the lush, green Nittany Valley — "Happy Valley" in local parlance — making State College a hub for both learning and tourism in the Centre region and beyond.
Museums and More
The best way to explore both town and campus is by foot, so park your car in one of several municipal lots and garages and head downtown. Right at the intersection of College Avenue and Allen Street, the scrolling ironwork of the main campus gate beckons. Stroll up one of the hilly walkways, lined with graceful American elms, toward Pattee and Paterno Libraries, or watch students play Ultimate Frisbee on the lawn in front of Old Main. New visitors to Penn State's University Park campus can dial into IHear Penn State (ihear.psu.edu), a self-guided cell phone tour that highlights 12 campus buildings and landmarks, or choose a group walking tour hosted by the esteemed Lion Ambassadors. In the fall, join the Ambassadors for a historical nighttime tour by lantern light, complete with warming hot chocolate.
Art-, science- and sport-lovers can each find their fancy on campus. The Palmer Museum of Art houses 6,000 international works of art, including paintings, sculpture, works on paper and ceramics from antiquity to the present. Don't miss Dale Chihuly's oceanic blue glass piece at the foot of the stairs or Alexander Calder's whimsical mobile at the top.
It's a short walk up Curtin Road to the Frost Entomological Museum's 2 million insect and arthropod specimens. Many of the displays, including an active bee hive, are great for kids, who will love the gross-out factor.
No fan of Nittany Lion sports will want to miss the All Sports Museum. Located inside Beaver Stadium, the museum treats visitors to a pictorial history of both men and women's sports throughout PSU history and features authentic team paraphernalia, including a Heisman Trophy won by John Cappelletti in 1973. Interactive displays allow fans to hear whizzing balls, cheering crowds, fight songs and Blue Band half-time shows.
Visiting Penn State without indulging in an ice cream cone from the world-famous Berkey Creamery is an etiquette breach of the highest order. Operating out of the university's Food Science Building, the Creamery produces more than 100 flavors of ice cream, sherbet and frozen yogurt, 20 of which are usually available to customers in individual servings or in half gallons to take home. Besides the classics, the Creamery offers flavors like Peachy Paterno, named for the beloved football coach, and concoctions like a mint-flavored vanilla with chocolate chips and raspberry swirl called Arboretum Breeze, named for one of Penn State's newest attractions. One cone's not enough? Fret not, you can order Creamery ice cream online.
One of the prettiest places on campus, The H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens in The Arboretum at Penn State sprawls across 35 acres and hosts more than 17,000 plants, representing 7,000 species and providing a tranquil place for walking or quiet reflection. The Overlook Pavilion is a great place to take in the lush, green vistas. Gaze into the Lotus Pool, on whose glass-smooth surface float Lemon Chiffon and Foxfire lilies, and will soon be home to a species of Chinese lotus germinated from 2,000-year-old seeds.
Shopping and Dining
Done with campus and ready to get your shop on? Check out the recycled bicycles at Freeze Thaw Cycles or browse the cultish-cool inventory at The Comic Swap. Deck yourself out in an official Penn State sweatshirt from Old State Clothing Co. or get decked out in vintage frocks at The Rag & Bone.
If you've walked off your ice cream and are ready for lunch, people-watchers can't do better than a window table at The Allen Street Grill, overlooking College Avenue and Allen Street. For more choreographed viewing, stop in to Kaarma Indian Cuisine on East Beaver Avenue on the third Friday of the month for delicious food and a scintillating performance by the Pepper Lotus Tribal Belly Dance Troupe.
Prefer your meal with a strong measure of fun and dash of drama? Can you take a joke and roll with the punches? Then Herwig's Austrian Bistro is your kind of place. The Brandstatter family serves up enormous portions of classic Austrian dishes like Wienerschnitzel and Wiener Saft Gulasch — beef stew spiced with garlic, onions and hot paprika — and fruit strudels straight from Tyrol. Seating is casual and often communal, with tables that straddle College Avenue in warmer months. Bring your own beer and your thickest skin, and expect staff members to bully you into finishing that sauerkraut.
Just east of downtown, down a steep gravel driveway and tucked around back, East West Crossings and Warm Stones Café provides more than 50 varieties of tea, served in ceramic pots, as well as a respite from the hubbub of College Avenue. Sip a glass of iced tea on their outdoor patio and listen to Spring Creek rush by. East West also offers tasty bites like fresh quiche, chicken wraps and pita with hummus, and daily specials like spicy Thai vegetable noodles and silky vegetable korma. East West also serves as a gallery space for local artists and vendors and a venue for book and meditation groups.
Satisfy your sweet tooth at one of State College's new cupcake bakeries. *ndulge Cupcake Boutique and Sugar on Top specialize in providing happiness in confection form. With flavors ranging from the esoteric (rosewater) to the traditional (red velvet) to the outright wacky (pancakes & bacon!), comparison shopping is both affordable and delicious.
Of Special Interest
Theater buffs will love the newly renovated State Theater, an intimate space for music, drama and film. Nature-lovers, likewise, should not miss Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. A 1,200-foot boardwalk meanders through 50 peaceful acres of wetlands, providing walkways for pedestrians and pets, and viewing areas to take in the native plants and animals.
Summer is for baseball, and the State College Spikes (statecollegespikes.com) offer great family fun at Medlar Field nightly. Kids under 14 can run the bases following weekend home games and eat free concessions every Thursday; many home games feature a post-game fireworks show.
You can find a full listing of State College lodging at statecollege.com/hotels, but for the full Penn State treatment, consider staying at the elegantly traditional Nittany Lion Inn on campus, where ripe red apples are always free for the taking in the lobby.
To access a map of a larger area of State College (PDF format) with further attractions, click here .
Published in A Day In
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