"Happy Valley ~ State College, Pennsylvania" Top 5 Page for this destination State College by starship

State College Travel Guide: 64 reviews and 202 photos

The Road to Happy Valley

Visiting our daughter who attends Penn State University is the main reason we so frequently visit State College, Pennsylvania. But even if this wasn't the case, there are more than enough reasons to visit this beautiful area in the geographic center of the state.

Once we escape the ill-conceived roads of Philadelphia and survive the even worse Schulkyll Parkway, a new world opens. The drive to State College, Pennsylvania, seduces you with its lush green countryside and river scenery.

Rather than the 4-hour drive from our home being an exercise in boredom, we enjoy the drive. I look forward to seeing the many very old barns and houses built from field stone that Pennsylvania is famous for. Amish farms are nearly always worth a good look too. About halfway through our drive, the road parallels the rocky, fast-moving Susquehanna River and later joins the peaceful Juniata River for some distance.

Lately I've noticed during our drives to and from the very center of the state, the enormous amount of acreage devoted to corn fields roughly lying between Valley Forge and State College. The perfect rows of beautiful, tall green stalks with fat ears of corn topped by golden tassels go on for what seems like miles. If you didn't know better you might think you were driving through Iowa instead of Pennsylvania. Several evergreen tree farms dot the hills here and there and many dairies are part and parcel of this area too. The two, sweet babies in my main photo live at a farm situated in the beautiful Nittany Valley, also known as Happy Valley. They look happy I think.

Following this, we gradually ascend into the mountains where State College sits in Nittany Valley and is overlooked by Nittany Mountain, part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. State College is surrounded by some of the most beautiful rolling farm land you have ever seen. As I love the pastoral countryside, farms, agricultural land both in the US and abroad, being able to see this while driving through Pennsylvania is something I never tire of.

Medium-Size Town Welcomes Big Crowds

Being the home of Penn State University, the university student population increases the number of State College inhabitants by the thousands (40,000???) during the academic year. And, during football season when there is a home game, the population further increases for the day by the tens of thousands. Penn State's football stadium, "Beaver Stadium," currently has a full capacity of 107,282 seats and is second in size only to the University of Michigan's stadium in Ann Arbor.

Academics are on the front burner of Penn State's identity but it's also known for a wide array of popular sports: the football team is well known throughout the country but is not the only nationally recognized sport taking honors on Penn State's Campus --- Penn States' Women's Volleyball team posted 4 consecutive NCAA championships (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) and the Mens' Wrestling team has won 3 consecutive national championships (2011, 2012, 2013). The fencing team is also nationally recognized.

State College and Penn State University have been hosting the East Coast Volleyball Championships for about 17 years now. The town and many of its merchants rolled out the hospitality red carpet and put up welcoming signs which I found pretty special. You can bet that during the 3-4 day period that the volleyball teams stay here, they give a healthy boost to the State College economy in what would be the off-season.

[NOTE:Former football coach Joe Paterno ("Joe Pa"), former football coach of the Nittany Lions, and his teams had an amazing following of fans and supporters He was still coaching the Nittany Lions until his mid-80's! In Fall, 2010, Coach Paterno celebrated his 400th game victory and 61 seasons of coaching but sadly died in 2012 after his contract was terminated by the university as a result of the Sandusky affair. The reason and method of termination was characterized as despicable and disgraceful by many after Coach Paterno had given virtually his whole life to the university and students.

As of the fall of 2012, players, fans and supporters have rallied around the new coach of the Nittany Lions, Bill O'Brien, former collegiate coach, and Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks' coach for the New England Patriots.]

Life Outside of PSU

State College is an extremely pleasant town with a very lively and charming downtown, contrasted by many quiet neighborhoods. Under the shadow of Nittany Mountain, State College is interspersed with golf courses, the university, many hotels, shops, restaurants, and interesting niches to serve its population. The local farmers market is hosted in downtown State College on several days per week summer and winter. The University is crucial in providing multiple opportunities for a wide variety of sporting events, cultural performances, hosts a world-class library (IMHO), a planetarium and arbortum, and museums.

The State College branch of AAUW (formerly & widely still known as the American Association of University Women) annually conducts once of the biggest book sales in Pennsylvania and for that matter in this region. The sale of thousands of "clean" books draws tens of thousands of book lovers. Collection and organization of books is a year-long process. Although I have yet to be in State College when one of these sales is being held, I count myself firmly among this book-loving group, and was a member of a NJ AAUW branch for 18 years.

The next book sale will be held on the Penn State Campus, May 10 -13, 2014. For more info., see:


Some of the nearby towns have attractions also worth the short drive to see them:

Boalsburg, PA ~ Birthplace of "Memorial Day" and home to the Pennsylvania Military Museum, Duffy's Tavern, the Boal Mansion, parades, festivals, etc.

Altoona, PA ~ Home of the Railroaders Memorial Museum. Rides on the rail are a nice change of pace and another good way to see some of the countryside.

Oak Hall, PA ~ Home of Historic Penn's Caves and Wildlife Park - Tours of the natural geologic caverns and underground streams along with a motorized tour of 1,500 acres of preserved natural forest habitat for birds, elk, deer, wolves, bear, bison, and mustangs are appealing.

Tussey Mountain ~ for skiing enthusiasts.
Many state parks offer hiking trails, etc.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Peaceful town, natural beauty, and plenty of sports activities!!
  • Cons:Football weekends bring enormous crowds!
  • In a nutshell:More than just a football town!
  • Last visit to State College: Sep 2013
  • Intro Updated Nov 26, 2013
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Reviews (27)

Comments (23)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Nov 26, 2013 at 6:36 AM

    This is really interesting! Especially how history of Thompson family, the iron works and the university belong together. And all the delicious sounding restaurants ..... lucky you and lucky your daughter :-))

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Nov 26, 2013 at 10:40 AM

      Hello Ingrid! Thank you so much for kindly reading and rating my State College pages. I hope I have done this little town justice with my descriptions of it. I think it is a great place!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 15, 2013 at 4:09 AM

    I enjoyed reading your informative and well-written tips. I have relatives in Pennsylvania, but none of them have ever gone to Penn State, so I didn’t know anything about State College before reading your tips.

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Sep 16, 2013 at 8:44 AM

      Don, thanks for visiting my State College page. I just spend several days there. After your comment I realized that my State College intro. page was a real mess. I have tried to "fix" it and hopefully it is better written and more cohesive. Thanks again, Sylvia

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Jul 2, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Interesting too read about a town called "State College", which seems to be quite an unusual name for a town. I like the colourful facade of the Pennsylvania Military Museum.

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Jul 2, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      Holger, thanks so much for visiting my State College page. State College started as a village which existed almost entirely as a result of the college (The Pennsylvania State University) being located there in 1855. The town was incorporated in 1896. The college/university was located there because it is the geographical center of the state of Pennsylvania.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jan 15, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    So many wonderful things to see and do here. I appreciate all your hard work here. Great page!

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Jan 16, 2013 at 8:24 AM

      Dee thank you so much for your kinds words and visiting this page. State College has really become special to us!

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo
    Oct 13, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    Great, in depth page on State College. I grew up just an hour away, but I didn't know there was so much to see and do! (I always thought it was just football)

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Oct 15, 2012 at 5:20 AM

      Thank you so much for your visit to my State College page! So I hope you are able to come back "home" and visit one day!

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Mar 18, 2012 at 5:21 AM

    I had never heard of State College and it seems odd to find a town called "College" that has a university in it ;-)
    The Furnace Mansion sounds very interesting, and it's great to know that your daughter is studying at the place she really wanted to!
    Great restaurant tips and very thorough hotel ones too - great page!

  • DAO's Profile Photo
    Feb 15, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    2 More Have Nots on their way!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Sep 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    With the fame of Joe Paturno here, it will always be a nice spot of memories. This looks like a very nice place to visit, and you described it very well

  • hopang's Profile Photo
    Aug 12, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    Superb State College travel page with great restaurants, hotels and accommodations tips. Centre Furnace Mansion certainly sounds wonderful to visit and explore. Thanks for your virtual tour with excellent photographs. ~ho & pang

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Mar 11, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    Sylvia, lovely page with interesting commentaries. Although I would call myself a sports fan, I must admit that I have never heard of Joe Paterno.

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