Nestled in the center of Pennsylvania sits Happy Valley, home to Penn State, where small city cultures mix with the backdrop of the Appalachian mountains. The area is most active during football weekends where great food, live music, and entertainment take place in one of the largest college football stadiums on the planet. While the weekends are their own special time to experience the collegiate atmosphere, it is during the midweek that residents and tourists alike can find some solace in the hills of the happiest place in our state.
Exploring what Happy Valley has to offer during the middle of the week offers certain advantages over the weekend – there are fewer people in the area’s shops and restaurants, as well as fewer vehicles on its roads and bike paths. The scenic beauty is a year-round wonder, and I do recommend checking out Mount Nittany for that specific brand of beauty akin only to Happy Valley. The area has many farm-to-fork restaurants worth checking out at least once; there’s RE Farm Cafe, Elk Creek Cafe or Pine Grove Hall, or if you’re looking to enjoy a trivia night in a repurposed match factory while enjoying a cocktail made from house-made vodka, try a trip to Big Spring Spirits.
Enjoy laying back under the stars? The area offers multiple campgrounds that are both privately and publicly owned that cover more than 750,000 acres of land surrounding Happy Valley. There’s even one that has both cabins to sleep in and a cave to explore. If you’re looking for a less rustic introduction to the sights, Happy Valley also has plenty of higher-end hotels, motels and Inns. These even include a golf resort, as well as a nature inn for birdwatchers.
Happy Valley is also home to a thriving craft beverage maker community. The Central PA Tasting Trail offers tours of a collection of 11 unique craft breweries, distilleries, wineries, and cideries. Mount Nittany Vineyard and Winery is situated comfortably in the titular mountain only a ten minute drive from the college. 814 Ciderworks offers tours as well as live music events regularly. Axeman Brewery serves some of the freshest beer ever to be poured in a repurposed metal factory. The tasting trail offers a passport and map that promise a wandering day or two or three of windy roads, great stories and amazing, PA-made craft beverages.
Happy Valley is best experienced through an outdoor lens, and the fantastic geological wonders are the reason. Woodward Cave, Lincoln Caverns and Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park all offer extraordinary guided tours of the underground marvels of the Earth. Surface-side, thanks to Mount Nittany Conservancy, nine miles of the most popular trails can be explored, along with seven scenic overlooks that provide views of Nittany Valley, Penns Valley and other ridges in the area.
No matter how you choose to spend your time, your mid-week Happy Valley adventure will be a memorable one, so what are you waiting for?