April 28, 2022
Happy Valley, Penn State’s home nestled in the center of Pennsylvania, is a great place to visit all year round. It’s a best-of-both worlds escape with all of the culture of a small city and the bucolic charm of the Appalachian Mountains’ ridge-and-valley province. And there’s something extra special about what it offers for midweek getaways.
Most visitors enjoy Happy Valley during football weekends, and for good reason. The area is alive with great food, live music, entertainment and one of the largest college football stadiums on the planet. Experiencing one of those famous Saturdays should be on your bucket list, if it isn’t already. But do yourself a favor and book a midweek visit to the happiest place in Pennsylvania. Here’s five reasons why.
Visiting Happy Valley in the middle of the week feels like a backstage pass to something magical. There are fewer people in the area’s shops and restaurants; fewer vehicles on its roads and bike paths — which means you can fit more fun and relaxation into your trip. The area is inclusive and welcoming to all, scenic every time of year (look for iconic Mount Nittany when you come into the area and you’ll see what we mean) and filled with charming small towns, unique museums, fantastic food and fun that you’ll be talking about until your next visit.
In addition to how uncrowded it is in the middle of the week (honestly, the ease of getting around is a favorite amenity!), it’s easy to get seats at one of their amazing farm-to-fork dining establishments like RE Farm Cafe, Elk Creek Cafe or Pine Grove Hall, or enjoy a laid-back trivia night in a repurposed match factory while enjoying a cocktail made from house-made vodka at Big Spring Spirits.
Happy Valley is truly inclusive and welcoming to all, and that’s evident from the food to the fun to the lodging. The options are nearly endless — and it’s easy to book a midweek stay. Our tip? Pick something that fits the adventure you’ve chosen for your getaway. Roughing it? There are campgrounds that are both privately owned as well as many spots in the state parks that cover more than 750,000 acres of public land surrounding Happy Valley. There’s even one that has both cabins to sleep in and a cave to explore!
If you want your adventure to be a little less rustic, you can stay at one of Happy Valley’s hotels, motels, and inns. The options range from budget to high-end, and include a golf resort and a nature inn, in case you want to hit the links or go birding.
Happy Valley is home to a thriving craft beverage maker community, and a midweek visit is the perfect way to explore it. With the Central PA Tasting Trail, you can visit a secluded winery nestled against a mountain, tour a cidery (check out their live music events!) or enjoy the freshest beer ever 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.
Part of Happy Valley’s best-of-both worlds charm is found in its outdoor scene. Happy Valley has some interesting geology and you can get an inside view of it at Woodward Cave, Lincoln Caverns and Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park. Outside, you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the region’s best-known ridge thanks to the Mount Nittany Conservancy. Its volunteers maintain nine miles of trails that offer the most popular hikes in Happy Valley and seven scenic overlooks that provide views of Nittany Valley, Penns Valley and other ridges in the area.
It is also a location with a rich agricultural heritage that is reflected in the local ag-centered experiences like farmers markets, driving tours and Amish-made foods and hand-crafted finds.
After enjoying Happy Valley’s outdoor fun, head back into one of the area’s thriving downtowns for shopping opportunities that allow you to remember your adventure by taking home everything from antiques, gifts and furnishings to Penn State apparel and souvenirs.