State College is best known as the home of Penn State University, a renowned college famous for its Nittany Lions football team. But anyone who heads to central Pennsylvania will discover that there is much more to this college town than just its campus.
Whether they’re interested in sports, culture or history, visitors are sure to find plenty to do in State College. Its charming downtown offers shopping, a thriving restaurant scene and nightlife. Its location makes it ideal for companies that are organizing an event involving individuals from different parts of the state.
Of course, the Penn State campus is a major destination, and if you’re headed there for business or a big game, you won’t want to miss out on everything else this special place has to offer.
Where to Eat
The Allen Street Grill is located on the second floor of the historic Hotel State College and Company building. An upscale restaurant, the Grill serves lunch and dinner seven days a week, and offers a late-night menu Fridays and Saturdays.
“Our chef and owners have put together a menu with a great blend of American and Continental cuisine,” says Becky Burger, general manager. “The menu is complemented by an award-winning wine list, with over 30 wines offered by the glass and an over 200-bottle selection, along with a full bar stocked with a great variety of liquors, including high-end scotches and bourbons, interesting signature cocktails, domestic, imported and craft beers, both draft and bottles.”
The restaurant has two banquet rooms which can accommodate up to 56 or 32 guests for private functions.
Spats Café and Speakeasy is a Cajun Creole restaurant inspired by Cajun and Creole techniques from Louisiana, using a fusion of Spanish, French, South America, Portuguese, German and Cuban cuisines.
“Spats Café and Speakeasy opened in 1987, boasting a Roaring Twenties theme and New Orleans-style food,” says Monica Gastiger, who owns Spats with her husband, Duke, the restaurant’s chef. “We still offer the best of New Orleans along with traditional dishes in an atmosphere of casual elegance. We have a consistent following of locals and PSU alums who return for various events. Spats prides itself on outstanding foods and flavors with an emphasis on local and responsible sourcing.”
Otto’s Pub and Brewery and Barrel 21 are sister restaurants, which are across a parking lot from one other.
Otto’s serves burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, pastas and salads, along with a selection of seasonal craft beers. “Otto’s has created a reputation as a destination for consistently great food, great beer and great people,” says Karen Addenbrook Myford, marketing consultant. “The restaurant is a celebration of all of that, as well as a showcase of the historic brewing community throughout Pennsylvania.”
Barrel 21 opened in 2015 and is home to a distillery with seven original craft spirits that are served in the restaurant’s tasting room, distillery restaurant and at other distillery tasting rooms. “Our distillery features a 350-liter still with a seven-plate rectifying column,” Myford says. “It was built by Carl Artisan Stills located just outside of Stuttgart, Germany. We work closely with local farmers to source as many raw materials as possible. Tours and tastings are available.”
Barrel 21’s distillery can accommodate up to 25 people for a private dining or meeting room. Private tours and samples can be arranged as a fun break during a meeting.
Where to Stay
Carnegie Inn & Spa is an intimate hotel designed in the tradition of European country manors.
“Carnegie Inn & Spa is elegance personified, with a brand of hospitality and warmth long since vanished from the impersonal, chain-style hotels,” says Chelsea Newsock, digital marketing manager. “But the most delightful surprise comes when you find out that we only look expensive.”
Carnegie is home to a fine dining restaurant and a full-service spa. And even if you aren’t staying at the inn, you can still enjoy a visit to the spa for hair treatments, waxing, exfoliation, body wraps, a steam room, manicure/ pedicure and more.
The Carnegie also offers a meeting space for up to 18 people and an event space that can accommodate up to 150 people cocktail-style or 50 people for a seated event.
Located one block from Penn State University, the Atherton Hotel is a boutique hotel with 149 guest rooms, offering a restaurant and bar, as well as banquet and catering services.
“The Atherton offers a complete array of meeting and banquet services featuring over 5,000 square feet of meeting space, full-time catering staff, a large menu offering for dinners, lunches, brunches and breakfasts and breakouts, special pricing for groups of 10 or more guest rooms,” says Maggie Biddle, general manager
Hilton Garden Inn completed a renovation in September 2016 and is designed for the business and leisure traveler. It has three meeting rooms, a 24-hour business center, indoor pool and hot tub, fitness center, Wi-Fi, complimentary parking and complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. All guest rooms have a refrigerator, microwave and Keurig coffeemaker, among other amenities. “We offer wonderful service with a knowledgeable and friendly staff to assist with meeting your needs,” says Marie McClellan, director of sales.
What to Do
Of course, no stay in State College would be complete without a visit to the Penn State University campus. Must-see attractions on the campus include the Arboretum at Penn State, featuring garden displays, greenhouses, a giant sundial and a children’s garden. Admission is free.
Another favorite is the Penn State Berkey Creamery, offering hand-dipped cones and bowls of its famous ice cream. It also offers cheeses, doughnuts, muffins, cookies, mushrooms, eggs, meat, sandwiches and salads that are made or grown by departments throughout the University.
The Bryce Jordan Center seats 15,000 and is home to Penn State’s Nittany Lions men’s and women’s basketball teams. It also hosts events such as concerts (Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Cher, Whitney Houston, Metallica, Janet Jackson and Billy Joel are among the legends who have played there) as well as Cirque du Soleil and wrestling.
The Pegula Ice Arena hosts the school’s hockey programs and also offers public skating programs and activities. Last year, the arena held its first NHL preseason game.
The Palmer Museum of Art offers works by world-renowned artists in 11 galleries. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also hosts rotating exhibits and special events and programs. (Note that the museum will be closed from May to September for maintenance work.)
The Centre County-Penn State Visitor’s Center on campus provides information on what’s going on in the area, and is a good place to start your visit to State College
The Centre Furnace Mansion is a restored and furnished house museum that served as the home of ironmaster Moses Thompson from 1842-1891. In 1855, 200 acres of land owned by the Centre Furnace company were donated by co-owner General James Irvin to be the home of Farmers’ High School, which later became The Pennsylvania State University, making the mansion the birthplace of Penn State.
The site includes the Centre Furnace Mansion, furnace stack and 9 acres representing a portion of the ironmaking village once located on the grounds. The exhibit, “Unraveling the Threads of History,” will be on view beginning in mid-March through November. Meeting and event space for private events is available. The Hearth Room can hold 40 standing and 30 sitting and outside space can accommodate up to 120 guests.
Docent tours are available Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 1-4 p.m. Admission is free, though donations are encouraged.
“Guests visiting the Centre Furnace Mansion during tour hours can expect a guided tour by one of the Mansion’s volunteer docents and look forward to seeing beautiful period rooms and furnishings from the early Victorian era,” says Mary Sorensen, the museum’s executive director. “Afterwards, visitors may stroll nine acres of gardens and grounds including a trail that goes to the historic Iron Furnace Stack marked with informative signage.”
Sports fans can enjoy a fun, family-friendly and affordable visit to the baseball park by taking in a State College Spikes game. The minor league club is a farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals and has won two New YorkPenn League championships over the past three seasons.
“We strive to create a fun atmosphere from the moment fans walk through the gates at Medlar Field [at Lubrano Park],” says Joe Putnam, manager of communications. “Many nights, fans who arrive early for the games will receive great giveaways.” These can include bobbleheads of Penn State football legends. Other giveaways have included footballs, blankets and other keepsakes.
Other ballpark entertainment includes theme nights, fireworks, a human cannonball, and nights where kids can run the bases.
The team’s home stadium, Medlar Field, also offers spaces for business meetings and other events. These spaces include a picnic area, luxury suites, batting cages and even the field itself.