Happy Valley, as its name suggests, is a place that will make you happy with its picturesque scenery and one-of-a-kind attractions. It’s an ideal place for road trippers, history buffs, and those looking for a relaxing weekend getaway. And there are so many things to do and see; it’s tough narrowing the list to just six things in Happy Valley you won’t want to miss. But, let this post be an appetizer for exploring this fantastic Central Pennsylvania region.
Table of Contents
1. The Creameries
Happy Valley is famous for its creameries, and no trip would be complete without visiting these “cow to cone” establishments.
Meyer Dairy Farms, in Centre County, boasts 400 Holsteins at the “moo-st memoo-rable” circa 1887 family dairy farm. The beautiful property has a creamery store where locals stop for glass bottled milk and dairy products (a new concept for me), and everyone stops for a delicious scoop of ice cream or sweet treats. The ice cream cakes are super popular, too.
Some of the flavors at Meyer Dairy Farm caught me off guard, including teaberry, a taste I had only experienced in chewing gum. You either love or hate it; it was just okay for me, but my handspun milkshake was near perfection. Other popular ice creams include Grapenut, Lemon Custard, Rum Raisin, and Coconut Chip.
Berkey Creamery (University Park Campus) is another must-visit destination in Happy Valley. Here, you’ll find around 20 rotating flavors of ice cream, sherbet, and frozen yogurt.
A few popular flavors include Happy Happy Joy Joy, Death by Chocolate, Bittersweet Mint, and my fave, Alumni Swirl (vanilla ice cream with Swiss mocha chips and a blueberry swirl).
This Penn State landmark has been producing premium dairy products, some of the best in the country, for 155 years. It is also a world leader in dairy production and food science.
Fun Fact: Berkey Creamery also sells cheeses, meats, coffee, and specialty foods.
2. Arboretum at Penn State
If you are a nature lover or want to wander around outdoors and take hundreds of spectacular photos, you must visit the Arboretum at Penn State. It’s a beautiful place to soak up total serenity, surrounded by 350+ acres of manicured gardens, natural areas, and woodlands that are being restored and used for research.
The H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens, the initial phase from the early 1900s and the jewel of the property, covers 10 acres of themed gardens and extra for rolling hills and gorgeous space. There are plans to develop another 20 acres.
The arboretum is home to several themed gardens, including:
- Rose and Fragrance Garden (cottage-style, walled garden with many colorful and fragrant roses, peonies, herbs, irises, and wisteria drapery)
- Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden (simulated cave, wading stream, stunning glass structure for educational programs)
- Pollinator and Bird Gardens (plants, flowers, and water features for attracting pollinators and migratory birds, ag beds, orchard, research site)
- North Terrace (large patio with mostly tropical plants)
- Oasis Garden (aquatic plants and a quiet zone terrace)
- Overlook Pavilion (event venue, across from fountain and campus)
- Strolling Garden (encircles the event lawn, flowering shrubs, and perennial herbaceous plants)
Be sure to see the Joan Milius Smith Soaring Waters Fountain, which has a gorgeous city skyline behind it. Check the website for special events, including Music in the Gardens, Stories Under the Sky, and story time in the Children’s Garden.
3. Pine Grove Hall
Pine Grove Hall is a historic site in the Happy Valley that dates back to the 1800s. It’s a lovely spot to visit for music lovers and those who want everything sourced as close to home as possible.
Pine Grove hosts concerts, trivia, and other events and is a gem only a few minutes from the thriving downtown State College. Still, I felt like I had just driven into the Catskills of New York.
The creative cocktails and small plates are outrageously tasty and Instagram-worthy. During my visit, we saw Eliot Lewis from Live from Daryl’s House and a longtime member of Hall and Oates. The intimate space was perfect for a night of fun entertainment and great food and drink. Tickets were $18, which I thought to be a steal!
Not sure what to order? I’d have no problem with you replicating my order. Barcelona Marge to drink (Tequila Blanco, Licor 43 Spanish vanilla liqueur, OJ, Regan’s orange bitters), and small plates of Quail Egg Toast (my first time trying quail eggs, and it was spectacular!), house-made Mozzarella, and Spring Cabbage (one of the best things I’ve tasted all year!) to share are perfect.
Come for dinner and enjoy the upstairs or downstairs seating areas, two different but awesome vibes. Pine Grove Hall is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings and Sunday for brunch, with a menu that makes me want to return.
I was hosted by Happy Valley PA on a FAM trip which resulted in many of the activities listed in this post. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
4. Boalsburg Mansion and Columbus Chapel
Prepare to be blown away by this one…not literally though. The Boalsburg Mansion and Columbus Chapel are fantastic destinations for history buffs. First, the town is the birthplace of Memorial Day, memorialized by a shrine and sculpture at the town’s cemetery.
Eight generations have called the Boalsburg Mansion home. The 200+ structure has guided tours to share its original artifacts (tools, weapons, furniture, clothing, and more), portraits, and other memorabilia.
Then there is the most outstanding European church, The Columbus Chapel, inside a typical-looking outbuilding. When the door was opened to yet another, a huge hand-carved wooden door, I knew I was in for a treat. A PBS documentary has called the Columbus Chapel “the closest link to Christopher Columbus in the nation.”
A portion of the Columbus Castle in Asturias, Spain, was inherited by fourth generation Boal’s wife and was brought to America in 1909. It contains 15th-century religious statues, 15th-18th-century Renaissance paintings, and two pieces of the True Cross of Jesus, which made my mouth fall open.
Tours run Wednesday through Sunday at 2 PM. Reservations are not necessary. Events at the property include outdoor nature history hikes, yoga in the barn, and many musical acts and production shows at the Boal Amphitheater or in the Boal Barn Playhouse.
Don’t miss the Armory, with an extensive sword collection and rifles and pistols from the Middle Ages through WWI.
5. Agritourism (AG) Tours
Hop on one of the most trendy things to do around America as you explore Happy Valley’s agriculture history and agritourism gems. What better way to learn about it than taking an Ag heritage driving tour?
Happy Valley Agventures offers fun ways to learn about the county’s agricultural roots – like the Ag Heritage Driving Tour, with plenty of memorable stops along the way, not to mention jaw-dropping scenery and farms.
The tours allow visitors to visit working farms, orchards, vineyards, and markets and learn about the different farming practices in Happy Valley. A few points of interest include Millheim, Hublersburg, Neff Round Barn, and Centre Furnace Mansion.
6. RE Farm Cafe
When I arrived for brunch at RE Farm Cafe (at Windswept Farm), I was genuinely amazed by the coolness of this local farm and its many offerings. The main building is a showstopper, with views of the encircling farmland and a state-of-the-art central kitchen. Chefs create magic in this space, and I was fortunate to be a part of it.
My meal started with a salad with hand-picked greens from the garden and a fabulous stuffed lamb tenderloin served with morels and greens. A decadent plum brandy reduction was the perfect accompaniment.
For dessert, playing on the Happy Valley creamery tradition, the chef created a mystery ice cream that was one of the most original things I’d ever tried — black garlic ice cream. Yep. RE Farm grows a vast amount of mushrooms, herbs, and vegetables, featuring them in many dishes prepared there.
I couldn’t believe something as intense as garlic could be a key ingredient in ice cream, but it was sensational!
And of course, you must see the RE Farm chickens and other animals that live here during your visit.
Reservations are required for the Friday and Saturday night three to five-course meal options, but you can drop in on Thursdays for tapas and live music from 5 to 8 PM. A few things you can do at the RE Farm property besides having a meal are to take cooking classes or participate in an event or wedding.
Hop on Over to Happy Valley
Pack your bags and head to Happy Valley, PA, to enjoy all the beauty and adventure it offers!
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