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Exploring Downtown State College, PA – Top Things to Do and See for Families and Road Trippers

Exploring Downtown State College, PA – Top Things to Do and See for Families and Road Trippers

Whether you are a family traveling through the area or a road-tripper looking to check out a new town, exploring downtown State College makes a fantastic trip. Located in the heart of Pennsylvania, State College is a college town with a warm and welcoming vibe. Replete with great restaurants, cultural offerings, picturesque scenery, and fascinating attractions, Downtown State College is a must-visit destination for those who want to experience all the area has to offer.


Eat at the Most Famous Restaurants

Calling all foodies! State College is a foodie paradise, with a diverse range of restaurants offering everything from authentic local dishes to beloved classic dishes.

Original Waffle Shop

For breakfast, the Original Waffle Shop is a must-try, a State College tradition, from the Penn State students to alums and faculty, and the best waffles and pancakes in town. Topping for these sweet temptations ranges from cinnamon apple and chocolate chip to Georgia pecans. 


I had a spectacular Wisconsin white American cheese omelet served with two sides of my choice: home fries and thick-sliced toast. Patrons approve of the airy feel of the stylish restaurant; I approve of the Original Waffle Shop’s attentive customer service. 


Federal Tap House

Round out your food adventure at Federal Tap House for lunch, where you can enjoy upscale American food and excellent views from above the downtown Target store and its floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu includes gourmet pizzas, hearty appetizers, and tap beers. 


Take advantage of the crab fries – topped with crab meat and three-cheese fondue sauce – it’s a dish to die for! Federal Tap House’s pizzas and salads are super popular.


Allen Street Grill

You won’t want to miss Allen Street Grill at 100 West College Avenue. This bright and cheerful spot overlooks the gates of the Penn State campus. It serves up everything from classic dinner entrees to handcrafted cocktails.


Order the antipasti with Italian cured meats, cheeses, fresh-made focaccia, figs, and olives. Allen Street Grill’s mushroom soup or English pea salad are great pre-entree items. For my main course, I loved the mushroom linguine Carbonara with pancetta.

Save room for the dessert trio of sorbets, or enjoy a handcrafted cocktail or a glass of fortified wine at the lobby bar. Allen Street Grill is closed Sunday and Monday.


Visit the Arboretum at Penn State

Step into a world of natural wonder at the Arboretum at Penn State. The 17-acre gardens boast a wealth of stunning sights, including a tropical grove, towering trees, an event lawn, an oasis garden with a serene lotus pool, and a place to witness the majestic Holler Oak.


Be sure to visit the pollinator and bird gardens, great for photography, and the wondrous Childhood’s Gate children’s garden, buzzing with life and activity. Marvel at the Glass House and its collection of beautiful original potted plant displays; take a moment to relax by the fountains or capture moments of solitude throughout the gardens.


One of my favorite plants was the Oriental spruce tree, whose ends are tipped with vibrant pink.


Stay at the Graduate Hotel

Looking for a home away from home? Look only as far as the Graduate Hotel, within walking distance to much of downtown State College. You’ll feel right at home with cozy boutique rooms featuring vintage art, Malin + Goetz amenities, flannel throws, and sturdy wood furniture. Plus, with accessible self-parking and a stunning outdoor fireplace focal point, the Graduate Hotel has everything you need to relax and unwind.


If you’re hungry or thirsty, head to the lobby-level Trophy Room for delicious food and drinks, or grab a quick bite at the grab-and-go station. The Graduate Hotel also offers stunning common rooms where you can hang out and relax.


And with perks like complimentary Wi-Fi, pet-friendly accommodations, a 24-hour fitness center, and complimentary bicycles, you’ll have everything you need and more during your stay.


Take Photos at the Nittany Lion Habitat and See Old Main

Discover the essence of Pennsylvania State University’s campus in one of its most famous landmarks – Old Main. This historic building, over 150 years old, is a true symbol of enduring pride and has witnessed generations of Penn State’s most cherished memories.

Don’t just admire its stately exterior – step inside to be captivated by colorful murals and intriguing architecture. Join the countless students and visitors who have made visiting this iconic building one of their beloved pastimes.


Then, stop by the Nittany Lion Habitat, another popular attraction in downtown State College that shouldn’t be missed.


Explore the Palmer Museum of Art

Get ready to immerse yourself in a world of art at the Palmer Museum of Art. Feast your eyes on a stunning collection of ceramic pieces like Chihuly bowls in bright yellow and peacock blue. Admire pottery, glassworks, earthenware dating from the 7th to the 10th century, and American art portraits. And admission is free!


Don’t miss the iconic Young Venus Rising from the Sea masterpiece by Violet Oakley. The museum’s permanent collection boasts paintings and sculptures that showcase American history from the Early Republic to the genre painting of the Civil War. Come experience the beauty and cultural significance of these remarkable 10,000+ works of art.

Please note: Contain your excitement because the Palmer Museum of Art is temporarily closed until spring 2024, when it moves from its Curtin Road location to its new home at the Palmer Museum at the Arboretum.


Indulge in Berkey Creamery Treats

Prepare to satisfy your sweet tooth, Penn State style, at the Berkey Creamery. Since 1865, Penn State has used a science-based process to create world-class dairy products, and now you get to indulge in their hand-churned ice cream. 


Not in the mood for something frozen? No problem. Check out their on-site cheese selection, meats, milk, and butter. It’s like sinking your teeth into some of the best dairy products on the East Coast. See why the Berkey Creamery is State College’s go-to spot for all things dairy.

Since you are there, consider renting a spin bike from in front of Berkey Creamy at the Food Science Building (on campus) to enjoy the sights around downtown State College.


Delightful Downtown State College

Downtown State College packs a powerful punch whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure. With its rich history, natural beauty, and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder that this area has become such a popular destination.


Read more of our road trip idea posts at:

Beckley, WV

Washington, DC

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