State College After Dark

– by Robyn Passante


State College is a playground for a variety of tastes and lifestyles. Whether you like outdoor activities, retail therapy or intellectual pursuits, this area is ripe with opportunities each and every day.

But nighttime is the right time to experience a whole other side of State College – and we don’t just mean the sticky floors and pitcher specials of downtown’s many bars. However, the opportunities for fun after the sun goes down aren’t just limited to downtown State College. Come check out some of our other suggestions.

If you want to see live music

Check the bigger venues first (Bryce Jordan Center, The State Theatre, Tussey Mountain Amphitheatre) to make sure you’re not missing out on a national act or nationally known cover band. Local bands are given great play at Zeno’s (100 W. College Ave.), Café 210 West (210 W. College Ave.) and The Saloon (101 Heister St.), but just about any night of the week you can find live music somewhere in town.


State Theatre (Photo Credit: Dick Knupp)

If you want to see a show

If you’re into plays and performances, you’re in the right town. Check the calendars for these venues to see what’s playing: Schwab Auditorium is a 900-seat auditorium on campus that hosts the Center for the Performing Arts’ jazz concerts and chamber music events. The State Theatre holds several theatre and performance groups in addition to bringing in national musical acts and other special events. Eisenhower Auditorium, with a seating capacity of 2,500, is Penn State’s primary theatrical performance space. Penn State Downtown Theatre Center is home base for Penn State’s School of Theatre. And Nittany Theatre at the Barn is a unique theatre in Boalsburg that opened in the 1950s and is Pennsylvania’s oldest arena barn theater. Penn State’s School of Music also provide virtually limitless numbers of performances throughout the year, including their summer series “Music at Penn’s Woods

If you want a local beer

Local breweries abound in area. The newest on the block is Happy Valley Brewing Company, housed in a 200-year-old barn that’s been converted into a two-level restaurant and bar. Otto’s Pub & Brewery on the north end of town consistently ranks among the best restaurants and brew pubs in the region by local voters. Robin Hood Brewing Co. is based in Bellefonte but their beer is also served at Home D Pizzeria in State College. And for a hoppy treat a bit farther off the beaten path, try Elk Creek Café + Aleworks in Millheim for their craft brews and locally sourced food. Local Centre County beers can also be found in downtown bars such as Zeno’s, Liberty Crafthouse and others.


Related Page: Central PA Tasting Trail

If you want a creative cocktail

There are two distilleries in the area: Barrel 21 Distillery & Dining on the north end of State College offers craft cocktails using its own selection of spirits made on-site. In Bellefonte, Big Spring Spirits has earned an impressive reputation for its menu of artisanal cocktails and informative tasting room flights.

Plenty of creative cocktails can be found elsewhere in town, including at Local Whiskey on Beaver Avenue, and Gigi’s Southern Table a little west of downtown. And don’t miss the spiked milkshakes, made with Berkey Creamery ice cream, at The Field Burger & Tap in Toftrees.

If you want to dance

You can get your groove on in just about any of the area’s bars, but there are a few that lend themselves to more moving and shaking. The Basement Nightspot (112 W. College Ave.) offers is a popular option with students and young professionals that allows you to head straight to the dance floor. And The Shandygaff (212 E. College Ave. – entrance on Calder Way) is the oldest option with perhaps the most diverse musical selections. “The Gaff” as locals refer to it is a favorite of multiple Penn State generations.

If you want to watch the game

Sports fans in State College are never far from a decent option to catch scores, highlights and the biggest games of the night. Both Champs locations – one on North Atherton, the other downtown – have an impressive amount of TVs and adequate seating. Bill Pickle’s Tap Room is another favorite hangout for sports fans. And the Hi Way Pizza Pub location on West College Avenue is a solid spot for sports fans on the west side. Home D Pizzeria on South Atherton Street is also is a nice venue to catch the game just a few steps away from downtown State College.


Hi-Way Pizza West

If you want to play games

Those who like to shoot pool, play video games or throw darts can find plenty of fun in the basement of Champs Downtown (139 S. Allen St.), where a giant bar is just steps away from all the action. Sharkie’s Bar & Thrifty Bottle (110 Sowers St.) has a plethora of pool tables and cheap beer for sale. And Northland Bowl & Sports Center (1521 Martin St.) is a bowling alley with a good-sized game room complete with pool tables, arcade games and more.

If you want to go on a virtual adventure

Escape rooms are all the rage, and State College has three of them. Escape Artist Centre County (2290 E. College Ave.) is said to be good for teens and tweens too, and offers hints if you’re stuck. Escape Room Inc. – State College (210 E. Calder Way) challenges you with riddles, gadgets and mind tricks in order to escape the room.

If you want to explore a bit

From the giant illuminated Nittany Lion symbols atop Beaver Stadium to the majestic way the columns of Old Main look in the moonlight, strolling through campus at night is a fun way to see the university in a whole new way. Did you know The Nittany Lion shrine lights up blue and white at night? If you haven’t snapped an after-dark selfie at the shrine, it’s a must for alums and visitors.

If you want to see a movie

There are two movie theaters, conveniently located on opposite ends of town. State College UEC Theatres 12 is situated not far from Nittany Mall, and College 9 is on the north end of Atherton Street near Lowe’s. The State Theatre also occasionally shows special flicks.

If you want a sweet treat

Did you know Berkey Creamery is open till 10 p.m. seven days a week? That’s as good a reason as any to indulge in one of their giant cones by the light of the moon. For a more traditional dessert, The Deli never disappoints with its daily offerings of pies, cakes, and cheesecakes, but we suggest the Killer Cookie for Two! And for the true night owls out there, Insomnia Cookies serves freshly baked cookies, ice cream and delicious combinations of the two until 3 a.m. every day.

And if you just want to contemplate the universe

During the fall and spring semesters the public is invited to join the Astronomy Club and the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics on the roof of Davey Lab to observe planets, stars and deep space objects like nebulae, galaxies and star clusters that are currently visible in the sky using a variety of telescopes. The free stargazing is from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays, weather permitting. (Before you go, call 863-1234 and press 7 when asked, to find out if the telescopes will be open to the public that Friday night.)

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at