Spend the Day in Boalsburg this Memorial Day

– by Cara Aungst

Boalsburg is just minutes from State College and Beaver Stadium, but the quaint village feels worlds away. Originally a traveler’s stop between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Boalsburg is one of the best places to uncover history in Central Pennsylvania, with the Pennsylvania Military Museum, Boal Mansion and Columbus Chapel, and Boalsburg Cemetery, which commemorates the village’s designation as the Birthplace of Memorial Day. It’s also a place for today, with can’t-miss events, brand-new venues, and favorite family destinations. Let’s spend the day!

Boalsburg Three Ladies

Start your morning with Breakfast on Boal, a cozy, delicious breakfast spot at 603 Boal Avenue. Try the crowd-favorite breakfast burrito, chorizo hash, or a Monte Christo. One Facebook reviewer says: “Very nice atmosphere and great service. Employees are nice, sociable people. My food was well prepared and delicious.”

Now, time for some history. Boalsburg is known for its rich, detailed history, and is the perfect way to start the morning.

First, the background: Boalsburg was named for the influential Boal family, who acquired 4,000 acres of land after the Revolutionary War. The land was located at a key crossways on what was known as the King’s Highway, and, when David Boal opened the area’s first tavern in 1804, it helped the town to develop into a transportation hub. Much of that history can be seen today in the town’s original Victorian and Georgian architecture (in 1977, the Boalsburg Historic District was added to the National Register of Places).

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Today, the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion and its grounds have been left virtually untouched since the Boals lived there, offering visitors a rare chance to experience an estate in the same way the family would have, with, as the museum’s website explains, “original furnishings, papers, portraits, tools and weapons of nine generations of this American family.”

The exhibits are as varied as the family itself was, from an Armory Room exhibiting a large collection of swords, rifles, and pistols from the Middle Ages through World War I to French designer clothing and vintage Louis Vuitton luggage.

Part of the Boal Estate was called Camp Boal and used as a training site for troops. In 1969, that space became The Pennsylvania Military Museum, a repository for more than 10,000 military artifacts “ranging in size from teacups to tanks” including permanent exhibits on tactics, small arms, sea power, air power, and logistics. There are also regularly rotating temporary exhibits, plus events and visits from living historians who portray what life was like in wartime. Allow some time to walk the grounds—there are a host of memorials and monuments as well as tanks, howitzers, and other military artifacts.

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Ready for lunch? Head to the Diamond to visit Historic Duffy’s Tavern, on Main Street. This elegant stone structure dates from 1819 and features delicious finds like blackened salmon salad, pan-seared duck, and lump crab cake sandwiches. (Their creme brulee is amazing!) A Facebook reviewer says: “Great dining experience in this historic tavern. Excellent service and great food for our party of five. I highly recommend Duffy’s for a nice dinner or to just grab a sandwich.”

While you are on the Diamond, check out A Basket Full at 121 E. Main Street—it features clothing, jewelry, and unique Penn State gifts you can’t find anywhere else!

Just a few minutes away, Tait Farm Harvest Shop & Greenhouse offers annuals and perennials along with local foods, gifts, and its signature Original Shrub artisanal drink mixer.

Boalsburg Memorial Day Band

If you are visiting on a Tuesday, you are in luck! It’s the day of the year-round Boalsburg Farmers Market, held outdoors at the PA Military Museum during the spring, summer, and fall, and indoors at the Boalsburg Fire Hall in winter. It’s an ideal place to buy fresh, local produce plus goodies like kombucha, goat milk, fresh pasta, and more.

Ready for an afternoon of fun?

Let’s head to Tussey! There’s something to do at Tussey Mountain Ski and Recreation, no matter what season you are visiting. In the winter, you can ski, snowboard, and snowtube. In the spring, summer, and fall, visitors enjoy the 18-hole miniature golf course, batting cages, skate park, and go-kart track. There’s even a fully stocked pond for anglers of all ages to do some catch-and-release fishing. (Bring your own poles, bait, and a fishing license if you’re an angler who’s 18 or older.) Check out Tussey Bär & Kitchen for an apre ski menu with beautiful views of Mount Nittany.

Best of all, Tussey features amazing events throughout the year. Check their website or Facebook to find out what is happening when you visit—from WingFest to the Happy Valley Music Series.

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Raining or bad weather? Check out Climb Nittany for an indoor climbing space for all ages! This hidden gem is a great all-weather active zone for climbers of all ages and skill levels.

And now it’s time for dinner

New in town, Boal City Brewing offers hop-forward IPAs, smooth Belgian-style ales, and a crisp, clean Czech Pilsner in their beautiful new taproom and beer garden. They have a regular rotation of food trucks available (you can find the current info on their Facebook page) along with a lineup of live music.

Dinner at Kelly’s Steak & Seafood is a must-stop for Boalsburg visitors (and area residents, who have consistently voted Kelly’s “Best Steak” and “Best Seafood” in State College Magazine’s annual reader survey). The restaurant features inventive dishes, often with seasonal finds like halibut cheeks or Copper River Salmon. “It’s always a good choice. Great food and great atmosphere.”

Still time for one last adventure?

If you aren’t still listening to the live gig at Boal City Brewing, there’s one more thing you’ve got to see. Just past Tussey Mountain Ski and Recreation is the main “entrance” to Rothrock State Forest, which is about 97,000 acres of old-growth forest, streams, valleys, ridges, vistas, and a whole lot of rocks. There are nearly 300 miles of hiking trails, more than 100 miles of trails open to bikers, and almost 190 miles of mostly compacted gravel roads, making Rothrock the perfect playground for hikers, runners, cyclists, and families in cars wanting to see the best of central Pennsylvania’s natural beauty. Don’t miss the Alan Seeger Natural Area, with trees up to 350 years old, or Bear Meadows Natural Area, which includes an actual bog. Bear Meadows is recognized as a National Natural Landmark.

Just next door to the gateway to Rothrock are Harvest Fields Community Trails and Hamer Bike Park, free multi-use community trails where families and individuals can connect while enjoying a unique mountain biking experience designed for all ability groups.

One more thing:

Boalsburg is a great destination any time of the year, but Memorial Day is not to be missed! The village is known as the birthplace of Memorial Day, and its Memorial Day festivities bring thousands to its streets each year. The event includes a parade and carnival, craft vendors, live music, a 3.8-mile race around the village, and Civil War re-enactments.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at HappyValley.com/events