With so many different destinations to choose from, it can be difficult to determine where to visit for the perfect summer road trip. So many places but so little time! However, if you're looking for fun summer festivals, beautiful outdoor opportunities, plus great food and craft beverages, then Happy Valley is your place.
Nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania, the “Centre of Adventure”, this vibrant region has so much to offer, especially during the summer months. There is never a dull moment here between the events and stunning natural scenery.
Summer is also not quite as busy around Penn State's campus since most of the students are home. So State College and the surrounding area are a bit calmer but with plenty to do!
Since I visited for the first time last summer, I've already returned two other times and have fallen more in love with each visit. #HappyValleyPA needs to be on your travel list this year!
One of the big draws to the area in the summer season are the fun festivals held from June through August with multiple events in July. Ongoing events include Wingfest, Friday in the 'Fonte, and First Fridays.
Wingfest is held every Thursday at Tussey Mountain and includes various local restaurants competing for the fan vote of favorite wings plus live music. This year it runs from June 22 - August 10.
Friday in the 'Fonte is held the last Friday of the month in downtown Bellefonte. Here you'll find live music, outdoor vendors, and many retailers downtown offer discounts on these days.
At the beginning of the month, you can attend First Friday in downtown State College which also has live music, extra opportunities for shopping, plus great food and drinks from local restaurants.
The Central PA 4th Fest is the largest volunteer-run fireworks display in the country and has been running since 1927. This event is so much more than fireworks though, there is an Independence Day Parade, Firecracker 4k, live music, and other events.
If that's not enough for you, three more festivals all occur during the same week of July! The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, The People's Choice Festival, and Philipsburg Heritage Days all occur around the same dates.
"The Central PA 4th Fest is the largest volunteer-run fireworks display in the country and has been running since 1927"
- Anna Cook
The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and The People's Choice Festival both run from July 13th - 16th this year. The Festival of the Arts will have entertainment, a Sidewalk Sale, BookFest, and so much more and is located on Penn State's campus.
The People's Choice Festival is located at Grange Park in Centre Hall where they'll have arts & crafts vendors, a specialty food court with local food and wine, plus all kinds of entertainment!
Finally, at Philipsburg Heritage Days you can celebrate the rich history of Philipsburg from July 11th - 15th. Here you'll find events like a Watermelon Eating Contest, Flower Show, Parade, fireworks, and other entertainment.
Happy Valley is surrounded by 750,000 acres of public land so it's a haven for outdoor adventurers. With plenty of hiking trails through the state forests and state parks, you'll have lots to choose from!
Rothrock State Forest is one of the most popular areas for hiking near State College. Checking out the Little Flat Fire Tower via the Midstate Trail or hiking along Roaring Run on the Shingletown Gap trail are great options. In the fall, Bald Knob Ridge is ablaze in red from the blueberry bushes.
Black Moshannon is a gorgeous state park in Centre County that's perfect for hiking. Hop on the Bog Trail for a short walk by the lake along a boardwalk or the Black Moshannon Creek Trail follows the creek.
Soaring Eagle Wetlands is full of accessible trails and perfect for bird watching as there are a few small huts with benches and windows.
And don't forget the famous Mount Nittany! Did you really hike in Happy Valley if you didn't climb Mount Nittany? While this is a very popular trail, don't take that to mean that it's easy. The trail to reach the summit is steep but the views over State College and Happy Valley are worth it, trust me.
I've done all of these and they are stunning! You really can't go wrong with any of them.
Central PA Tasting Trail
If you're a fan of craft beverages, then the Central PA Tasting Trail is a must-visit during a summer road trip to Happy Valley. With 14 different stops at various wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries in Centre County, there's something for everyone on this trail.
Each stop is unique and many even offer amazing food to pair with your favorite drinks. State College is a great place to base yourself if you want to explore this trail as all the stops are a quick drive away.
Be sure to grab a passport for just $35 and get it stamped at each location where you'll also get a small sample and possibly a little memento. Once you have all your stamps, you can turn in your passport for a unique hoodie!
Don't forget to line up a designated driver too!
Get Out on the Water
Another way to enjoy the summer weather is by getting out on the gorgeous waterways of Happy Valley. From kayaking on the lake at Bald Eagle State Park to fly fishing in Spring Creek, there's no shortage of options.
Bullit Run at Bald Eagle State Park is the perfect place to paddle as it's in a No Wake Zone on the lake and most boats don't go back in those coves. You can also paddle all the way to Bald Eagle from Spring Creek via Bald Eagle Creek.
Penns Creek is another popular place for paddling when water levels are right. Other great options for kayaking, canoeing, or SUP are the lake at Black Moshannon State Park and Colyer Lake.
"Another way to enjoy the summer weather is by getting out on the gorgeous waterways of Happy Valley"
- Anna Cook
If you don't have your own kayak, try renting one at Tussey Mountain Outfitters or in Black Moshannon State Park.
Spring Creek and Penns Creek aren't only good paddling spots but they are also very popular with fishermen. Big Poe Creek is another great spot nearby for trout fishing.
Want a unique way to get on the water? Visit Penn's Cave & Wildlife Park to take a cave tour via boat.
If you love restaurants that use seasonal ingredients from local farms, then you'll love dining in Happy Valley. It doesn't get fresher than at RE Farm Cafe where they call their chefs "composers" as they blend flavors together like composers do musical notes. The restaurant is located right on the farm where they harvest everything they serve.
Pine Grove Hall has made a name for itself as one of the best spots for fine dining and live music. Creekside at the Gamble Mill is located in the historic Gamble Mill building that's been beautifully renovated in Bellefonte. Both of these restaurants prioritize sourcing from local farmers at peak ripeness.
In State College itself, Gigi's Southern Table is a staple Farm to Table restaurant - try their Signature Shrimp & Grits.
For avid mountain bikers, Happy Valley has plenty to offer! The Harvest Fields Community Trails and Skills Park is a recent addition to the area and a great place to hone your skills before hitting the trails. Located in Boalsburg, this park has various obstacles where you can practice to build your confidence.
If you just want to hit the trails to test your skills, Rothrock State Forest is a popular destination. The trails here are considered challenging and range from rocky and technical to smooth and flowy. Be sure to hone your skills at the Harvest Fields Community Trails and Skills Park first! The Coopers Gap area is very popular with advanced riders.
If you're willing to venture a bit further over to the Raystown Lake Region, the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake are another top-tier mountain biking destination in the area. These trails were designed by mountain bikers and offer over 30 miles of singletrack built by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. You'll find trails here for all levels plus a skills park.
Is there anything better on a hot summer day than a cone of ice cream? I don't think so! If you agree, then you'll be in heaven here in Happy Valley. There are many great places to get your ice cream fix!
First up is the famous Berkey Creamery, located at Penn State. Since 1865 they've been a fixture on campus and have perfected their craft over the years. Literally. Top ice cream brands come to them to learn how to make ice cream.
Their ice cream is made with milk from the university's own dairy cows and is super creamy and delicious. I have to visit every time I'm in town! My personal favorite flavors have been Grilled Stickies and Monkey Business.
Another great spot for ice cream is Wasson Farm, located just outside of town. Grab a cone of their homemade ice cream while you shop their seasonal produce grown right there on the farm.
Meyer Dairy is another local favorite. Open since 1887, it's been passed down through multiple generations and is a staple in State College. They offer a variety of flavors and you can also pick up some of their milk, cheese, and so much more in their store.