Stroll the Downtown Area
"Downtown" State College is a nice area and very walkable which makes for a nice afternoon activity on a Spring, Summer or Autumn day.
The old downtown is a rectangular area of about 9 blocks by 2 blocks being bordered on one side by the Penn State Campus and College Avenue and Beaver Avenue on its long side and South Atherton Street and Sowers Streets on the short sides. This area is very popular with tourists as well as students because of the many shops, nightclubs, restaurants and other traditional conveniences you look for in a downtown such as banks, the Post Office and the Information Kiosk (S. Allen St. & College Avenue).
One afternoon when we had free time from the tournament we were able to do some walking around and found the downtown was buzzing with activity. We did a little shopping at "Rapid Transit Sports" and "The Clothesline" for our daughter, and then stopped at Bill Pickle's Tap Room for a little lunch where we could also take in some sports on one of their several wide-screen plasma TV's. Mr. Pickle's and several other restaurant/bars, nightclubs and coffeehouses offer evening entertainment---The Phyrst, an Irish Pub, is one such venue.
From June through November, on Friday's from 11:30 to 5:30, on Locust Lane and on Saturday's from 11:00 to 3:00 on the 200 block of South Allen Street you can visit the Farmer's Markets where you will enjoy all types of fresh local produce and homemade goodies for sale.
Downtown State College also hosts many events throughout the year such as the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, a Summer Concert Series, the Fall Festival, the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, and the Polar Express. (downtownstatecollege.com)
If you like theater, check out the new Pennsylvania Center Stage at Penn State Downtown Theatre Centre for professional stage productions!! This is also the ticket outlet for other Penn State events such as concerts, and intercollegiate athletics (except football)!! (pacentrestage.psu.edu.)
- Road Trip
Centre Furnace Mansion ~ Part I
Looking for something to do during our few daylight hours of free time, I picked up a brochure listing nearby attractions. One of the local sights that caught my eye was the "Centre Furnance Mansion" right here in State College. Located only two minutes from the edge of Penn State's campus, we were lucky to be here on a Sunday which is one of the 5 days per week that the Mansion is open.
The Centre Furnance Mansion is notable for several reasons not the least of which is the fact that it has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now also serving as the headquarters of the Centre County Historical Society, the Centre Furnace Mansion tour is given by docents of the Society. Our guide, Mr. Grant Sherritt, did an admirable job of relating the history of not only the mansion and its former residents, but also gave us interesting information about the iron-smelting (furnace) business relating directly to the history of the mansion. The Centre Furnace Mansion has been restored to reflect "the period of residency of ironmaster Moses Thompson and his family, 1842-1891."
The house was originally a one room dwelling that was later expanded to the much grander proportions we see today. In addition to several small rooms, the lowest level contained the original thick-walled rooms of the main house with the original fireplace used for cooking. On the hearth was a display of old cooking utensils and heavy irons.
I was impressed with the restoration of the upper 3 floors which contained original furnishings, and clothing as well as unoriginal to this house, but authenticated period furnishings and textiles. A wide staircase lead up to a wide hall dividing four rooms including a very lovely dining room and parlor, and two rooms used as sitting or entertaining rooms for the family. Beautiful reproduction carpets carefully placed on the wide plank floors, lacy window curtains, and plants enhanced the rooms which contained many personal objects which were donated by descendants of the Thompson clan. Family china adorned the dining table, a period piano was topped with family photos, and even especially well preserved pieces of the family's clothing gave a special personal aura to the mansion.
Another wide staircase leading to the third floor reveal a wide hall with a sitting area with flanked on each side by two bedrooms each --- two for adults and two for children. The fourth floor was mostly servents quarters, but now appears as a library/office. Considering there was no such thing as central heating in those days, each room in the house had its own fireplace and unique mantel.
The Mansion is open to the public on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 1 to 4 pm and other times by appointment only.
Admission is free!! Donations gladly accepted.
NOTE: photos displayed on this page are mine.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Penn State University
For visitors and local residents alike, Penn State University offers a wide variety of things to do: lectures, stage and musical events, art exhibits, film festivals, an arboretum, planetarium, and of course, SPORTS! Penn State University also has a pool complex, ice rinks and a golf course which are open to the public. See my separate tip on The Bryce Jordan Center.
For architectural enthusiasts, Penn State's campus also offers many beautiful styles, and its new law school building is quite unique.
Universities generally enhance the town in which they are located because part of their mission these days is to connect with the surrounding community by offering services and being a cultural mecca. Penn State is no exception, so if you will be visiting State College for a weekend or longer, consider activities on campus (especially during the academic year).
Univerities towns can really extend your entertainment budget because many of these offerings have nominal charges or are even Free! Looking for something to do with "Out-of-town" guests--bring them to a university event. Don't forget to visit the wildly popular Penn State "Berkey Creamery" for delicious ice-cream made right on the campus (Penn State has its own dairy!!).
Some of the most helpful sub-sites are listed below:
Really, really like sports? Visit the penn State All-Sports Museum.
UPDATE: The sculpture shown in the last photo has now been obliterated from campus and replaced by grass and trees only. Many students, local residents, fans and admirers believe this was a despicable act brought about by an administration which felt it needed to over correct for a situation and for a man who did not live to defend himself.
The College 9 Theaters
During our first visit to State College for volleyball tournaments, a parent of one of the team members became a sort of "social director" and planned a few events for anyone interested. One thing she planned was a night at the movies.
The College 9 Theaters were showing the brand new "Spiderman 3" & "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." We chose "Pirates". In fact it was being shown on 3 of the 9 screens at this theater!! So we had no problem getting tickets ($7.50 adults, weekend night). The theater had stadium seating which was very comfortable and I had no problems seeing over the person in front of me. As is the case with almost every theater, popcorn and drinks were pricey. Two medium drinks and a medium popcorn was about $7 - 8 . A large/super popcorn and one large/super drink was about $10---no joke!! Thank heaven we didn't have to pay a babysitter too! That's about $25 for 2 poeple and a so-so snack. But how can you go to the movies without having popcorn & a drink!
Newly-built theater, easily available tickets for a popular movie, sufficient and well-lit parking, good & comfortable seating made this a pleasant excursion to the movies.
Check current prices and movie times on line.
- Family Travel
Centre Furnace Mansion ~ Part II
Moreorless, the "raison d'etra" for the Centre Furnace Mansion was that it was the home of Ironmaster Moses Thompson, a partner with James Irvin in the business of smelting iron ore. The stone furnace you see in the accompanying photo was used to produce iron from iron ore which was found in natural abundance in Centre County. It was the first charcoal-fired iron furnace in the county, and during its hayday was one of the largest producers of pig-iron in the country.
On the ground floor of the Centre Furnace Mansion, the original room contains a scale model of the furnace which shows the great bellows used in heating the furnace and the resulting molten iron, and slag residue. Because sand was part of the process, the slag by-product looked like chunky black or blue-green glass. Some people found a use for the slag by creating jewelry from it.
The iron ore smelting business was a profitable venture and the Thompson family lived quite well in the Centre Furnance Mansion for 49 years. The mansion was owned by the Thompson family until approximately 1928 when it was sold to a Penn State University faculty member. The mansion at one time was divided into apartments of a sort. This type of reconfiguration sometimes sounds the death nell for historic properties. However, the Centre County Historical Society has done a truly heroic restoration of the mansion and furnished it to reflect the "period of residency of ironmaster Moses Thompson and his family, 1842 - 1891."
Because the mansion and the Centre Furnace are so historically connected, you shouldn't miss visiting both sites. The furnace is downhill from the Mansion itself. If you hadn't seen the model of it from earlier times, you might pass the furnace by without really knowing what it is!!
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
The Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State
Just adjacent to the Multi-Sports Center on Penn State's campus is the Bryce Jordan Center. Like many other buildings on campus, it looks solid, enormous but not architecturally remarkable. However, it is distinquishable because of its digital, color-flashing sign announcing all the upcoming events being held there.
The Bryce Jordan Center, a 16,000-seat venue, is centrally located within the state of Pennsylvania and the only entertainment facility of its size in the region! Because much of this area of Pennsylvania is rural, the Bryce Jordan Center is a major entertainment venue for students, and local folks as well. Some of the events held there include "circuses, sports exhibitions, family shows, commencements, lectures, and Big Ten Basketball, as well as some of the top-name performers in the music entertainment industry."
When we were there, the flashing sign was announcing the upcoming, but Sold-Out performance of of former American Idol star, Kellie Pickler. Taylor Swift will be there on my birthday this year. (Miley Cyrus fans can purchase tickets to see her there in November, 2009.) The Center may only host one major event or so per month.
There were no major events being held at the Bryce Jordan Center while we were visiting, but before the next visit to Penn State I plan to check for possibilites to attend. For information on upcoming events, seating, tickets, directions, etc., check their website:
"Tour, Roar, Explore" in Central Pennsylvania
Usually it's the larger metropolitan areas of Pennsylvania which get lots of attention from visitors, but Central Pennsylvania is what you might call a hidden gem. There is so much to see and do and the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau's website is jam-packed with information to help you see & so it all!! Need brochures, maps, event calendar's--this is the place.
"Tour": Summer & Winter Packages offered by the Visitor's Bureau can be tailored to include tickets for sporting events at Penn State University, 2 nights at your choice of a range of hotels, options for theater & museum tickets, concerts, performances and meals, etc. Call: 800-2SW-PSU for package details and prices.
"Roar": Penn State All-Sports Museum, Eart & Mineral Science Museum, and HUB-Robeson Galleries, Palmer Museum of Art, and Zoller Gallery all have FREE ADMISSION!! Don't miss Penn State University's Nittany Lions sports teams, cultural performances, etc.
"Explore": the beautiful natural countryside and mountains, the Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery, festivals, Victorian Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, and colonial Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; DelGrosso Amusement park, Woodward Caves, Penn's Cave & Wildlife Park, and all sorts of outdoor sporting activities such as hot-air balooning, hiking, the Ridge Soaring Gliderport, and camping. Don't forget the beautiful and swift moving Susquehanna River!! A "Fun Pass" from the Visitor's Bureau will give you discount admissions to theaters, restaurants and some shops.
The Victorian Christmas at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, held the second week of December is on the top of my list!!
- Adventure Travel
- Family Travel
- Arts and Culture
Birthplace of Penn State University
During our visit to the Centre Furnace Mansion we discovered its connection to the founding of Penn State University. It seems that Ironmaster Moses Thompson, who owned the mansion, was also the largest landowner in the county by the time of his death in 1891---tens of thousands of acres. The university acquired much of Mr. Thompson's land for it's campus. When visiting Penn State's enormous campus, it becomes a little clearer just how much land Mr. Thompson owned.
The Centre Furnace Mansion is documented as being the site where many trustee meetings and college guests were hosted. Furthermore, Mr. Thompson served as Penn State's Treasurer from 1867 - 1874, an honor which he obviously earned.
So from the man, Moses Thompson, his partner James Irvin, and the land acquired through the profits of the iron ore smelting business, was born the origins of Penn State University!!
"Inspiration" ~ Mural in Downtown State College
January, 2012: A golden halo has been painted above the head of beloved Penn State football coach Joe Paterno who has passed away and was buried on January 25, 2012.
November, 2011: The depiction of Jerry Sandusky wearing a blue & white stripped shirt and seated in a chair has been deleted from the mural, leaving only an empty chair and a blue crossed ribbon, the symbol of the campaign against child abuse, in its place.
A remarkable piece of public art you'll find in downtown State College is a painted wall mural approximately 100 feet long and 2 two stories tall. The mural entitled, Inspiration" is by mural artist, Michael Pilato. The painting is rather a unique work of art for it features real persons who have a connection to Centre County, Pennsylvania, and has embedded themes. Although the likeness of Coach Joe Paterno of Penn State University is easily recognizable, there are obviously other notable people such as the man holding 3 Olympic medals, a Heismann trophy winner, two soldiers from the Civil War and WWI, etc. You'll notice handprints from local children which form a wonderful background texture to some areas of the painting and also special pets, birds and animals which I particularly liked.
Original work on this painting spanned 1999 & 2000. The mural is not finished---it is an ongoing project as each year nearing the date of September 11th Mr. Pilato adds new features. From Mr. Pilato's website, he explains the reason for this:
"Every year around September 11th, I paint for 48 hours straight. It is my personal way of honoring and thanking those we lost on September 11, 2001 - a thank you for their life and a search for the meaning of their death."
The closer I looked at the painting, the more I was intriqued by it. Wall murals hold a special appeal for me for many reasons. One VT personality who has many wonderful wall murals captured on her pages is Yaqui" (Dee). Please drop by her pages to have a look--they are fascinating.
Farmers Market ~ Farm Fresh!
Our daughter had told us about the Farmers Market in downtown State College, but until our most recent visit we had never been in town on the days it was being held. We were lucky to be there on a summer Wednesday this time and so stopped in to see what was being offered that day.
We were able to find parking about a block away so it was an easy walk to the corner of College Avenue and Locust Lane where this market is held. Colorful umbrellas and coverings created a shaded path for much of the block length of the market. On either side local farmers offered fresh produce such as sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant (aubergine) and more. I purchased a dozen ears of super large, sweet corn for $4.75 to blanch and freeze for winter.
Amish farmers and their families offered produce but also milk, eggs, cheese, jams, jellies & baked goods. Though I would have liked to, we could not buy anything requiring refrigeration since we had nothing to keep them cold in and we had a 4-hour drive ahead of us. One person was selling homemade hot chutney, and hot sauces in jars for the pricey sum of about $7. He sold my husband a jar -- when mixed with cream cheese or sour cream, it makes quite a good dip for crackers, chips (crisps) or vegetables and is not untolerably spicy.
A couple of vendors were selling home-made soaps, candles, and leather crafts. At least two were selling a variety of plants and simply cut flowers. I bought flowers for my daughters room for $3, a small price to pay to bring such beauty indoors. I also bought a large jar of clover honey for $4.75.
In summer, the market is held on Wednesdays and Fridays, 11:30 to 5:00pm -- our daughter tells us the Friday market is much larger! As we will be visiting soon on a Friday, I am excited to see what I'll find there.
There is also a winter market held from 11:30 to 5:00 pm on Fridays in the State College Municipal Building 243 S. Allen Street near College Avenue. This is an extensive, indoor market where not only winter produce is offered but also salmon, meats, poultry, syrups, herbs, honey, dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt (cow and goat) and more. Look for potted plants and flowers. Additional vendors offer other handmade products such as soaps, lotions, candles, shampoos and the like. This market, now in its 3rd year, is held weekly from November 30th to April 30th. Now if this could only be combined with a gigantic yard sale!
Photos are my own.
What better way to spend four hours than to sample some of the better beer products from some breweries handing out samples. Since 2001 the Brew Fest has been going on in State College at The Stater Hotel. The cost is forty bucks, which includes a tasting glass, all the beer that you can taste (consume) in four hours and some fantastic food. I strongly suggest getting a room for the day/night so you can really enjoy the activities. This is a good value if you are interested in beer.
The meal consisted of salad, mashed spuds, sausages with sour kraut, pork slices, olive bread, tortellini primavera, sweet potato spiced soup, carrot cake, brownies, fruit, tea and coffee. I was stuffed.
Every type of beer imaginable was there. From IPA's to sparkling champers beer. I personally enjoyed the Polish beer named Perla. Very easy to blow the froth off of a few of those in a sitting. Stone's ignorant bastard IPA is another favorite.
- Food and Dining
- Beer Tasting
"Largest University Creamery in the Nation"
While you will see that the Berkey Creamery has a listing under the 'restaurant' tip section, I felt it deserved an entry in the 'things to do' section as well. Its reputation for delicious ice cream is certaily well deserved, but it also has a reputation for being the largest university creamery in the nation.
The creamery has been serving the Penn State student body and the State College community since 1896. Half of the 4 million pounds of milk that goes into making this delicious ice cream comes from the university dairy's 225-cow herd. Approximately 190,000 gallons of ice cream is produced annually in addition to other products such as all types of milk, sour cream, many types of cheese, yogurt, etc.
It is said that the Creamery's ice cream is so fresh, "that only four days, on the average, elapse between the cow and your newly dipped cone."
Not only does the creamery provide a delicious service to the community at large, it also functions as a place which provides interships to food science majors, provides workshops in dairy processes and ice cream manufacturing, milk processing and cheese making. Don't forget that the dairy business is a very important factor here as well and the university offer an internationally popular corse known as the Creamery's "Ice Cream Short Course," which has been offered since the creamery opened in 1895. Can you imagine that a quart of creamery milk once sold for 5 cents per quart, and that the Creamery made horse-drawn wagon deliveries house to house. Today, the customers for the Creamery must come to its new location which opened in 2006 and the line for ice cream is frequently lined up out of its doors!
The Creamery ships it products aywhere in the continental United States. You would have to be a saint to pass up ice cream here if you are anywhere near the Penn State Campus - University Park.
The current price (Fall, 2012) of 1/2 gallon of ice cream is $5.75. The price of a cone or cup which is literally gigantic is only about $3.50.
The Berkey Creamery sells all types of other foods for grab-n-go for breakfast, lunch, snacks, etc. and even a few Penn State University souvenirs.
Raptors, nature and amphibians
If your in the State Collage area one of the better places in the region to visit is Shavers Creek Environmental center. For kids and adults alike. You can't miss the Raptor Center that houses Bald and golden Eagles as well as several different owls and vultures. Inside the center the helpful knowledgeable staff can show you all of the different types of creatures living in the area.
- Family Travel
- School Holidays
- National/State Park
We first heard of the Berkey Creamery while watching a show called "Ice Cream Paradise" that showcases the best ice cream spots across the United States. Penn State has their own Ice Cream Making course as part of the Food Science Program. The creamery itself produces milk, cheeses and ice cream. All varieties of ice cream are made on site and sold to students, guests and retailers. The creamery store sells ice cream cones, milk shakes and tubs of ice cream.
The store is a nice sized area of the Food Sciences building with tables and a display case full of the current day's flavors. Frozen cases have additional flavor sold in half gallon tubs to take home. Liz and I first stopped here on our way to Ohio to see some friends. I ordered a Strawberry Cone and Liz had a Vanilla Bean Cone. The cones were piled high with the creamiest ice cream we had ever tasted. The ice cream was incredible and the price was insanely cheap at only $2.75 a cone. Our second trip here was on our way back from our visit to Ohio and I tried the Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream cone and Liz had Vanilla. I must say I prefer the Strawberry best but the Blueberry Cheesecake was very good.
The Creamery has a daily list of ice cream flavor available when you first walk in the shop. The big rule of the creamery is that there is "NO MIXING OF FLAVORS". One flavor to a cup or cone...they have only broken that rule once when Bill Clinton visited the campus
**The Creamery is a definite stop whenever we are passing through Pennsylvania.**
- Food and Dining
- Road Trip
Visit the Penn State football stadium
If you go into the Penn State Hall of Fame/Museum, located on one corner of the stadium, they can tell you when the next tour of the stadium will be. It was via the tour that we were able to see inside the facility and get these photos.
THE GRASS ON THE FIELD IS NATURAL, NOT PLASTIC. It is Kentucky Bluegrass that is specially grown for the PSU stadium, although not in Kentucky. Furthermore, the endzone grass is grown at Penn State by the PSU Horticulture Department.
The stadium is the fourth largest in the United States. It seats 107,000, however its record was over 110,000 for a game against Nebraska.
- Road Trip
- School Holidays
- Family Travel
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