Happy Valley, PA: The Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Basecamp

Happy Valley is located smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania, making it the perfect launching point for all of your Keystone State adventures. Equidistant between Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, you can reach any corner of the state in a matter of hours. University Park Airport, services multiple regional flights across the Northeast, connecting to major cities like New York and Washington, D.C. So, if you’ve never considered a trip to central PA, we’re here to get your wheels turning!
Prepared By:

Shannon Lowery

Writer & Traveler

Welcome to Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, the perfect basecamp for an unforgettable three-day adventure filled to the brim with nature and history! The name Pennsylvania roughly translates to “Penn’s Woods,” named by the state’s colonial founder, William Penn. The name fits, as the state is covered with scenic landscapes ranging from lush valleys to rolling hills to Appalachian woodlands.

This story was created in partnership with The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

State College is the main metropolitan area of Happy Valley and has a large variety of accommodations. You’ll find a wide range of hotel options in town and camping and cabin-style lodging on the outskirts. For a touch of quintessential Pennsylvania Dutch charm, opt for a countryside inn like the Apple Pony Inn, the Limestone Inn Bed & Breakfast, or the Reynolds Mansion located in the nearby community of Bellefonte.

Once you’ve selected your accommodations, get ready to explore stunning state parks, conquer Mount Nittany, delve into the depths of Penn’s Caves, uncover rich American history, and immerse yourself in vibrant cultural events. Let’s dive right into the highlights of your #HappyValleyPA itinerary!

Day One: State Parks & Ice Cream Galore

Three kayakers in Bald Eagle State Park, Happy Valley Pennsylvania

Start your Happy Valley experience by exploring the area’s beautiful state parks. For what Pennsylvania seemingly lacks in national parks, it more than makes up for in equally impressive state-operated green spaces. Bald Eagle and Black Moshannon State Parks both offer hundreds of miles of hiking trails and opportunities for fishing, boating, and swimming. Alternatively, head to Rothrock State Forest, where you can explore Whipple Dam, Greenwood Furnace, or Penn-Roosevelt State Parks. Mountain biking and ATV riding are particularly popular activities in this area. All of Pennsylvania’s state parks are free to enter and most offer a variety of camping opportunities. 

No visit to central Pennsylvania, which is teeming with dairy farms, is complete without some ice cream! Reward yourself after your first big day of adventure with a scoop of the regional flavor of choice, Teaberry. (Think raspberry sweet tea in creamy, frozen custard form!) Stop in to the Meyer Dairy Store, Wasson Farms, or the Berkey Creamery for a variety of locally-loved flavors and treats.

Day Two: Mount Nittany, Penn’s Cave & Boalsburg

Collage of images from hiking, caving, and museums in Happy Valley, PA

Set your gaze to the heights of Mount Nittany. The namesake of the nearby Penn State University Nittany Lions is a must-do when visiting Happy Valley, PA. As you conquer the Mount Nittany summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding valley that will leave you in awe. Remember to snap some envy-inducing photos and share them on Instagram using #HappyValleyPA!

Next, visit Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park, the only all-water cavern and farm-nature-wildlife park in the United States. Enjoy a boat tour through a labyrinth of stunning caverns, marveling at dazzling stalactites and stalagmites, then observe extraordinary wildlife like wolves, mountain lions, and bears in natural habitat. If you crave more caving experiences, Woodward Cave and Lincoln Caverns are also nearby. 

To wrap up your second day of adventures, check out the quaint town of Boalsburg, known as the birthplace of America’s Memorial Day. Take a deeper dive into American history at the Pennsylvania Military Museum. If you have time, be sure to stop by the Nittany Meadow Farm, a working livestock farm offering everything from goat yoga classes to farm-stay accommodations. End the evening sampling hearty local cuisine at Duffy’s Tavern, a popular local spot that has been serving customers since the 1800s.

Day Three: Arts & Craft ^ Brews

Collage of downtown experiences including art, breweries, and the arboretum

After two days packed with outdoor adventures, spend the third day of your visit getting to know some of Happy Valley’s cultural highlights. Start with a stroll through Penn State’s scenic campus and visit the Palmer Museum of Art. Another must-see is the University Arboretum, which is maintained by the school’s renowned agricultural program students.

For those who imbibe, be sure to block out some time to explore Happy Valley’s local breweries, distilleries and cideries. You’ll find local flavors with a special kick at 814 Cider Works, Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery, Axemann Brewery and Big Spring Spirits, all part of the Central PA Tasting Trail.

Back in town, window shop your way down College Avenue, the main street of State College. There you’ll find tons of eateries from fast casual to upscale dining and all the markings of a good college town from art galleries to local dives. Later in the evening, duck into one of the local comedy clubs or grab tickets to a concert dance performance.

Keep an eye on seasonal events when planning your visit and consider what kind of experience you’d like to have during your visit to Happy Valley, PA. Weekends in the summer and fall can be quite busy in Happy Valley, which is perfect for those who enjoy the excitement. For quieter times, visit mid-week in any season, which are each as beautiful as the next. No matter when you visit, your three-day stay in Happy Valley is sure to be full of adventure, history, and culture unique to the heart of gorgeous Pennsylvania.

Other Places & Experiences

Hidden Gems & Road Trip Tips

Sign up for our newsletter and get exclusive road trip ideas and travel tips to help you plan your next American adventure!

Find out the location of the hidden gem pictured below in our next newsletter!


Thank you for signing up for the "Best Kept Road Trip Secrets" newsletter coming to your inbox soon!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share Your Adventure