FaceBook  Twitter


The countdown is on for the 2014 Penn State football season with kickoff just a few short weeks away! That hopefully means your return trip to Happy Valley is around the corner! Whether you went to Penn State when the Skeller still had Ponies or could participate in the Phi Psi 500, there is something we can all agree on: It's great to be home. We've put together a checklist of things to watch for when you come back to Happy Valley this fall:

For the Family
The Penn State Arboretum already featured more than 17,000 plants over 35 wandering acres, ponds with lily pads, fountains, and always-free admission. But this spring's addition of their children's garden has rendered it utterly magical. First, there's the name, Childhood's Gate, taken from Penn State's Lewis Pattee's poem: When we stood at childhood's gate /Shapeless in the hands of fate/Thou didst mold us, dear old State/ Dear old State, dear old State.

Then, there's the garden itself. Kids are thrilled with the limestone cave (where they were encouraged to create chalk cave drawings) and wading path they can follow around the garden, ankle deep in water. Everything is larger than life in this area of the arboretum, from the giant climbable caterpillar to the flowerbeds and water pump where kids can help water flowers to their hearts' delight. Aptly called a place to 'wander and wonder,' this destination is close and free, so you have time to just be and explore.

For the Grown-Ups
Big Spring Distillery is big news! Any place whose website starts with a tall tale of a local statesman with a questionable past and shady diplomacy skill already has our full attention, but Big Spring Distillery has more than that: a boutique distillery located in a match factory building in the heart of Bellefonte that uses "Pennsylvania's best tasting water" and the finest ingredients from local farmers to craft something truly remarkable. Open Thursday-Sunday, stop in for taste or tour. Or both. (www.bigspringspirits.com, 198 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16823, 814-353-4478).

While you are in Bellefonte, grab a bite at The Gamble Mill. They have awesome burgers! And don't miss Otto's – they brew their beer onsite with picks like Apricot Wheat, Spring Creek and Spruce Creek Lagers, Mt. Nittany Pale Ale. The Triple D IPA has a 12% ABV! They tailor their menus to feature their beers as the centerpiece.

Get some gear. New coach equals new catchy t-shirts. You need to update your blue and white wardrobe! Get your Nittany Lion supplies at one of many downtown retailers (we recommend The Family Clothesline or Lions Pride on College Avenue, or the Penn State Bookstore on campus). Do you have a student following in your footsteps? Don't listen if they say it's embarrassing to buy a "Penn State Mom" or "Penn State Dad" shirt. You earned it, and how else can you tell the world? Get a sticker for the back of your car, too. Your Penn Stater will love it.

If you're planning to be here for the October 25 for the game against Ohio State, it's Whiteout Weekend – pick up a shirt, too!

Hit the links. You can play a round on one of the University's two 18 hole courses Blue and White or an array of practice facilities where the men's and women's golf teams call home (pennstategolfcourses.com). Or, check out Toftrees Golf Club, which has been awarded 4 1/2 stars as one of Golf Digest magazine's best places to play (toftreesgolf.com). Mountain View Country Club is offering 9 holes and dinner for two for just $59 any day after 3:30! (mtviewcountryclub.com)

Eat. In addition to world-class sports and entertainment, Happy Valley has carved out a niche in local food, wine, beer, and even spirits. Check out a few now and put the rest on the bucket list for the next time you come to town. This time: treat the family to an upscale dinner at Zola New Wold Bistro, located downtown on College Avenue (we recommend the crispy whole red snapper; zolabistro.com). If you want more casual fare head to Rotelli, voted best Italian restaurant for three years running, or old-time favorite, the Deli!!

Rediscover Campus. Have you seen the renovated Nittany Lion Shrine? Stop by and get this year's picture taken. And don't miss the new Pegula Ice Arena across from the Bryce Jordan Center. It is one of the finest facilities of its kind in the nation. Make plans now to go to an open skate or watch the ice hockey team in action!

Remember the Nightlife. Coming back, it seems like so much has changed... or has it? There's still a seat for you at the Skellar, the oldest continuously operating bar in the state and recently picked as one of the top ten college bars. As if we didn't already know.  And don't forget about Zeno's! Located 'directly above the center of the earth,' you probably have an undergrad story to tell, but this year you need to add the sequel! Meet up with friends in the places where it all started, and catch up. It's time. (zenospub.com)

Become a VIP. Over the next several years, Happy Valley will become something like a second home to you. You'll have a favorite place to stay, a favorite restaurant (and even know their best brew and dish), and an insider's guide to all the hot spots in town. And as a HappyValleyVIP, you can do it all for less. Just go to HappyValleyVIP.com and sign up, then use the membership card to get discounts on favorite hotels, restaurants, even massages! Signing up only takes a minute. You'll be glad you did.