State College is an interesting part of Pennsylvania. It is clearly a college town in every sense of the word, as Penn State University is by far the most important feature of the region. Technically, State College is a home rule municipality, and the State College statistical area actually includes the entire country. The entire region has a population of just over 100,000, with about 42,000 living right in the State College town itself. State College has a lot to recommend it. It is known for being a safe, progressive and culturally rich town. Although the University is critical to the town's economy and culture, there are also enough interesting things about State College and the surrounding country to be enjoyable even for residents that aren't directly involved with the campus.
State College is a college town through and through. That means that the cycles of apartment vacancy are extremely predictable. When the spring term is getting close to letting out, that is the best possible time to look for an apartment. The closer it gets to fall term starting, the fewer you'll find still on the market.
When you apply for an apartment in State College, most landlords will assume that you have an affiliation with Penn State, as this is by far the largest attraction to newcomers. Applications may include questions about your studies, funding and whether or not you're working part time or not while attending school.
Getting around in State College is easy. If you're downtown or near the University, you'll find everything within walking or cycling distance. Even if you need to get around the county, bus routes run pretty much everywhere in order to feed people in towards the University. If you want the freedom to travel further abroad outside of bus hours, you'll need a car, but other than that you should be able to get by without one.
Like college towns across the country, State College residents are passionate about their sports, and Nittany Lions games are very well attended. The University also has theatre and music departments that put on professional-level public performances. If you're looking for entertainment on a more basic level, don't worry: the streets are full of bars of all kinds. Irish pubs, dance clubs and every other type of bar you can imagine can be found in State College.
State College is essentially a community that has risen up to support Penn State University, and most of the major attractions in the area are affiliated with the University. For instance, the Arboretum at Penn State includes a children’s area and a botanical gardens. Just a short distance away, you can visit DelGrosso’s Amusement Park if rides and slides are your kind of thing. Sports fans should pay a visit to the Penn State All-Sports Museum, featuring the accomplishments of the best teams, and most legendary athletes that the school has ever been home to. There are also a number of wineries in the region, most of which offer regular tours.
Everyone loves a good breakfast, and this is especially true when you're a student and you've been out too late the night before. For the best breakfast in town, students and faculty alike know that you must head to the Waffle Shop. Pizza is one of the four major food groups of the college diet, but instead of a traditional delivery pie, the Faccia Luna Pizzeria has traditional wood-fired pizzas that are definitely worth trying. If you like Thai food, the Cozy Thai Bistro is delicious, and a popular destination with students from Penn. Wegman’s Market Café is a good choice for a wide variety of foods, with American, Italian and Sushi all on the menu.
On any given night, you can go into Zeno’s and find the local establishment packed with college students enjoying a beer and a meal. The beer list is global in scope, and there are often bands playing. Bar Bleu has a different atmosphere depending on what floor you're on. Downstairs is the live music, and upstairs there are ample TVs for catching the game. The Indigo has been nationally recognized as one of the best college bars in the country, and often features special events like theme nights at the club. Phyrst is the local bar that is most dedicated to local music, as they feature a live band every single night of the year.
The Penn State School of Theatre hosts a series of shows throughout the year. The Penn State Centre Stage offers a great opportunity for patrons to see established professional artists working alongside the talented members of the school. The Bryce Jordan Center, which is also the sports stadium, sometimes plays host to concerts as well. The Palmer Museum of Art is located on campus, and has a large permanent collection and hosts rotating exhibitions from all over the world. Another fine arts organization in the area is the Ballet Theatre of Central Pennsylvania, which offers ballet classes as well as putting on several performances each year.
The Central PA 4th Fest celebrates Independence Day in style in State College. The highlight of the event is the massive fireworks show which is often regarded as one of the best in the state. One of the country’s best arts festivals takes place in State College during the annual Central PA Festival of Arts. This festival has a history that stretches back nearly 50 years. The highlight is a massive sidewalk sale that provides room for more than 300 artisans and artists to display their craft. During the holiday season, check out the Festival of Trees & Craft show. Dozens of beautifully decorated trees, great food, and a wide selection of local crafts make this a wonderful holiday event.
The major shopping mall right in the immediate State College area is the Nittany Mall. With a JC Penney, Sears, and Macy’s it certainly has all the features of the quintessential American shopping mall. Nearby, Bellefonte is home to one of the largest antique centers in the area, in the Plaza Centre Antique Gallery. This collection of shops fills up over 30,000 square feet of shopping area, so you can be prepared to spend an entire afternoon browsing everything they have available. Finally, downtown is probably the best overall place to get your shopping done. You can find almost anything while enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh air in downtown State College.
In a town that is founded around a college, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that NCAA sports are the most important part of the local sporting culture. Penn State is well known for being one of the most well regarded academic schools in the country, but the Nittany Lions athletic program are Big Ten competitors, and well loved by the locals. The football program is widely regarded as one of the best in the country in terms of the NFL players it has produced. It is especially recognized for producing high quality linebackers, such as Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins. The school also has won a higher percentage of it's bowl games than any other school.
Stone Valley Recreation Area is only a short distance from Penn State. More than 29 miles of trails wind through the park for hiking, and in the wintertime, the area gets transformed into a perfect cross-country skiing destination. Mount Nittany is essentially a symbol for Penn State and the region, and almost everyone who lives or studies in the area will make the hike at least once. There are also two golf courses affiliated with the University, known simply as the Penn State Golf Courses. There is also some excellent fishing just a short distance away from State College, with the closest being Spring Creek. Spring Creek is an ideal place to catch brown trout.