This post is in partnership with Visit Penn State who hosted our weekend stay. All opinions are my own. You can read my full Disclosure Policy here. Thank you to the Visit Penn State and participating partners for having us!
My husband and I are both Penn State alumni and we’ve been back to campus a handful of times since graduation (many years ago…let’s not talk about when). While we’ve taken the kids with us on day trips, we’ve never spent an entire weekend in State College until recently. Visit Penn State invited us to come with the family and explore what there is to do with kids at Penn State. Turns out there’s a lot more than I was aware of!
Here’s a quick video tour of our trip and more pic of our favorite stops below.
9 Things To Do At Penn State With Kids
Take In A Game
Football might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Penn State sports (and we’re planning on hitting a game this season – can’t wait!) but there are tons of collegiate sports and many of them are so much fun to watch and FREE, too!
Visit the PSU sports website to find out when and where each sport competes. Soccer, lacrosse, fencing, baseball, wrestling. There are tons of options here and if you’ve got kids that play sports, it’s really neat for them to see how it’s done at the college level.
My little boy is a big time McSorley fan and I love this pic of him dreaming over Beaver Stadium.
Tour the Penn State All-Sports Museum
The Penn State All-Sports Museum is awesome. It’s located right under Beaver Stadium and there is a small admission fee but it’s very little and totally worth it.
You’ll notice the gift shop just off to the left as soon as you walk in, and that’s a great place to get your PSU gear. Huge selection!
One area of the museum is dedicated to indoor sports and one to outdoor sports. There are tons of interactive exhibits that allow the kids to stay interested (You know that taking kids to a museum is hit or miss, but mine both loved this one.)
There’s so much history in this museum, and the cool thing is that while it’s definitely focused on sports, there is a lot of info about what these athletes went on to do in their lives. Penn State is really proud of it’s student athlete graduation rate. So many of them went on to do amazing things with their degrees!
Don’t miss the Nittany Lion and Alma Mater photo opp in the lobby!
To get the full college-town experience, you have to stay downtown! We were hosted at the brand new Hyatt Place which is on West Beaver Avenue, just one block from campus. It’s an ideal location not only to get to campus and the downtown hot spots quickly, but it literally is right on top of the Target that houses a Starbucks.
This is a really beautiful hotel with modern decor. We loved that they include a complimentary breakfast with your stay. That makes traveling with kids much easier (and more affordable!).
Our room had 2 comfortable beds and a sitting area. We drove into town in what seemed like a monsoon so these two were happy to arrive and relax!
Downtown State College has changed a bit since I was in school but many of my old favorites are still there. I love that there are so many independent restaurants like Spats, The Corner Room, and Ye Old College Diner. There’s a variety of eateries to please any taste and budget.
The shopping is tons of fun, too, of course! The Student Book Store is one of my favorite places to stop for PSU gear. It’s very reasonably priced and they have a huge selection.
Look for The Animal Kingdom if you want a fun place to shop with the kids for toys!
And don’t be afraid to put those shirts on right after you buy them. LOTS of people are wearing their Penn State shirts, including my two kids!
Of course it was neat for me to go back to my old dorms and classroom buildings, but I think anyone can enjoy exploring this campus. It’s beautiful in many ways: lots of wide open space, unique buildings, and let’s not forget the squirrels. They might have been my kids’ favorite part!
The lawn in front of Old Main, the campus clock, is a great place to relax with a book, your lunch, or bring a ball and start training those kids to be the next PSU all star!
We had a lot of fun tossing a football on the lawn. (He might be the next McSorley, right?!)
We are animal lovers so the number of squirrels on campus was a big thrill to my kids. And since they’re used to being around a lot of people, they’re pretty friendly. Now, if you’re NOT an animal person, no worries. They won’t come jump in your lap or bother you in any way. But if you want to make friends, bring a couple of pieces of bread and offer them a snack.
The Palmer Museum of Art is another great stop on campus. We didn’t go in on this particular trip, but last time we were in town we took the kids on a tour. There’s a lot of really cool art inside and it’s not too big, so it held their interest throughout.
I think one of the best things about spending time on campus is just giving the kids a feel for what a college campus is like so that when the time comes, they have a point of comparison when they are shopping around for a school. My kids now understand a lot more about campus life than I ever did when I was their age.
Get Your Ice Cream Fix at Penn State Berkey Creamery
No trip to Penn State is complete without a stop (or two) at the Creamery. This ice cream is made right on campus and it’s delicious and super fresh.
My favorite flavor is Mint Nittany. It’s soooo good. But don’t take my word for it. Try several flavors and be your own judge!
Take In The Photo Opps
There are many places on campus to get beautiful photos, because it’s a beautiful campus! I love this list of the best places to grab your family photos on campus. The Nittany Lion Shrine is a definitely must. It’s really fun to see how the kids have grown between our visits by comparing these pics.
There’s also a new We Are statue, courtesy of the class of 2013, that’s really cool for group photos. Have your kids peek their heads out of the letters!
Catch a Play at Nittany Theatre at The Barn
Before this trip, I had never even heard of this theater and I’m SO glad we were able to stop here. The Nittany Theatre at the Barn opened in 1953 and is the oldest barn theater in Pennsylvania, and one of the oldest in the country.
Located just outside of State College in Boalsburg, this is a small, cozy theater with very talented actors and actresses! We were treated to a performance of Man of La Mancha – it was awesome.
This picture captures the entire stage, so you can see it’s very intimate which is such a neat set up. You really feel almost like you’re part of the show, being that close to the action!
Explore Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park
Visiting Penn’s Cave was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. This is a little drive from State College, maybe a half hour from town in Centre Hall, but it’s totally worth the trip.
There are 2 main attractions: The Cave, and the Wildlife Park. We did both, starting with the cave. You ride a boat with a tour guide and a group of other visitors through the entire cave, and then back again. It takes about 45 minutes, and the tour guides are very informative. This is one of those educational travel experiences for the kids!
The pictures don’t really even do it justice. It’s chilly in here, a steady 54 degrees year round so you should bring a little sweater or hoodie.
The only thing that’s been added to the cave are the lights. Everything else is natural formations and they are really amazing. Some of them have been given names like the Statue of Liberty, and the cave dragon!
After we finished the cave tour we went on the Wildlife Park tour. You load up on a safari bus for a guided tour, so once again there is a lot of info provided on the animals we saw.
During our visit (late July) the sunflower fields were in bloom – STUNNING. They use these seeds to feed the herbivores, and of course it’s a heckuva photo opp!
The animals here are all North American wildlife and they have a lot of room to roam which is great to see. These longhorn cattle had a ton of space but they seemed to like to stay together.
These mountain lions know how to handle a hot day!
I would allow about 3 hours for Penn’s Cave if you want to do both the boat tour and wildlife tour, and I recommend both. We really enjoyed it and particularly the cave tour is not something you can do just anywhere.
These are the things we had time to take in over the weekend, but there’s so much more to do at Penn State with your whole family. One thing we couldn’t squeeze in was the Arboretum, so that’s on my must-do list for next time.