When that first cool breeze shakes the trees, it’s time to look towards State College.
Whether you’re moving a kid into the dorms, taking in a football game, or peeping the leaves, Centre County is the place to be. And you can take your visit to the next level by adding local wineries to your agenda.
Things to See
The Penn State Nittany Lions are an iconic college football program and for every fall home game, more than 100,000 fans pack their stadium. That makes it the second-largest stadium in the country by capacity. Snag tickets (if you can!) and be sure to arrive early to catch some of the tailgating action.
Penn State University
Founded in 1855, Pennsylvania’s flagship state school educates 40,000 undergraduates in addition to 6,500 graduate students. That’s a whole lot of talented young people, bringing their energy and their spending dollars to the thriving town. Even if you’re not affiliated with PSU, the campus is worth a visit. Stop by the Palmer Art Museum — admission is free — to check out its collection of American art from the late eighteenth century to the present, including paintings, photography, ceramics, studio glass, and sculpture. If the weather cooperates, add a stroll through the Arboretum at Penn State to your itinerary. You can meander through the gardens and learn about the area’s native plants. And no visit to State College would be complete without a scoop or two from Penn State Berkey Creamery. Don’t let the lines deter you: this ice cream is not only delicious, but virtuous — profits support teaching, research, and outreach programs in the school’s Department of Food Science.
Pennsylvania Military Museum
Just four miles from State College in Boalsburg sits the Pennsylvania Military Museum. This is a must-do for history buffs itching to explore the museum’s collection of weapons, equipment, horse-drawn wagons and even a World War II-era jeep built by the American Bantam Car Company in Butler, PA.
Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park
If you’ve got the kiddos in tow, then this combination nature park and natural wonder makes for an easy adventure. Dripping with stalactites, Penn’s Cave boasts a half mile of wonders and maintains a temperature of 52 degrees year-round. The adjoining 1,600 acres are home to bighorn sheep, bison, black bears, elk, mountain lions, Texas longhorn cattle, timberwolves, three species of fox, whitetail deer, and a pair of bald eagles.
Located 12 miles from downtown State College, this town is famous for its historic Victorian homes and the Big Spring, a natural water source that has been hailed for producing “the best tasting water in Pennsylvania.” Stroll the leafy streets before popping into the American Philatelic Center (housed in a reimagined 19th century match factory) for a deep dive into stamps. Another attraction is the Bellefonte Art Museum, which showcases the work of local artists.
Places to Stop and Sip
Happy Valley Vineyards & Winery
Elwin and Barbara Christ launched their vineyard in 1998. Though they initially focused on growing fruit for other winemakers — Elwin is a trained plant pathologist with expertise in grapevines — the couple eventually began making their own wines. These days, 90 percent of their product is estate-grown, and they specialize in hybrids such as Cayuga, Vignoles, Traminette, Chancellor, Chambourcin, and Noiret, plus Riesling. They also make ice wine from Vidal Blanc. In addition, the couple owns Bella Vino Wine Bar in nearby Bellefonte.
Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery
Set on a beautiful mountainside just 10 minutes from State College, this family-owned winery grows Cayuga, Seyval Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon on its 65-acre property. You can bring a picnic or just enjoy a free tasting in this bucolic setting overlooking Penns Valley and the Tussey Mountain Range.
Seven Mountains Wine Cellars
Winemaker Scott Bubb started out making wine from grapes grown in his aunt’s backyard. From those DIY beginnings, the winery (which opened in 2008) has grown exponentially: It now sells 40 wines and employs the entire family, including Scott and wife Mary Ann’s three children. Stop at the tasting room in Spring Mills, PA, to sample everything from dry vinifera wines such as Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Cabernet Franc to award-winning fruit wines like Strawberry Rhubarb and Just Peachy.
University Wine Company
This winery currently operates a tasting bar at The Greek, a restaurant in downtown State College. Sip on their dry, unoaked Chardonnay or buy a bottle of one of their red blends. Meanwhile, the main site on Misty Hill Drive — which will be home to the official tasting room, the vineyard, and the production facility — is a work in progress. Visit their website for updates or to purchase their make-at-home U-Freeze Wine Slush.