When it comes to the pursuit of learning, research and innovation, few educational institutions work harder than Penn State. Radiating like a bright beacon from its main University Park campus in State College, Pa., the university’s reach extends throughout Pennsylvania, the U.S. and around the globe, thanks to programs like its Global Engagement Network, a strategic alliance with peer institutions in China, Peru, India, Germany, South Africa and other nations.
Going to Penn State pays dividends. According to Payscale.com’s 2014 survey, the school ranks ninth in the nation for 20-year total net return on investment.
As fans, followers and loyal alumni will readily attest, Penn State is also a “work hard, play hard” school—a benefit that readily accrues to groups, conferees and other visitors to “Happy Valley.”
“Along with helping with your meeting, conference or event, our staff can plan your free time,” says Shirley Smith, director of sales for the Central Pennsylvania CVB. “[Groups can] enjoy tours of art venues, theaters or museums, see a sporting event, and complete their visit with live music, performances and more.”
When it comes to putting fun and entertainment on the agenda, State College is one smart choice.
Built by Warner Brothers in 1938, the original State Theatre served as a test model for a new kind of consumer-friendly movie house experience. With excellent acoustics and unobstructed sightlines, that customer-centric tradition continues today at this meticulously restored State College treasure.
“More than just an impressive building, the State Theatre is the epicenter of the area’s cultural life, hosting national touring musicians, local dance and theater productions, film festivals and more,” says Greg Ray, the venue’s executive director. The plush, 571-seat Friedman Auditorium and 60-plus-seat upstairs Attic are both available for private rental.
Another cultural star is the Penn State Center for the Performing Arts, featuring world-class symphonies, ballet and Broadway shows, jazz, drama, dance and more.
In the heart of campus, the Palmer Museum of Art is another time-treasured asset for art appreciation and events. Opened in 1972, the free-admission museum’s far-ranging collection spans genres and the centuries. Part of the university’s College of Arts and Architecture, the Palmer offers guided tours for groups of 10 or more.
Featuring a large gallery space on two floors, Green Drake Gallery and Arts Center in nearby Millheim is both a showcase for the arts and a place for artists to gather.
“We regularly feature live music as well as monthly poetry readings, while upstairs, several artists have their studios and teach music and art classes,” says Karl Eric Leitzel, managing partner and resident artist. “Regular hours are Friday and Saturday, but we can open during the week for visits, tours or customized programs.”
Home ballpark of the State College Spikes, minor-league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals and 2014 champions of the New York-Penn League, LEED-certified Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is a supremely versatile option with rentable spaces such as the clubhouse, batting cages, executive boardroom, 20 luxury suites and the field itself on limited dates.
“We are unlike any other entertainment option in the area,” says Scott Walker, vice president of sales at Lubrano Park. “During the season, on non-game days and in the off-season, we host every imaginable type of gathering, from corporate groups to charity events. If you can think of it, our goal is to make it happen.”
Event-capable Beaver Stadium, home of Penn State football and featuring 106,537 seats, making it the second-largest stadium in the nation, is the biggest entertainment stage in town. Adjacent Bryce Jordan Center has major event muscle of its own, however. Seating 16,000 people, this multipurpose arena, the largest in Central Pennsylvania, flexibly accommodates everything from executive meetings to rock concerts. To date, 31 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have played here.
Since its founding in 1967, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts has grown into the area’s premier summer event. Held in early July, the Festival brings 125,000 people to State College and the University Park campus of Penn State for a five-day celebration of visual and performing arts.
“In addition to a full day of events for children, visitors come to see and [buy the work of] over 300 juried artists from across the country, while taking in a wide variety of musical performances on outdoor or indoor stages,” says Rick Bryant, the festival’s executive director. “The festival is also a time for art exhibits, a book fair, Penn State alumni events and even the area’s oldest 10K run.”
Groups seeking outdoor activities have a wealth of options at Tussey Mountain All Seasons, a year-round resort with conference facilities and entertainment ranging from festivals and concerts to winter sports.