In 1794, explorer James Potter climbed central Pennsylvania’s Nittany Mountain. Awed by “the prairies and noble forest beneath him,” he reportedly declared to his companion, “By heavens, Thompson, I have discovered an empire!”

Named Centre County in 1800 for its central location within Pennsylvania, Potter’s paradise later became the “Happy Valley.” Anchored by the town of State College and main University Park campus of The Pennsylvania State University, or Penn State, the area also includes the historic towns of Bellefonte, Boalsburg and Philipsburg.

Between three and five hours by car from its closest major markets, including Philadelphia, D.C. and New York City, the region rewards groups with a comprehensive set of products and offerings, including award-winning conference facilities; entertainment, sporting and cultural venues; and outdoor adventure programs.

Conference Champions

Owned and operated by Penn State’s Hospitality Services, the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center and the Nittany Lion Inn offer two distinct meetings destinations flexibly hosting a wide range of groups.

With over $800 million in annual research expenditures, Penn State ranks among the nation’s top 20 research schools. Notably, it is also one of only two institutions in the country accorded land grant, sea grant, sun grant and space grant status. One major center of action is the university’s Innovation Park. Minutes from campus, this purpose-built “ecosystem where business, education and research come together,” covering 118 acres, is home to the landscaped, campus-like grounds of the Penn Stater.

Opened in 1994 and expanded in 2004, this leafy, airy escape offers major market appeal as one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s preeminent conferencing facilities. Featuring 300 guest rooms and suites, the Penn Stater offers more than 58,000 square feet of space, including 41 IACC-certified meeting rooms.

Consisting of 10,650 square feet of space in four adjoining halls, the expansive Presidents Hall can host up to 936 guests banquet-style. Suitable for group discussion, the Forum Rooms can accommodate up to 61 delegates in two levels of U-shaped seating. Three Senate Suites, at 624 square feet each, include a lounge with full-service bar and outdoor balconies, while the 100-person Executive Conference Room and 14-person McKinnon Board Room are ideally equipped for corporate and executive meetings.

Key services include the Management Development Technology Center, providing advanced technology and audiovisual support, plus available group facilitators. On-site amenities include the Gardens Restaurant and Legends Pub, lap pool and 24-hour fitness center, and complimentary Wi-Fi and parking.

On campus, the Georgian Colonial-style Nittany Lion Inn is “Penn State’s Living Room.” Opened in 1931, this National Historic Landmark, invitingly presented in Penn State blue and white, offers 223 guest rooms and more than 20,000 square feet of space. Groups can choose from 12 meeting rooms, including the 300-capacity ballroom; 25-guest boardroom; Alumni Fireside Lounge, accommodating 90 banquet-style; and intimate 50-person Mount Nittany Room.

Other gathering spots include the Dining Room, with its celebrated wine list, Whiskers Bar and an outdoor patio. Amenities include 45 exhibition booths, free Wi-Fi in public spaces and meeting rooms, and complimentary valet parking. Plus, groups can also take advantage of the hotel’s corporate retreat program, offering a one-stop resource for organizing strategic planning sessions, interactive teambuilding exercise and other unique experiences.

Other full-service meetings hotels in State College include the 102-room Toftrees Golf Resort & Conference Center, offering flexible meeting and event space, PGA-rated 4.5-star, 18-hole golf course, and farm-to-table Field Burger & Tap restaurant. Multiple national brands include the brand-new 165-room Hyatt Place State College, with 5,000 square feet of versatile space; 285-room Ramada Conference Center & Golf Hotel, offering 20,000 square feet of versatile meeting and banqueting facilities; and 103-room Hilton Garden Inn, with 2,350 square feet of divisible space.