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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Pennsylvania’s ‘Happy Valley’

State College at a Glance

Location:Central Pennsylvania

Access: University Park Airport, U.S. Rt. 80, U.S. Rt. 322

Major Meeting Spaces: CPenn Stater, Toftrees, Ramada, Days Inn, Wyndham

Hotel Rooms: 2,500

Off-Site Venues: Beaver Stadium, American Philatelic Society

Contact Info:

Happy Valley Adventure Bureau


Known to locals as the Happy Valley, State College, Pennsylvania, sits in the heart of the Keystone State, surrounded by the gently rolling Appalachian Mountains. This lovely location seems to be only partly responsible for the alias Happy Valley, however. According to local lore, it’s the town’s charming, laid-back and, yes, happy vibe that really accounts for it.

Part of that positive energy is undoubtedly because of the town’s student population. Penn State University’s main campus is in State College, and when school’s in session, the population swells from around 42,000 to nearly 90,000. But the renowned university adds more than hustle and bustle and great college football to the local landscape; it also provides goodies such as ultramodern conference facilities, making State College a grand locale for meetings of almost any size.

“We call it the Triple A: It’s accessible, affordable and accommodating,” said Dave Gerdes, vice president of sales and marketing for the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau. “We’re geographically in the middle of the state, so we’re equidistant for people coming from Philly, Pittsburgh, the D.C. area, even New York City. It’s all about a three-to-four-hour drive to get here. We are also very affordable. Outside of football games, the average rate for hotels in this area is in the low 100s.”

As for accommodating, Gerdes notes that State College boasts properties in a wide range of sizes, providing various levels of service. Among them is the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, which offers 41 dedicated meeting rooms and 300 guest rooms.

And in meeting off hours, a wide range of activities, such as fly-fishing and getting up close with mountain lions, allow attendees to sample the famously good times Happy Valley has to offer.

“I can even throw a fourth A in our Triple A,” Gerdes said, “because there are also adventures up here: Our outdoor resources are as wonderful as you’re going to find in a lot of places.”

Conference Center

The area’s biggest conference center, the sleek Penn Stater, is just a few miles from downtown State College. Meeting spaces, which feature built-in screens, control rooms, sound amplification and full-service catering, include the 10,650-square-foot Presidents Hall, which can be divided into four areas or can seat 936 banquet style. Smaller rooms range from the 884-square-foot McKinnon Board Room, able to accommodate 14 conference style, to the Executive Conference Room, which can be split into two sections. Left undivided, it offers a total of 1,768 square feet, with space for up to 100 if situated banquet style.

Major Meeting Hotels

Small though State College may be, the area boasts a wealth of meeting hotels, such as the Ramada by Wyndham State College Hotel and Conference Center, with 13 meeting rooms spread out over 20,000 square feet. The Graduate State College, a spiffy newer addition to the downtown landscape, boasts the 2,800-square-foot Coaly Ballroom, which can host 300, as well as a boardroom and a larger meeting room. Planners might also want to consider Toftrees Resort and Conference Center, which features an 18-hole PGA Championship golf course to go along with its more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space and 102 guest rooms.

Unique Venue

Located 15 minutes from State College, the American Philatelic Society rents its quarters in a former match factory built in 1900. Eight banquet and conference-style rooms are available, like the 2,000-square-foot Sundman Hall, which can accommodate 200 theater style. Along with the singular spaces, attendees will be wowed by the organization’s impressive displays. They include two Smithsonian exhibits and “over 500 volumes of stamps from around the world,” said Ken Martin, the society’s director. “We have a copy of the Inverted Jenny, the most famous U.S. stamp. That one’s valued at around $300,000.”

After-Meeting Attractions

If it happens outdoors and it’s fun, chances are you can do it in Happy Valley. From fly-fishing so world class it’s attracted high-profile anglers like President Jimmy Carter to teambuilding on the ropes course at Stone Valley Vertical Adventures, the State College area is an adventurer’s paradise. Especially popular with groups of any size, Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park offers a 90-minute wildlife tour that showcases everything from mountain lions to timber wolves. Penn’s Cave itself is unique “in that our entire tour is given by boat,” said Terri Schleiden, the attraction’s marketing director. “We’re one of only three all-water caves in the U.S.”