History buffs and chocolate lovers find sweet spots in the Central Pennsylvania, and meeting planners can integrate these distinctive local characteristics into their events.
“We are located in the geographic center of Pennsylvania, which makes travel easy for statewide meetings,” said Betsey Howell, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Pennsylvania State University at nearby University Park provides a collegiate atmosphere with a variety of nightclubs, restaurants, museums and cultural activities. Broadway plays and concerts are showcased at the Center for the Performing Arts and Penn State Center State, and the downtown State Theater features movies, plays and concerts year-round.
Meeting venues include the Penn State Conference Center Hotel, the Ramada Conference Center and Hotel, and smaller places like the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle and the Carnegie Inn and Spa. The Bryce Jordan Center in University Park is a multiuse facility for sports, the performing arts and occasional trade shows.
Just down the road from State College, tiny Boalsburg, which claims to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, is home to the Columbus Chapel, a real chapel brought over from Spain by the Boal family, descendants of Christopher Columbus.
One of the most breathtaking sites is Penn’s Cave, the only all-water cavern in the country that is accessible by boat. For the more adventurous visitors, there is also mountain climbing at Cave Rock Mountain and skiing at Tussey Mountain.
Pennsylvania’s capital city on the banks of the Susquehanna River has abundant museums, restaurants and performing arts venues, yet maintains a friendly, small-town atmosphere.
The largest convention space is the Hershey Lodge in nearby Hershey, and the largest event space is the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, where the Mennonite World Conference will be held in 2015. A variety of unusual venues accommodate smaller meetings, among them the Antique Auto Museum, the Hershey Story Museum, the Hershey Theatre, the State Museum and the Whitaker Center for the Science and the Arts.
Nearby Hershey is a paradise for chocolate-lovers. “You don’t come here without trying Hershey chocolate,” said Sharon Atland, vice president of operations, Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. “Every restaurant has some type of fabulous chocolate dessert on their menu.”
Visitors can also sample Hershey Park, an amusement park built by Hershey founder Milton Hershey for his employees, or tour a chocolate factory and even create their own candy bars. The story of the Hershey bar is told from the beginning at the Hershey Story Museum.
Other attractions are a Hollywood Casino and the Pennsylvania National Race Course, a nice location for meetings with a spectacular view of Blue Mountain.