Going to school in a college town that consistently ranks in the top five college towns in the country certainly has its perks. When I give campus tours, I always highlight the fact that many colleges have a downtown area several miles away that’s reachable by bus or shuttle. Penn State’s downtown starts literally once you cross on the opposite side of College Avenue from University Park into the Borough of State College. The university came first and the town came second, so everything downtown is catered for the students — Penn State merchandise stores, alternative student book stores, cute cafes, restaurants for every appetite, clothing boutiques, a farmer’s market, and so much more. If you’re heading to Happy Valley for a visit anytime soon, here are my top places to stop at when you’re on the other side of College Ave.:
Everything that you ever needed on a daily basis is probably available at McClanahan’s, but if you’re just visiting, this is a great place to stop for Penn State merchandise and accessories. It’s also a good spot to pick up tailgate food if you’re visiting on a football weekend. I prefer the location at the corner of Shortlidge Ave., but there’s another location for groceries on Allen Street as well.
2. The Corner Room
The Corner Room is my favorite place when I’m going out for lunch or dinner. They have great burgers, fries, milkshakes, and a huge menu to choose from. Their comfort food is a taste of home and it fits perfectly in the college budget.
This is a very social place to study downtown and you’re guaranteed to run into lots of friends, but stop in for a quick breakfast or one of their famous smoothies. The SOB, Laguna Peach, and Joe Papaya are by far the best.
4. The Waffle Shop
Well worth the wait, the Waffle Shop always has a line halfway down College Avenue on the weekends. When I lived in South Halls, I dreaded walking out of my dorm because I could smell the delicious bacon and waffles wafting up the Shortlidge hill.
5. The Student Bookstore
If there’s anywhere there should be a “Penn State Lives Here,” sign, it should be the SBS. This is where you’ll find Penn State everything. Salt and pepper shakers, trailer hitches, dog collars, umbrella stands– literally, you name an item, and they have the Penn State version of it.