Photo: State College Pennsylvania

State College's campus-infused downtown area

Photograph by Andre Jenny, Aurora Photos

Pop. 38,720
GPS: 40°47'N 77°51'W

Ah, to be young and live in a rugged corner of the Alleghenies. Eighteen- to-24-year-olds make up nearly two-thirds of this Penn State playground’s population—the rest just act that age. Grads land gigs at the gear shops and outfitters among the tap rooms and taverns here, and the Happy Valley continues living up to its name.

PLAY

Ride singletrack on Mount Nittany, fly-cast in one of 19 trout streams, or race the Tussey Mountainback, a 50-mile (80-kilometer) ultramarathon in October. If you’re in town during football season, try and catch a game (if you can get tickets) or just tailgate with the other 200,000 people who come to watch. For a more relaxed (and healthier) day, head just 7 miles (11 kilometers) east of State College to visit Tait Farm, a delicious mom-and-pop organic farm that offers tours all year long—and has covetable jellies and jams (www.taitfarmfoods.com).

EAT

The Original Waffle Shop is a State College staple, serving families and hungover college kids since 1972 (www.originalwaffleshop.net); Kelly’s Steak House offers a more upscale, yet still casual, scene for—you guessed it—great steak (www.kellys-steak.com). For a drink, Zeno’s has a large beer selection and live music, and isn’t packed with freshman (www.zenospub.com).

SLEEP

Try Carnegie House, an upscale boutique hotel three miles (five kilometers) from campus (www.carnegiehouse.com), or head to the University-run Nittany Lion Inn for an elegant country stay (www.pshs.psu.edu/NittanyLionInn).

Share