Recently I spent a few days exploring Happy Valley, PA and checking out all the fun things to do in Bellefonte, PA and the surrounding area.
Many people who visit Happy Valley are here for Penn State located in State College. If that’s why you’re in the area then I encourage you to extend your trip and check out what the rest of Centre County has to offer!
There are six state parks that you can get to within 45 minutes and over 750,000 acres of public land here. Needless to say, you’ll find tons of great hiking and biking trails.
During my time here, I stayed in Bellefonte and fell in love with this cute little town right on Spring Creek. Don’t miss this great Pennsylvania getaway!
Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau on my trip. As always, all opinions are my own. This article may contain affiliate links that I earn a small commission from at no additional cost to you.
Things to Do in Bellefonte, PA
Historical Walking Tour
Bellefonte is a small town that’s chock-full of history. From its buildings to industry to the people who called Bellefonte home, it has such a cool story.
Local Historia hosts walking tours where they tell the story of this town in such a compelling way. Definitely not like your high school history class!
They have different events scheduled throughout the month so if you’re interested in history and especially if you live nearby be sure to keep up with their event schedule.
You can also take self-guided tours that they’ve designed for Bellefonte.
Dine at a Local Restaurant
You’ll find many great, locally-owned restaurants in Bellefonte where you can enjoy a meal and drinks after a long day of exploring.
Nomad Kitchen at Big Spring Spirits is absolutely delicious and serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. You can’t go wrong with the cocktails from Big Spring Spirits either.
If you aren’t a cocktail drinker then they also have a great selection of wine and local beers. I had the Mediterranean Trio platter and Guava Coconut Lime Tacos.
Governor’s Pub is a great spot for burgers, sandwiches, and beers. If you’re a beer aficionado then head to Axemann Brewery where they have a food truck there every night that they’re open.
Just check their event schedule to see who’s on the lineup. I had Butch’s Smokehouse and highly recommend the Butch’s Fixx sandwich and the Hazy Daisy (hazy IPA) beer.
If you’re looking for an upscale dinner then try Creekside at The Gamble Mill. Gamble Mill is a historic building that’s been beautifully renovated.
Dining at Creekside is an experience in itself. The menu changes regularly based on what they can source locally. That’s really what makes this place special – the relationship that Chef Michael has built with local farmers.
The menu is eclectic and not like anything else you’ll find nearby. If they still have the South Beach Coconut Shrimp and Shrimp Corn Cake appetizers then those are two not to miss.
Bellefonte may be one of the most convenient places to go fly-fishing as Spring Creek runs right through town.
Make sure you have the proper fishing license and no fishing is allowed from the banks – you must be in the water when fishing the section in town.
This isn’t the only reason Bellefonte is a great fishing destination though. According to the Bellefonte Chamber of Commerce, there are five other “world-famous fishing streams” only a half hour away.
Stay at a Bed & Breakfast
Bellefonte is full of quaint bed & breakfasts when visiting the area this is absolutely the best form of accommodation.
I was lucky enough to stay at the Bellefonte Bed & Breakfast on North Allegheny Street downtown and I can’t say enough good things about this house and the hosts, Kathy and Phil.
Staying at a B&B truly creates a unique experience though. If you want to sleep in and relax for a day then these are the perfect places to do that. They’re also great places to hang out in the evenings.
Buy drinks to go from a local spot and come back to enjoy them on the patio or in one of the common spaces.
If you’ve never stayed at a bed & breakfast, I highly recommend giving it a try. I hadn’t either until I stayed at the Laurel River Club Bed & Breakfast near Davis, WV!
Walk Through Talleyrand Park
This may have been one of my favorite things to do in Bellefonte. Talleyrand Park was one of the most beautiful town parks that I’ve ever seen.
Located on the bank of Spring Creek, this park had picnic tables, benches, and walking paths that were being put to great use by the community.
The setting was absolutely serene with the towering willow trees, ducks, and beautiful landscaping.
Take some time to enjoy the gazebo or bring a picnic and people-watch at lunch.
Make a Stop on the Central PA Tasting Trail
The Central PA Tasting Trail is made up of local breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries throughout Happy Valley.
If you visit the area often then look at purchasing their Passport. Once you have a Passport you’ll get a stamp at each location plus a drink sample (varies at each stop).
After you complete your passport, you get a special tasting trail sweatshirt!
If you aren’t in the area often enough to warrant the passport, this is still a great way to find the local beverage producers. Check out their list of trail members and plan a few stops while you’re in town.
I was able to visit Axemann Brewing, Big Spring Spirits, Good Intent Cidery, and I tried a beer from Robin Hood Brewing Co – just not at their brewery. All of these stops are located in Bellefonte.
Tour the Bellefonte Art Museum
Art is a huge part of the revitalization efforts in downtown Bellefonte so a stop at the Art Museum is a must.
You can see a list of their current exhibits online or just stop by to check out what’s there. They are open on weekends at the moment (as of July 2022) or by appointment.
You’ll find lots of work by local artists here as well as some pieces from around the world. The building that the museum occupies was built in 1810 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you aren’t able to visit during regular hours, walk by their 24/7 display window where they exhibit multiple works that people are welcome to walk by and enjoy anytime.
Check Out Local Shops Downtown
As you walk around downtown, multiple storefronts will likely catch your eye. I know they caught mine.
The Belle Mercantile and Lock Boutique are two popular shopping spots downtown. Thread Baby is great for baby clothes.
If you’re a kayaker then check out Tussey Mountain Outfitters where you’ll find all kinds of kayaking gear.
More Things to Do Near Bellefonte, PA
Hike or Bike in Rothrock State Forest
Hiking in Rothrock was one of my favorite things to do near Bellefonte! I only had to drive about 20 minutes and I was inside Rothrock State Forest.
Depending on what kind of hike you want to do, you may need to set up a shuttle but you can find out-and-back options or a loop trail.
The Mid-State Trail runs through Rothrock and I hiked from the Keith Spring offshoot trail up to Mid-State then to Little Flat Fire Tower and down to where the Mid-State Trail crosses Laurel Run Road.
This is a mountain bikers paradise and many of the trails here are multi-use trails. Get a Purple Lizard map of Rothrock to plan out your adventure and keep it with you to navigate.
Other popular hiking areas nearby in Rothrock include Shingletown Gap and Bear Meadows Natural Area.
Be on the lookout for bears and snakes while here – while uncommon they are around. I saw a rattlesnake on my hike! You’ll also want to wear hiking boots or trail shoes at least because trails are extremely rocky here.
Visit the Penn State Berkey Creamery
A trip to Happy Valley isn’t complete without stopping at Berkey Cremery on Penn State’s campus. That is literally the only thing that people told me I had to do when they heard I was coming here.
It started out in 1865 in the name of dairy research and to this day is a leader in the industry. They make ice cream, cheese, and all sorts of other dairy products.
When you first enter you’ll notice that they have some very unique flavors – I tried Monkey Business which was banana ice cream mixed with a peanut butter swirl and chocolate chips.
If you find something you love, they’ll even ship it right to your door at home. I was tempted!
Kayak in Bald Eagle State Park
From the beautiful birds to the stunning scenery, I loved kayaking in Bald Eagle State Park. You can bring your own kayaks or rent them from Tussey Mountain Outfitters in Bellefonte.
They’ll even deliver to Bald Eagle State Park! I chose to kayak the Bullit Run area because it’s a canoe/kayak-only area so power boats aren’t allowed.
It’s also tucked back in a cove with shallow water so there are great opportunities to see wildlife. I saw a large snapping turtle swimming underwater near a bank and tons of birds.
You can spend a couple hours out here or all day but if you rent kayaks then you’ll want to get your money’s worth and spend most of the day out here.
Bring a dry bag to put your snacks, keys, and anything else important in and make sure to bring water and sunscreen. You may want binoculars as well to see some of the birds.
Climb Mount Nittany
Mount Nittany is one of the most popular hikes in the area, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s an easy trail. The climb to the top is pretty tough!
While the steep part of the trail only lasts for about 0.5-miles you gain around 600 feet in elevation during that time.
Bring lots of water and a snack is nice for when you reach some of the overlooks. There are seven different overlooks once you reach the top of the mountain and an easy loop trail connects them all.
Many people take the white-blazed trail up, turn right, and visit the Mike Lynch Overlook then head back down how they came. I enjoyed seeing some of the other overlooks though and then came down the blue-blazed trail.
I would just caution you in coming down this way because it’s extremely rocky but the white-blazed trail is steeper. Trekking poles come in handy either way.
Go Bird Watching at Soaring Eagle Wetlands
Soaring Eagle Wetlands is a relatively new spot to enjoy the outdoors in Happy Valley. Managed by Wildlife for Everyone, there are handicap-accessible walking trails here that lead to covered huts with large window openings great for bird watching.
There are two locations for the Soaring Eagle Wetlands just down the road from each other. The one with bird-watching huts is on Miles Hollow Road just after you turn off of US 220.
The second is still in progress and eventually will have a fully-accessible fishing pier built there. Currently, you’ll find mowed walking paths through the meadow.
As I was walking from the parking lot to the creek, I came up on a deer that ran off as soon as it saw me.
You can find the parking lot for this location by entering 40°50’23.00″N, 77°59’28.51″W into your GPS.
Are you into birding? Make sure to check out these things to do in Beaumont, TX!
Check Out Eagle Iron Works and Curtin Village
Eagle Iron Works, owned by the Curtin Family, is part of the rich industrial history of Bellefonte and was the last surviving charcoal-fueled iron furnace in PA.
You can take a self-guided tour through the grounds anytime during daylight hours or make an appointment and take a tour with someone in 19th-century dress.
I always prefer guided tours. You’ll learn about the iron-making process, the Curtin family, their role in the community and the Civil War.
Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park
This is a favorite thing to do near Bellefonte with kids! I saw tons of families with kids when I visited. I loved it too though, don’t get me wrong.
No matter how many caves I visit, each one is so unique and this one is especially so since the entire tour is led on a boat.
The river that carved this cave is still there so a boat is the only way to see it! Tours last about an hour and large bags or backpacks aren’t allowed.
You’ll make your way through the length of the cave then you get to go out the opposite side through a manmade tunnel and make a loop on the little pond near the elk.
I only had time for the cave tour but the wildlife tours last for an hour and a half and are done via bus through the Wildlife Park.
Walk Through the All-Sports Museum and See Beaver Stadium
Did you know that Penn State’s Beaver Stadium is the 4th largest stadium in the world?
I had no idea before visiting so it was super cool that I was able to go inside the stadium while I was here! Made me want to come back for a football game.
If you’re interested in college sports, they also have a great All-Sports Museum that is free to enter.
While I was on a bike ride through campus with Tanya who runs the Happy Valley Women’s Cycling team we decided to stop by the museum and they happened to be taking people up for a stadium view.
On their website, it says stadium views are done per museum supervisor’s discretion, weather-permitting, and averaging three views per day.
If this is something you’re really interested in then call ahead of time to check their availability for the day you’ll be in town.
FAQs Things to Do in Bellefonte
What is special in Bellefonte, PA?
So many things! Talleyrand Park is a gorgeous waterfront park. You can fly-fish in the middle of town. The town itself is full of history.
Big Spring where the town gets its water is some of the best water for drinking and making othe beverages. Companies like Big Spring Spirits take advantage of this.
When was Bellefonte founded?
Bellefonte was founded in 1795 and was laid out by James Dunlop. In its early days, it was the home of many ironmasters from the area.
What county is Bellefonte, PA in?
Bellefonte is located in Centre County in central Pennsylavania. The area is also known as Happy Valley.
What does Bellefonte mean in French?
In French, Bellefonte means beautiful fountain. Bellefonte.com had a great article on what the name means and where it may have come from.
Where to Stay in Bellefonte, PA
As I mentioned, I stayed at the Bellefonte Bed & Breakfast downtown and totally loved it. There are only three guest rooms so you won’t be packed in the house with a bunch of people.
Each room has a theme based on some of Kathy and Phil’s favorite places in the US. I stayed in the Sierra Room which had decor inspired by the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
With plenty of common areas you can enjoy the company of others or find a secluded spot to yourself depending on how you feel. There is also a gorgeous courtyard out back.
Finally, the breakfast each morning was three courses and each one more delicious than the last.
This B&B warrants its own post so stay tuned for my full review.
Wrap Up: Things to Do in Bellefonte, PA
As you can see, there are tons of fun things to do in Bellefonte, PA and the surrounding area! It’s an especially great place for anyone who love outdoor adventures.
Hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, you name it and you can probably find it in the Happy Valley area.
Then the Central PA Tasting Trail makes it easy to find great drinks after a day full of adventure. Nothing better than that!
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