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Life in State College

Message regarding Coronavirus

At this time, Penn State is planning to operate normally for Fall 2020. However, the COVID pandemic adds a lot of uncertainty. The information in this email is assuming a typical fall schedule. We will let you know of any changes required by the pandemic or any pertinent announcements by Penn State as soon as they are available. For graduate student specific information related to COVID, please visit

Living in State College

It is strongly encouraged that you begin looking for a living situation in State College if you have not already done so. With approximately 55,000 students (undergraduate and graduate), the best places tend to go fast. Please refer to the Housing Overview sent earlier in the summer to get you started. If you have any questions/concerns, please contact a member of the BMMB GSA, and we will be happy to help. 


Neighborhoods in and around State College

"The Borough"

Map of State College Neighborhoods


Additional information about the Neighborhoods of State College

A lively, undergrad-dominated hotspot with lots of dining and shopping options. Can be noisy and gets very busy on football weekends, but places you at the center of pretty much everything

  • Close to: Campus, restaurants, bars, shopping, Target
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 0.5 miles
  • Most common commute: Walk, bike

Neighborhood adjacent to the northwest side of campus that is primarily single-family housing with a few rentals. Pretty expensive area.

  • Close to: Campus, gas station, golf course, Nittany Lion Inn, running/biking trails, the Arboretum
  • Nearby areas: North Atherton, Campus
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 1 mile
  • Most common commute: walk, bike

A hotspot for undergrad off-campus living, including the majority of Greek Life housing (read: lots of undergrad parties). 

  • Close to: Downtown, Greek Life
  • Distance to science campus: < 1 mile
  • Most common commute: Walk, bike, CATA Bus

PSU Graduate Student Housing is nestled among the public golf course, White Course. Next to a small and quiet undergraduate dorm quad and nearby the ITS core. Space is very limited.

  • Close to: Campus (on it!), on-site playground, gas station, beer distributor, golf course, running/biking trails
  • Nearby areas: Foster-Holmes, Downtown
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 1 mile
  • Most common commute: walk, bike, CATA bus

This historic district is a mix of single-family and student rentals. Options for apartment, townhome, and house rentals. Quiet, lots of dogs and kids.

  • Close to: Coral Street Elementary, gas station, Foster-Holmes Park, Downtown, running/biking trails, a couple restaurants
  • Nearby areas: Waupelani, downtown, West Campus
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 1.5 - 2 miles
  • Most common commute: Walk, bike, CATA Bus

Options for apartment, townhome, and house rentals. En route to Tussey mountain.

  • Close to: a few small shopping centers, restaurants, several grocery stores, local parks
  • Nearby areas: Highlands, Waupelani
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 1.5 - 2 miles
  • Most common commute: Walk, bike, CATA Bus, driving

A family-dominated area that has very few rentals and is fairly pricey for our stipend.

  • Close to: local parks, a couple restaurants
  • Nearby areas: Waupelani, Holmes-Foster
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 2 miles
  • Most common commute: Walk, bike, CATA Bus, driving

A popular area to live for grad students, generally quiet. Options for townhomes & apartments. Away from undergrad hotspots provides reduced rental costs.

  • Close to: grocery store, some restaurants, local high school, local parks
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 2 miles
  • Most common commute: CATA bus, walking, biking, driving

Beyond "The Borough"

Apartments and townhomes nestled among the trees, popular among grad students

  • Close to: grocery, retail, highway access, restaurants, movie theater, country club, hospital, airport
  • Nearby areas: North Atherton (Park Forest)
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 3 miles
  • Most common commute: Driving or CATA bus

Options for newer apartments, townhomes & single-family

  • Close to: All grocery chains, Walmart, Target, Trader Joe’s, shopping, hardware stores, movie theater, restaurants
  • Distance to science campus
  • Most common commute: CATA bus & driving

Off the main drag of campus and downtown, this area has lots of housing options, including single family, townhomes, and apartments. 

  • Close to: Local breweries, Café Lemont, Sam’s Club/Walmart, shopping, restaurants, highway access
  • Nearby areas: Bellefonte
  • Distance to science campus: ~ 4 miles
  • Most common commute: Driving, CATA bus
  • Fun fact: Lemont has a Strawberry Festival each spring

Other nearby towns

Rent is considerably cheaper when you live outside State College city limits, and a handful of BMMB grad students choose this option. If you’re in the buying market, houses are considerably more affordable outside of SC as well. Some of these quaint towns are very popular weekend escapes for SC residents. The most common commute is by car, which generally takes 15-30 minutes and is mostly highway driving (routes can get very backed up on football weekends and be trickier during winter months). Even if you choose not to live in these locations, they are certainly worth a trip to explore the area!

Bellefonte: Super old, super cool city in the hills. Awesome antique stores, shops, lots of great restaurants and little festivals throughout the year. Distillery, cidery, and wine shops. 

Boalsburg: Home of Duffy’s Tavern, which has some of the best wings around as well as other good food. Quaint little town with restaurants, wine, and historic houses. Rumored (possibly documented) to be the location of origin for Memorial Day.

Some other towns nearby but a bit further out: Port Matilda, Waddle, Pine Grove Mills 

Grocery & Dining

There are several main grocery stores in State College that all have something a little bit different to offer. 

Giant: The most popular place to buy weekly groceries is probably Giant, which has two locations on the northwest (Northland Center) and southeast (Atherton St.) sides of state college. Giant offers a large selection of groceries for a good price, and if you have a Giant membership the prices are even better. They also have a decent selection of beer and wine at both locations, which is convenient if you want to get everything in one stop.  

Weis: Another popular option is Weis, of which there are three in State College. Weis has a bit of a smaller selection than Giant, and tends to be a little bit pricier, however they have some more specific items and a better selection of international food ingredients than Giant.

Wegmans: Where you want to go for a larger selection of beer and wine, or if you want vegan/vegetarian food substitutes, fine cheeses, or odd and specific ingredients. It is a higher class grocery store with quality fresh produce, however, the prices are inflated proportionally to what you are getting. 

Others: There are a few other places where students often get groceries around State College that are more common across the US, so while they don’t need a description they are still good to know about. These include Trader Joes, Walmart, and Sam’s Club. 

There are weekly farmer’s markets held downtown on Locus street from spring through fall on Tuesday and Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings.  It’s a nice place to go to pick up lunch, snacks, farm-fresh produce/baked goods, plants, crafts, etc while enjoying the nice weather.

In addition to the typical supermarkets, grocery stores, and chain restaurants, State College has a wide variety of cultural cuisines and specialty markets. There are a few international food markets downtown including Far Corners Asian Market at 1012 West College Ave. and Momezon Korean Market at 1518B- North Atherton Street. Each sells a mix of fresh, frozen, and packaged food.

Although it’s not common, some graduate students prefer purchasing a meal plan. More information on campus meal plans can be found at: 

If you can’t make it to the grocery store, there are a few grocery delivery services in the area.

  • Instacart: For around $5-10, Instacart will do your shopping for you and deliver groceries to your door in as quick as 2 hours! Instacart can deliver from Big Lots, Staples, Wegmans, CVS, Sam’s Club, Petco, Giant, Rite Aid, and Target. 
  • Walmart Grocery: Walmart offers same-day pick-up and delivery for orders >$35. However, you will need to reserve a time slot at the beginning of the day! 
  • Consider meal delivery kits like Hello Fresh and EveryPlate if you like to cook but don’t want to grocery shop! They will deliver all of the ingredients you need for delicious recipes straight to your door. 
  • Don’t like to cook OR grocery shop? Consider meal delivery services like Freshly who will deliver chef cooked, healthy microwaveable meals to your door. 

The Top 50 Eateries & Drinkeries of Downtown State College

Map of the Top 50 Eateries & Drinkeries of Downtown State College

  1. Are U Hungry ($): Late hours, loaded sandwiches, wings, fries and late night snacks.
  2. Big Bowl Noodle House ($$): Chinese food and beverages with large portions. Cash Only!
  3. Sowers Harvest Café ($$): High quality breakfast, fresh, over-sized pretzels, and coffee beverages. 
  4. Starbucks ($): Starbucks with specialized drinks not found in HUB. 
  5. Yallah Burrito ($): Mexican food with giant burritos and typical taco fare. 
  6. Baby’s Burgers and Shakes ($$): 50s diner style burgers, shakes, and fries.
  7. McLanahan’s ($): Small grocery store and deli with daily specials like cheap breakfast sandwiches and Meatball Mondays.
    1. Western McLanahan’s also has a serve your own beer bar and live music. 
  8. The Waffle Shop ($$): Classic breakfast offerings with an emphasis on loaded waffles.
  9. Liberty Craft House ($$$): Large array of craft beers, wines, cocktails and upper scale appetizers.
  10. Hi Way Pizza ($$): Pizza place with a large array of styles like deep dish, thin crust, and sicilian pizza.
  11. Chipotle ($): Make your own burrito, burrito bowl, and nachos.
  12. Bagel Crust ($): New york style bagels and breakfast offerings.
  13. Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, & Carvel ($): Pretzels, cinnamon rolls, and ice cream snacks.
  14. Yallah Taco ($): Taco stand with easy access, outdoor counter service.
  15. The Koop ($$): Korean favorites and chicken wings. 
  16. Cafe Wow ($): Bubble teas, regular teas, and smoothies.
  17. Little Food Court ($): Make your own plate of classic chinese food.
  18. India Pavilion ($$): North Indian food with a lunch buffet and ample vegetarian/vegan options.
  19. The Tavern ($$): Colonial-style atmosphere with steaks, seafood, and pasta.
  20. The Shandygaff ($): Bar with giant drink specials, dancing, karaoke, and DJs.
  21. Canyon Pizza ($): NY style slice with calzones and breadsticks.
  22. Golden Dragon Market ($): Asian supermarket with chinese and Korean products.
  23. Sher Halal Gyro ($): A personal favorite! Food stand with large portions of Halal food with late but variable hours.
  24. Mad Mex ($$): Sitdown mexican food with margaritas and all-you-can-eat burritos on Mondays.
  25. Kaarma Indian Cuisine ($$): Indian classics and an all you eat lunch buffet.
  26. Webster’s Bookstore Cafe ($): Quirky book/record store with coffee, tea, brunch, and cafe food offerings. Great for studying! 
  27. Brothers Pizza New York Style ($): Take-out NY style pizza.
  28. Irvings Bagels ($$): New York style bagels with breakfast sandwiches and coffee. Great for studying!
  29. Champs ($): The most popular bar in State College with billiards, pinball, arcade, live music, DJs, and dance floor.
  30. Local Whisky & Phyrst ($$): Whiskey bar with american eats and a downstairs Irish pub/bar.
  31. Cozy Thai Bistro ($$): Spicy Pad Thai and other Thai foods with vegetarian and healthy options.
  32. Panera ($$): Specialty sandwiches and pastry offerings with coffee and breakfast options.
  33. Sauly Boy’s ($$): Gourmet burgers, chicken sandwiches, shakes, and fries.
  34. Bill Pickles Tap Room ($$): Restaurant and bar with tavern offerings.
  35. The Corner Room (Upstairs) & Zeno’s (Downstairs) ($$): Upstair American restaurant & a basement bar with weekly trivia, and live music.
  36. Chumley’s ($): Gay bar with fantasitc moscow mules.
  37. BRGR ($$): Gourmet burgers and alcoholic milkshakes.
  38. Duck Donuts ($): Made to order, loaded donuts, with donut breakfast sandwiches.
  39. Saint’s Cafe ($$): Fancy espresso drinks in a small corner cafe.
  40. Green Bowl ($$): All-you-can-eat, build your own stir-fries.
  41. Snap Pizza ($): Custom pizza with a large assortment of different toppings.
  42. Fiddlehead ($$): Giant, delicious made-to-order salads. 
  43. Tadashi ($$): Ramen noodles and sushi rolls.
  44. Cafe 210 West ($): A grad student favorite! Bar with daily food & drink specials, outdoor patio/deck, and live music. 
  45. Federal Taphouse ($$$): Large menu offering with large beer selection.
  46. Target ($$): Like regular Target, but smaller. Has the essentials!
  47. Momotaro ($$): Cafe with bubble tea, rolled ice cream, and adorable desserts.
  48. Little Szechuan ($$): Simple chinese takeout and delivery.
  49. Chrome ($$): Hookah bar with excellent mixed drinks & late night menu with DJ & dancing.
  50. Kung Fu Tea ($): Bubble tea focused cafe with teas, coffees, and slushes

Red = Our Favorites!


The average commute to campus is about 5 to 10 minutes.  Parking is available to graduate students at the stadium at a to be determined cost, but usually is around $120 per year.  The stadium lots are approximately one mile from the science buildings and free buses run regularly from the parking lots into campus.  Additionally, graduate students can park in most of the lots after hours and on weekends if you have a commuter parking pass. Vehicle Registration

The CATA bus system has routes that go near most of the apartment complexes and shopping areas of State College.  The “RIDEpass” program offered through Penn State Transportation Services will subsidize monthly bus passes for graduate students who live more than 0.75 miles from the nearest free bus stop and do not have an on-campus parking pass or a bus pass offered through their apartment complex.  Ridepass will cost $21 per month, and the passes are available at any point during the year. Student passes do not go into effect until August 17th. Until then, you can use day passes through the Token Transit app or pay $2 in cash per one-way ride. Google/Apple Maps is helpful to determine which bus route to take and to locate the nearest bus stop, but you should use the CATA+ app for Android/iOS for arrival/departure times. The buses are almost always off-schedule! Note: Please check the CATA website linked below for COVID-19 related updates. CATA is recommending that the buses be used for essential transit only. For more information, see Ridepass, CATA Bus Website, or CATA Map

There are many bike paths and lanes in State College for those who prefer that mode of transportation. Most roads are biker friendly. If you are bringing your own bike, you will need to register it with the Penn State Bike Index.  There are also additional PA bike laws that are different than those in other states. Centre Region Bikeway Map

Penn State has access to both Uber and Lyft if you need immediate transportation. Zipcar is a program where you can rent a car for a fixed amount per hour and then return the car to the rental location.


Penn State has several fitness facilities open to graduate students.  In addition, students in our department often form intramural teams for soccer, volleyball, and softball.  There are also a large number of club sports that graduate students can join. There are both PSU-owned and private golf courses as well as a disc golf course in the area.  There are also paid leagues outside of the University which graduate students often participate in such as volleyball and ultimate frisbee.

Penn State Fitness offers a student membership (free as long as you are a student!) that grants unlimited access to fitness classes, pools, and fitness facilities in the White Building, Rec Hall, Intramural Building, and the indoor pool (but not the outdoor pool). Penn State's Fitness and Wellness website provides the list of fitness classes that are free to students and how to sign-up for one.

Squash and Racquet ball equipment can be borrowed free of charge at the Intramural Building by anyone with a Penn State ID (only one PSU ID bearing participant required).  There are also climbing walls inside of the Intramural building, which you can use and also rent equipment for climbing outside of the facilities.

Grad students can purchase student tickets to all Penn State athletics events including football, basketball and hockey in the near future.  State College also has a minor league baseball team, the State College Spikes.  Students can get free tickets to most of their home games.

Concerts of all types and sizes can be seen at the Bryce Jordan Center, which also serves as Penn State's basketball arena, the State Theatre downtown, and through the Center for Performing Arts at Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium.  Graduate students can also attend or participate in the music and theater departments on campus.  There are bands and orchestras that do not require auditions for those without much time to devote to outside activities (that’s us), as well as better groups for those with an excess of talent.  Every year the University also sponsors a free concert series, called Movin' On, for all students to celebrate the end of the school year.

State College hosts The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, also know as Arts Fest, every summer. Downtown is filled with artists selling their work and vendors selling all types of delicious food.  At the same time, local artists have a smaller festival in Boalsburg, which is only a few miles away, and is much more affordable.  The annual Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Fair at Talleyrand park is another enjoyable and affordable festival, featuring a large array of regional vendors.

There are numerous state parks and state forest lands within easy driving distance of State College.  Tussey Mountain has skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing hills, as well as mountain biking and hiking trails about 15 minutes from State College.  Bald Eagle State Park, only 45 minutes away from campus, features a swimming area with a sandy beach and concession stand, as well as boat rentals and a small marina with both wet and dry storage for boats. Located approximately 2 hours north of State College is Cherry Springs State Park, which contains some of the darkest skies in the Eastern United States, and is a wonderful place to camp. The dark skies make it one of the best places for stargazing; under optimal conditions, nearly 10,000 stars can be seen with the naked eye.  Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center is a Penn State-associated wildlife facility with miles of hiking around the nature center.

If you get bored in State College, there are several large cities nearby.  Pittsburgh (2.5 hours), Philadelphia (3.5 hours), Washington D.C. (4 hours) and New York City (4 hours) are all within driving distance.  Megabus has buses with routes between State College and Pittsburgh, as well as,  Philadelphia and New York City.