so much for that
State College Visitor Info for the Michigan Men
I know I promised something along these lines earlier last week-- sorry for taking so long. Without disclosing boring details, let it be known that work got in the way. With that being said, YES, I am a true blue Michigan Man deep in the heart of Nittany Lion country (Jason Kates is my only hint), and while I'm sure I'm not the only one, I'm guessing I have some information that may come in handy for other UM fans making the trip to Happy Valley. aka State College. aka University Park. aka Paternoville.
Yes, the place has got a lot of nicknames.
Truth is, Penn St. has a FANTASTIC gameday scene-- I've been to a lot of college football venues and in truth PSU is a large part of the measuring stick I hold them to. Don't get me wrong-- visiting Ann Arbor will always be my favorite and is nothing short of a pilgrimage-- but Penn State offers just a great way to spend a fall Saturday in ways many other places just can't. And, for the record, I am NOT a Penn State grad, just spent lots of gamedays up there with family and friends. So if you're making the trip and want to experience it, this is my advice:
I'm assuming most of you coming in from Ann Arbor will be doing so on Route 80-- so you want to look for Rt. 322, which will take you right into downtown State College. Being that it's a late game, there's going to be all of the usual stuff to do but more time to do it-- so the earlier you get there, the better. By about 11:00 am traffic will probably get downright ugly. Ultimately you want to find PA Rt. 26, which is College Avenue.
College Ave. IS gameday at PSU-- just a great pre-game scene. It's like a huge outdoor shopping mall/fair for all things Penn State, better than State Street I must admit. The place will be hoppin' and there'll be lots of spectacles like drum lines and glee clubs and cheer squads doing their thing on the corner. College Ave. (a one-way) and its accompanying 'other-way' street, Beaver Ave. are usually a can't miss for things to see and do. There's quite a few parking garages between the two. So poke around, see the sights, some great restaurants if you're that hungry, go sit on the pig, etc. I'd suggest hitting those and walking around for a bit-- if you're looking for bars, my personal pre-game favorite is the Rathskeller, right off of College Ave. Great cellar bar that's pretty friendly to the opposition, but who knows for Saturday-- more on that later.
In terms of the campus, basically College Ave is the dividing line between the school and the town. All points north of the street is the school itself. If that's your thing there's a few points of interest-- head north up Burrows to check out all the frat houses, which will lead you up to the legendary Nittany Lion shrine-- basically it's the rock statue of the lion that everyone gets their picture on during graduation. From there hang a right down Curtin Road past the Paterno library (he does give a ton of money), past the Palmer Museum of Art (pretty nice), and ultimately west towards the stadium. But first, you must, MUST, get the ice cream.
Yes, the ICE CREAM. Continuing along that road is the Food & Science (?) Building, home of the Penn State Creamery. You'll recognize it by the huge line of fans standing outside waiting for ice cream. Get it. It's worth it. I've stood outside during icy rain-soaked November MSU games for ice cream. The most popular is probably Peachy Paterno, but I recommend the Toasted Coconut. They probably have some autumn themed specialties ready for this weekend too like pumpkin or apple crisp. Mmmmm.
From there continuing west will take you right out to Beaver Stadium. Keep in mind that you won't be able to keep your car in the parking garage back in town so you may want to move it out at this point and start making your way to the stadium. Definitely want to make the move by about 2:30 - 3 on Saturday. If you drive back up this same route you can park just off of Curtin Road in a series of grass practice fields. This is not where the high-end tailgating takes place, but it's still fantastic. Lots of Satellite TVs, lots of good food-- definitely not as good as SEC tailgating, or the Bratfests I've seen in Ann Arbor, but great nonetheless. Typically I'll actually find a spot up here as soon as I get up there and walk back into town-- it's not that far. But, if you DO park here, keep an eye on your car--definitely want to take off the winged helmet magnets and flags, because otherwise they WILL be gone, of course.
At that point you're on the NW corner of the stadium-- probably already can see the Beave (hehe) and you're just a quick stroll past the soccer field to the stadium itself. So you can start up your own tailgate or perhaps look around for other maize (you'll see tons of blue, obviously). For other things to do, I'd suggest hitting the SW corner of the stadium. The Bryce Jordan Center is the indoor arena-- that's where the band will be, and typically lots of other fun stuff too. If I remember myself, it's also where visiting teams usually have a tent set up with merchandise and snacks. Lots of excitement around there, lots of energy. It's also where the big spenders get to tailgate-- it's always possible to run into ex-players there like Curt Warner, Brandon Short, even the occasional big name NFLer like Arrington. If you can make friends there you've done something.
At that point, time to get into the stadium-- it's pretty big, and when the weather's great it's solid. The opposing team section is usually in the NW corner of the stadium, right down below the food stand in the corner of the end zone. It's loud, of course. One thing I've always been impressed with at Beaver Stadium is the grass. I'd eat pudding off that grass, I swear it's that well-groomed.
As far as how we'll be treated as UM fans, I don't really know what to say. The first time I saw UM play there was 99, and I was afraid to wear just about anything-- and to my surprise there was maize and blue EVERYWHERE, all over town, all over the tailgating-- nobody seemed to mind! Then again, they were not a very good team in the late 90s (we won that one 19-0 thanks to the playmaking of Marquise Walker, of all people). Since then it seems like they usually let us go about our business-- keep in mind this is the closest game for the East Coast UM fan base, so on a typical year there's Michigan people everywhere.
Usually Penn State fans are pretty cool about opposing fans (with the exception of those striped overall-wearing Badger freaks who deserve what they get), but I really don't know what to expect this week. First of all, it's a late game which means people will party PRETTY hard before the game-- so they might get a bit obnoxious in the first quarter. What worries me is the streak-- it's been a LOOOOOOOOOONG time since we've beat them, and they expect to crush us, so they might get a bit cocky. On the other hand, if we actually BEAT them, and ruin their dream season as we have so many times before-- I would definitely suggest getting the hell outta Dodge as soon as possible. It'll get dicey for sure.
Otherwise that's about all I can offer. Gameday is a great time up there, but then again I guess I'm biased because I've always been up with friends and family. If you're into nightlife there's lots of great bars up and down College Ave., but do the right thing and take off the foam Wolverine head-- Win or loss it'll probably be a better night if you do.
I'll be up-- probably be wearing a white Hart jersey with a brown Adidas hat if anyone cares. Or maybe a blue Woodson jersey. I actually DO have a blue #60 UM Jersey (long story, and no, it doesn't involve Moosman), but the thing is just too damn big, so I probably won't wear it. But if I do, I'm sure I'll be the only one so if you see a maize #60 weaving through the crowd be sure to give me a 'Go Blue.'
As for the game-- I'm not expecting anything. I haven't been out to the House, so I'd just like to see McGuffie break one in person.