Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Penn State Old Main
Penn State Old Main
Original photo by Emma Wesolowski

Penn State’s Hidden Gems

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

One of my favorite parts of living in State College for the past few years has been discovering all the local places that make this beautiful little college town what it is.

Whether you love restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, study spaces, outdoor areas, other local communities or all of the above, there is so much that makes State College special beyond the Penn State staples that tourists swarm to see.


There are restaurants like The Tavern, The Corner Room, Federal Taphouse and Tadashi that are well-known in the Penn State community, and for good reason! These are Penn State staples that deserve all the praise they get.

However, there are many local businesses that are not hyped up the way they should be, including all of these locations.

Big Bowl Noodle House

Big Bowl is literally an underground Chinese restaurant at the base of Shortlidge, right next to McLanahan’s. Their prices and portions are incredible and their food is absolutely delicious. 

Poke Fresh

Poke Fresh lives near Bagel Crust and Pita Cabana on East Calder Way and it is one of my favorite places to go. If you order on Snackpass, you can get rewards from Poke Fresh (I have earned several free Brown Sugar Bobas this way) and it’s very affordable food.

Poke Fresh is my favorite for a refreshing meal filled with whatever I want. My regular order is chicken, white rice, edamame, jalapenos, corn, pineapple, cucumber and roasted seaweed with sweet chili sauce. I highly recommend it if you decide to try out this hidden gem.

Little Szechuan

Little Szechuan isn’t completely hidden, but it is often overshadowed by the neighboring Tadashis within a few minutes of it both ways on College Ave. Little Szechuan is right next to the Five Guys and Starbucks on West College Avenue.

Although it isn’t quite as cheap as Big Bowl, Little Szechuan is delicious and the portions are huge (I mean like three meals worth). If you decide to go, the hot chili oil dumplings are the best thing I’ve ever had in my life and you need to try them.

Yummy Cafe

Yummy Cafe is next door to Poke Fresh and also has many rewards and deals on Snackpass. It is affordable, quick, and tasty, plus there are outdoor tables to sit at on a sunny day.

One of the best combinations downtown is stopping by Mr. Wish for the paw-shaped custard waffles and the Black Tiger Milk tea, then rounding the corner to Yummy Cafe for some dumplings and a combo meal.

Underground Burgers and Crepes

Although I have not sampled Underground Burgers and Crepes’ burger selection, I have tried their crepes and they are delicious. This is such a unique restaurant on East Calder Way which also has rewards and deals available on Snackpass. The food is delicious, affordable and the restaurant is just fun. 

Sowers Harvest Café

Sowers Harvest Café is downtown across the street from R U Hungry and next to Uncle Chen’s. Sowers has delicious soft pretzels with amazing dips and spreads as well as a truly incredible coffee, breakfast and lunch selection.


Vibe Coffee Co.

I’ll say it: Vibe deserves the hype that Elixr gets and then some.

Vibe is a small coffee shop on the corner of Beaver and Atherton, right under The Graduate apartment building. Vibe has fun, seasonal flavors, delicious lattes and excellent chai. I am a huge fan of their Beachy Beaver coconut and banana latte, but they are constantly stepping it up with new, fun flavors that I am always excited to try. 

Webster’s Bookstore Cafe

Do you like used records and books, delicious vegan and vegetarian food options, amazing coffee, and great vibes? Webster’s is your spot.

Webster’s is on Beaver near the Phyrst and Schlow Library, and across the street from the new Starbucks.

Abba Java

Abba Java is truly such a unique State College location. Abba Java is right at the base of HUB Lawn at the corner of East Calder Way and Locust Lane. Abba Java has great study spaces for college students. Most importantly, all the food and drinks at Abba Java are free to college students as part of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation’s ministry.

The coffee is also phenomenal, especially for no cost. If you’re ever in need of a free meal or a caffeine pick-me-up but funds are running low, stop by Abba Java after class.


The Saxbys ambassador in me needs to shout out my bestie Saxbys. Even though most people know about this little corner of coffee paradise in the Business Building, I feel a need to scream from the rooftops that a Saxbys iced chai with cold foam is to die for. 

Coffee Hemp & Tea

Coffee Hemp & Tea is a brand new store on West Foster Ave that just popped up this summer. I’m not sure if they still have it, but this summer I got the most delicious Peanut Butter and Jelly Latte there. They have unique, amazing flavors and they are a great local business. 

Sweet Treats

Mint Chocolate Ice Cream
Original photo by Macy Miskiewicz
Meyer Dairy

On South Atherton St (a short car ride away from campus), Meyer Dairy has delicious ice cream, an amazing assortment of flavors, and more assorted jams, cheeses and other products. I love their Almond Joy flavored ice cream.

Sweet Frog

Sweet Frog isn’t exactly underground, but the Sweet Frog out North Atherton is usually empty whenever I go, despite having a delicious rotation of frozen yogurt flavors and toppings. I am a Sweet Frog fan to my core. 


Momotaro is right next door to Little Szechuan on College Avenue. I love Momotaro for some great boba or dessert. 

Cafe Wow

Cafe Wow is at the base of HUB Lawn and has delicious boba as well as great rewards on the Snackpass app.

Study Spaces

Chambers Building Penn State
Original photo by Emma Hogan
Chambers Bridge

The bridge in Chambers is quiet, has plenty of seating, giant windows for plenty of natural light, and a nice view of the education building garden and the trees in front of the Music and Theater Buildings. In addition, there are outlets everywhere, so you never have to worry about your laptop dying. 

5th Floor of the Library (Education and Social Sciences Floor)

As an education major, I’m a little biased, but I love the privacy and quiet of the fifth floor of the library. With desks everywhere, lots of natural light, and a quiet study space, I get so much done when I head to the forgotten fifth floor of the library.

I love the reading room, stacks and downstairs seating areas as much as anyone else, but if you need true quiet and alone time, the fifth floor is your place to go.

Health and Human Development Building

I’m a sucker for big windows, and the HHD Building is known for huge, open windows. There are tables and chairs stationed nearby for a perfect view of downtown or HUB Lawn, depending on which side of the building you go to. 

Visual Arts Building Panera

I’m sorry Kern, but the Visual Arts Building Panera is the best one on campus. Quiet and tucked in next to the old Palmer Art Museum, this is the perfect between-class location for anyone with classes near Forum or the lab section of campus.

The little cafe provides the perfect space to curl up with a coffee and your laptop for thirty minutes to an hour, and the trees out front are beautiful in fall.

Music Building

The tables by the Music Building’s Recital Hall between the Forum, the Music Building and the Theater Building are the perfect spot to hunker down and do some work. Next to huge floor-to-ceiling windows and in a quiet space, this is the perfect spot for anyone with classes near North.

If you’re lucky, you might hear a music student playing the piano for the perfect ambiance.

Arboretum Tables

The Arboretum tables to the right of the fountain from campus are the perfect spot to do some work on a sunny, beautiful day. Make sure you charge your laptop ahead of time, then enjoy some time in the great outdoors listening to the fountain run and smelling the flowers while you cram. 

Outdoor Areas

Look, I love HUB Lawn just as much as you on a sunny day. However, there are other places to soak up the sun.

Children’s Garden in the Arboretum

The Children’s Garden in the Arboretum is a great place to go on a walk on a sunny day. The flowers are beautiful and there is plenty to see and do as an adult or a child. Visit the caterpillar, smell the flowers, walk through the cave, play with the instruments and enjoy nature.

Peace Garden

The Peace Garden by the HUB and Old Main is a great shady spot to read or do some work outside. 

Hintz Family Alumni Center

The Alumni Center is one of my favorite spots on campus with the beautiful gazebo, bridge, pond, flowers and tables. Watching the ducks and turtles is so fun and it’s the perfect spot to do some work or have a little spring photoshoot. 

Park Forest Villages

The houses in Park Forest are beautiful and there is a nice sidewalk and bike lane for walking. If you want to go on a run or walk, I recommend the gentle hills of Park Forest on a nice day.

Just a Drive Away

Talleyrand Park

In Bellefonte, there is a beautiful park with running water, a waterfall, weeping willow trees, bridges, a gazebo, flowers, a playground, a railroad track and lots and lots of adorable ducks. It’s a great place to walk around and enjoy a beautiful sunny day.

My Cafe Buzz

Right across the street from Talleyrand Park is one of my favorite coffee shops filled with adorable decorations, trinkets, and amazing coffee, smoothies and ice cream. I highly recommend stopping by My Cafe Buzz before or after your walk around Talleyrand Park.

Fez Records

Fez Records is also in Bellefonte if you’re interested in making a trip of it and stopping by the park, My Cafe Buzz and a great record store. Fez Records has a wide assortment of records at affordable prices. Plus, the place has great vibes. 

I hope you get the chance to branch out of your comfort zone and explore a few of these Penn State hidden gems. Please reach out to me @emmahogan___ to let me know if there are any you think I missed!

Emma is a third-year Elementary and Early Childhood Education major at Penn State University. When she's not writing, you can usually find her singing, reading, painting, going on walks, hanging out with friends/her incredible boyfriend, and drinking iced chai lattes. Outside of Her Campus, Emma is the President of the Penn State Singing Lions, a Students United Against Poverty Ambassador, a member of the Phi Eta Sigma honors fraternity, and works at an after-school program.