By Colleen Nersten and Hope Damato
Penn State indefinitely suspended in-person campus tours for prospective and transfer students last spring due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Whether you’ve been bleeding blue and white since birth or you don’t have a clue what the hell a Nittany Lion is, campus tours are essential for getting a true feel of a university.
We did the walking for you and toured Penn State the *correct* way. If you’re not a fan of the overly-peppy tour guides who might occasionally feed you a few cheeky mistruths and tall tales, our tour is for you.
Use our *official* map or go off the beaten path on our Onward State guided tour. Hopefully, this will give you a better idea of campus life while you’re stuck at home.
1. HUB Parking Deck
If you venture to Penn State’s campus, it’s best to park at the HUB deck. It’s easy to locate and central to downtown and the busiest parts of campus. You can park your car there for a by-the-hour fee while you’re trekking though the college crowd.
2. HUB-Robeson Center
The HUB is generally the most bustling part of campus where you’re almost guaranteed to run into someone you know. It has a slew of dining options, including Chick-fil-A, Jamba Juice, Burger King, Panda Express, Blue Burrito, McAlister’s Deli, and, most importantly, Starbucks.
There’s plenty of places to study, multicultural lounges, and even an overpriced Penn State Bookstore spread throughout the HUB. It also has a fancy staircase that students fondly refer to as the “High School Musical” steps. (See picture above)
3. Chemical & Biomedical Engineering Building
Honestly, you’ll probably never go in this building during your time at Penn State, but it’s our personal favorite on campus. It’s a state-of-the-art research laboratory building and a place to go to look at floor-to-ceiling whiteboards covered in math equations. Plus, its neon LED lights illuminate pretty colors at night.
4. Thomas Building
If Penn State sticks to its plan and classes are fully in-person in the fall, you’re almost guaranteed to have a class in Thomas 100 (or 101 and 102). There are several lecture halls that can fit hundreds of students in one room. At night, they’re great for studying (or playing Mario Kart on the big screen!).
5. Pollock Testing Center
The Pollock Testing Center isn’t the most ~exciting~ part of campus. Many Penn State professors schedule exams through the testing center. It’s important to know that the Pollock Testing Center is not the same as Pollock Dining Commons. You’ll probably cry on this bench at least once in your college career.
6. Pollock Dining Commons
Pollock is (arguably) the best dining hall on campus and a place you’ll frequent for your meals. It also has a lounge with ping pong tables, Dance Dance Revolution machines, and study spots that have a gorgeous view of Mount Nittany. Pollock’s weekend breakfast buffets are unmatched.
7. University Health Services (UHS)
Chances are you won’t be visiting UHS for a fun time, but it’s important to know where to go when you inevitably catch the freshman plague. If COVID-19 sticks around and you’re symptomatic or exposed to a positive individual, UHS nurses will jam a test up your nose with pleasure. But it’s clean and modern inside, and there’s even a pharmacy on the first floor.
8. Renovated & Unrenovated East Dorms
The majority of freshmen live in East Halls, and while there are brand-new air-conditioned dorms, there are also ancient relics like Packer Hall. Remember: Shithole dorms build character, and you’ll bond with your floormates immediately. There are also basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts for you to
have a twerk circle enjoy the great outdoors with!
9. Findlay Commons
A short walk from the dorms is Findlay Commons — another dining hall and study area. There’s plenty of non-buffet options here, including a salad bar, acai bowl stand, Penn State’s bootleg version of Subway, and a pizza/pasta bar. On the first floor are a coffee shop (Edge), a fried food place called Flips, and tons of seating areas.
10. Berkey Creamery
The Berkey Creamery is the most important part of the tour. Penn State makes its own in-house ice cream and dairy products and is an essential component of the Department of Food Science.
Popular university-related Creamery flavors include Grilled Stickies, WPSU Coffee Break, Arboretum Breeze, and Peachy Paterno (the best flavor). The Creamery normally sells scooped ice cream and milkshakes, but for the time being, pre-packaged pints will do the trick.
11. Forum Building
Forum is another building that you will definitely have a large lecture in. It’s normally pretty cramped, but it’s the perfect environment to meet people in your classes. Don’t even try to read the periodic table poster hanging on the wall — you won’t be able to see it.
12. Nittany Lion Shrine
Every Penn Stater in the world has a picture at the Lion Shrine, as it’s been around for more than 80 years. It’s a landmark that is flooded with visitors on football weekends and graduation. It’s finally open to visitors after a long-needed cleaning and renovation project.
13. Pattee & Paterno Libraries
The library will become your best friend in college, and the sooner you get to know your way around, the better. If studying isn’t your thing, you can always stop in for Starbucks coffee. If you’re ever curious, this is the BACK of the library. No questions asked (Editor’s Note: wrong!)
14. Duck Pond
Penn State is a big school, and sometimes you need to get away from the chaos and talk to some ducks. Nestled in front of University House and the Hintz Family Alumni Center, this hidden gem of a study spot is picturesque on spring and fall afternoons.
15. Willard Building
The Willard Building is another popular classroom space on the West side of campus. There are a handy printer and computer lab here, too. If you’re lucky, you might even meet the notorious Willard Preacher, who is somewhat of a Penn State icon.
16. Old Main
Old Main is another iconic Penn State landmark. On a warm day, the lawn is flooded with students playing frisbee, competing in SpikeBall, or picnicking with friends. In the evenings, the sunset makes it glisten. It serves as an administrative building but is a prominent spot for photos and hanging out.
17. The Corner Room
A short walk from Old Main is downtown State College. If you’re looking for a meal, The Corner Room is a well-loved classic that has been around since Penn State’s early days. It offers a wide array of breakfast options, soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and even famous grilled stickies.
If you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, Irving’s is the place to visit. It offers coffee, smoothies, bagels, sandwiches, and salads. It’s every Penn Stater’s go-to off-campus study spot and a place you’ll frequent in between classes. Plus, it usually doubles as Onward State’s de facto office.
Why buy your Penn State gear from the on-campus bookstore when there are better, cheaper, family-owned shops downtown? If you walk in a straight line east of The Corner Room and Irving’s, you’ll inevitably end up at the end of College Ave., where McLanahan’s is located. The store sells everything you might need in college, including school supplies, Penn State gear, and even groceries.
20. HUB Parking Deck (Again!)
Once you walked downtown and got your Penn State gear, you can take the hike up Shortlidge Road and hit the HUB Parking Deck where your hypothetical car is located.
21. Beaver Stadium
Beaver Stadium is a bit of a hike, but it’s an essential part of the campus visit. Get back in your vehicle, and on the way out, drive past the home of the Nittany Lions. The electric atmosphere in Beaver Stadium’s student section truly can’t be replicated. We’ll be back one day!
Penn State can be intimidating, but there truly is a place for everyone here. As a wise tour guide once said, “You can always make a big school feel small. But you can never make a small school feel big.”
On the north side of campus is the Arboretum, which is a gorgeous garden for studying and getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Near Beaver Stadium is the Bryce Jordan Center, where basketball games, concerts, and THON take place. State College is full of delicious restaurants, hiking trails, and experiences to soak in.
If you like what your virtual tour guides showed you today, Penn State might be your new home. We hope to see you soon!