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Along The Way: Road Tripping From Happy Valley To The Steel City

If you’re road tripping from State College to Pittsburgh this weekend, you’re in for an exciting matchup, whether it’s on the field or just between the raucous Panthers and Nittany Lions fans who are pissed they can’t tailgate until 5 p.m.

For Penn State’s closest away game of the season and in a location where plenty of students live or know friends, expect to see quite the blue and white crowd on the road and in Pittsburgh this weekend. If you haven’t made the trek to the Steel City before, here’s what you can look forward to on the road:

Horseshoe Curve

First things first, Google Maps tells me the quickest way to get to Pittsburgh is to take I-99 to Altoona and then hit Route 22 to Route 376 and boom, you’re there.

I’ll be honest here — there’s not a whole lot going on between State College and Altoona. Once you get toward Altoona, though, the history buffs won’t want to miss the Horseshoe Curve National Historic Site. 

Photo: United States Geological Survey

Horseshoe Curve is a three-track curve that was completed in 1854 by the Pennsylvania Railroad as a way to lessen the grade to the summit of the Allegheny Mountains. It was targeted by Nazi Germany during World War II and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

Uhhh, let’s see…what else…

The Wilderness

Sometimes you just need a big whiff of the great outdoors. Luckily, the State College to Pittsburgh stretch includes plenty of state game lands. When they nag people not to litter by saying “Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful,” this is what they’re talking about.


photo by Evan Ponter
Photo: Evan Ponter | Onward State

If you haven’t made the trip to northeast campus to check out Penn State’s own livestock, you’re in luck: This trip includes plenty of farmland, as does much of West/Central Pennsylvania. Riveting.

The Big Mac Museum Restaurant

This is getting cheesy. Just a few miles off the beaten path, cure your road trip munchies with a stop at the Big Mac Museum Restaurant in North Huntingdon, PA. The museum provides a unique look at the history of the Big Mac and pays homage to its inventor and McDonald’s franchisee Jim “MJ” Delligatti.

You cannot miss the world’s tallest Big Mac statue.

A Whole Lotta Nothing

Sorry to disappoint, but the three-hour trip between State College and Pittsburgh just isn’t all that exciting. I’m grasping at straws here, people.

Alternate Routes

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put in a shameless plug for Groundhog Day sightseeing. If you’re not in a hurry to get to the confluence of three rivers, taking I-80 West to Brookville and Route 28 into Pittsburgh takes you only about 25 minutes or so from Punxsutawney, the Weather Capital of the World. What a time to be alive.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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