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7 things to know about a football gameday at Penn State

We break down the essentials to know if you are heading to a game in State College.

Auburn v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Beaver Stadium

The home of Penn State Football is among the largest and most imposing stadiums in the world. It is ranked third in the U.S. with a listed capacity crowd of 106,572 behind just Michigan Stadium (aka The Big House) and Bristol Motor Speedway, which seats just under 157,000. While capacity is listed at 106,572, Beaver Stadium has seen larger crowds with as many as 110,889 to witness Penn State’s heartbreaking 27-26 loss to Ohio State in 2018. Beaver Stadium just had its fourth-largest crowd in its history during week one of the 2023 season. This time, Nittany Lions fans had a much better experience as they watched Penn State take down West Virginia 38-15 under the lights.

Beaver Stadium has a natural grass field that is so pristine it is often confused for artificial turf. It gets its name from James A. Beaver, who served as Governor of Pennsylvania and president of the university’s board of trustees in the late 1800s.

Tailgating at Penn State

The tailgaiting experience in Happy Valley is an event all on its own. Tents stretch for miles in all directions outside of Beaver Stadium. While you will find your share of burgers and hot dogs, many tailgaters will go out with elaboratly-themed spreads of food and drinks for each home game. You can find some very tasty eats along the way with Penn State being an agricultural school that sells its own freshly-butchered meats and other specialties.

It’s worth your time to simply walk through the rows of tents prior to the game and soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of a Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley. You will meet some extremely friendly people and see some very creative Penn State-themed tents in all directions - some so elaborate that they look like mini-musems adorned in decades of Penn State memorabilia.

Be prepared for two things - to respond with a very enthusiastic “PENN STATE!” to the constant “WE ARE” chants leading up to the game, and be ready to duck the errant footballs from the thousands of kids playing catch and pick-up games outside of the stadium that they dream to play inside of one day.

The White Out

There may be no other sight in all of sports more awe-inspiring than a full-stadium White Out at Beaver Stadium. There’s something about 110,000 similarly-dressed Nittany Lion fans that brings extra juice to an already loud venue. Fans are truly part of the game, whether it’s forcing teams to take a timeout before they even run a play, creating multiple false starts, and just making it impossible for opposing offenses to communicate over the deafening and constant roar of the crowd. The stadium will literally sway as you can feel it move under your feet after a big play, and there’s a good chance your ears will still be ringing by the next morning.

Penn State also hosts “Stripe Out” games (where sections of the Stadium rotate between blue and white) and the Helmet Game (all fans wear white with the exception of a “stripe” down the middle of the stadium to create the appearance of Penn State’s simple and iconic helmet) that create a similar atmosphere. One of these games should be on every sports fan’s bucket list to experience at least once.

Things to Do on a Penn State Game Day

Greet the Team - Fans line up to offer a spirited welcome to the team as they are dropped off from the iconic blue buses before each game. Dropoff time is typically about two hours prior to kickoff, and you can view details at ahead of each home game.

Berkey Creamery - Penn State’s world famous creamery offers some of the freshest and tastiest ice cream you will ever find. Bring your patience though, as the line stretches down the street for a wait of at least an hour or more on game days. PRO TIP: You can bypass the line for a hand-dipped ice cream by purchasing the Creamery’s pre-packaged ice cream containers - not quite as fresh, but still exceptional.

Visit Downtown State College - The downtown area of State College is a short walk from the stadium and offers an abundance of shops, bars and eateries. The area is covered in blue and white clad fans on game days, and while some restaurants may have longer waits, it’s not too difficult to find a spot with an open table. There are also many Penn State-themed stores for you to treat yourself to some brand new Nittany Lion apperal and memorabilia as a keepsake from your trip.

Take Your Picture at the Lion Shrine - This is basically a requirement for anyone who makes the trip to State College. There is typically a line, but it moves quickly (at least faster than the long line outside the Creamery).