Are you dying to know just how long winter is going to last? Located approximately 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania lies the small borough of Punxsutawney, a location that’s practically synonymous with the annual celebration of Groundhog Day. While the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, is the main draw, there are a ton of fun things to do in Punxsutawney!
The eyes of many in the United States and Canada turn towards this small town each year to find out whether the iconic Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not, historically signifying another six weeks of winter-like weather or an early spring respectively. Have you ever pondered a visit to watch this annual event unfold for yourself? Here are some interesting tidbits about Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney, and its adorable, furry weather prognosticator for over a century that is sure to make a trip all the more worthwhile.
It may shock you to find out that the much-beloved Punxsutawney Phil has actually had some run-ins with the law over the years. On February 10, 2015, the Merrimack Police Department in New Hampshire issued a warrant for his arrest. Then on March 21, 2018, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Pennsylvania went and did the same. In both cases, the tongue-in-cheek-cited cause for the warrant involved an erroneous weather prediction for the area that year.
Things to Do in Punxsutawney
Discover the Tradition
While mentions of Groundhog Day actually date as far back as 1840, the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper arguably first reported on the event in 1886. The yearly commemoration we know was then made more official in 1887 within the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The inspiration for it is rooted in an early Christian celebration known as Candlemas Day. While that particular celebration did not involve a groundhog, it did make a prediction about extended winter-like or warmer weather ahead based on certain conditions for the day.
If you’re itching to learn more about this town and the bizarre historic tradition its famous for, head over to the Punxsutawney Historical & Genealogical Society. This museum complex is extensive and covers all of the area’s history. Humans have inhabited this part of Pennsylvania long before the German immigrants became obsessed with groundhogs. The historical society doesn’t ignore this fact. It displays many artifacts from the early people and invites visitors to learn the whole history of Punxsutawney.
While Punxsutawney to Pittsburgh is just a brisk 80-mile drive, this old town’s atmosphere is as far from a big city feel as you can get. The town is small, but the surrounding nature is sprawling and beautiful. Come for the groundhog, stay for Pennsylvania’s natural splendor.
In the 1800s the railroad industry was booming. Construction began on railroads that would pass by Punxsutawney. This track never fully came to fruition and was abandoned. Fast forward to the 1990s. Punxsutawney decided to reclaim this railroad in the name of nature. Now we have the Mahoning Shadow Trail. This lovely nature trail shadows the Mahoning river.
Gobbler’s Knob, the area where Phil either does or doesn’t see his shadow every year, is actually open to the public all year round. This heavily wooded area has been recently outfitted with a little nature trail littered with metal sculptures and informational signage.
Fun for the Whole Family
In a town known for weather predictions, it’s not much of a surprise that you can find a science center devoted to all things weather. The Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center, located in the heart of Punxsutawney, is the perfect place to bring the kids for a little learning and a lot of fun. All the exhibits are completely interactive. There’s no better way to learn than with your own hands.
The Main Event
While typically averaging a few thousand attendees, crowds as large as 40,000 have gathered over the years at Gobbler’s Knob to watch the ceremony unfold since it was officially first done in 1887. The ceremony is performed by The Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, a group of local dignitaries who make their way to check on the guest of honor, “Punxsutawney Phil,” shortly before daybreak each year. The excitement doesn’t end when Phil makes his predictions. Head over to the pavilion at Gobbler’s Knob and experience Hospitality Village. Enjoy a fair-like celebration featuring tasty food and a photo op with Phil! There’s no end to the fun things to do in Punxsutawney on Groundhogs day!
Where to Stay in Punxsutawney
Punxsutawney to Pittsburgh is just about an 80-mile drive. That’s absolutely doable for a day trip so staying in the big city is an option. Trying to find something romantic while you’re there? Check out our blog for date ideas in Pittsburgh.
Experience one of the more unique American traditions firsthand in this charming town. Whether you’re taking the quick drive from Pittsburgh to Punxsutawney, or you’re flying from the other side of the world, we assure you that you’ve never been to a town quite like this. See what Groundhogs day is all about, but be sure to check out all the other fun things to do in Punxsutawney too!