Man, do I love Groundhog Day. I love Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas like the rest of em’, but I’ve got a very special place in my heart for Phil.
This year was my second time visiting Punxutawney for the holiday, and it didn’t disappoint. The town goes ALL OUT. It’s perfect. They are so well organized, and the event runs as smooth as any large event I’ve ever attended. This small town in Punxutawney, Pennsylvania (cue Pennsylvania polka here) knows how to throw a party. A big one too. There was an estimated 30,000 people at this year’s event, and that’s even in 14 degree weather.
It’s cold, sure, but the people are nice, and the nonstop entertainment helps you to forget how cold you are. The party starts at 3am up at Gobbler’s Knob, with hosts, music, dancers, confetti, and even a fireworks show. It’s so much fun. There are lots of events in town leading up to Groundhog Day and afterward too. They have Gobbler’s Knob’s Got Talent, a Groundhog Ball and Banquet, Lunch with Phil, and we really enjoyed “Groundhog Days in the Park” in Barclay Square and the Community Center.
If you’ve never visited, I highly suggest you add it to your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed. Save the date for February 2nd, 2024 too. BEN FM is planning a bus trip with listeners. It’ll likely be a ticketed trip with a possible hotel stay the night before. Next year Groundhog Day falls on a Friday too, so take the day off work and make a weekend of it!
If you want to go it alone, here are some tips from our experience.
Buy your tickets to any of the events early.
Most parking passes sell out quickly, as does the Hospitality Village. Find tickets for all official events HERE. I highly recommend buying tickets for the Hospitality Village ahead of time. Worth it. It’s a spot to keep warm from 4am on at Gobbler’s Knob Visitors Center Pavilion. It features a warm space to relax, have food, coffee, live feed of the Knob, fire pit, and access to the restrooms in the building. You also get an exclusive souvenir at the event for every ticket purchased. (Note: We didn’t have tickets to any of these things this year, and we still had tons of fun. The ‘restrooms’ were a long line of port-a-potties, and we took the $5 shuttle buses to the event. BUT – If those hospitality passes had been available, we would have been all over it. It was COLD!)
The shuttle buses are the way to go.
You do not need a ticket ahead of time. You can purchase them at one of three shuttle pickup/dropoff spots: an Aldi parking lot, a Walmart parking lot, and downtown at Barclay Square. Don’t feel the need to park downtown at Barclay Square either. The buses shuttle people to and from Gobbler’s Knob from 3am until 9am and from those 3 parking areas to the Barclay Square festivities until 2pm. The bus passes are just $5 and can be purchased the morning of. We parked in the Walmart parking lot and it was very easy. (We got there at 4am though and it was already filling up quite a bit.)
Stay in Clearfield, PA.
If you want to stay IN Punxutawney, reserve ASAP. I’m not even sure how to best stay there. Maybe AirBNB? If that’s what you hope to do, you should probably book February 3rd for the following year. If not, plan to stay outside of town. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Clearfield, PA. (1777 Industrial Park Rd, Clearfield, PA 16830) It was about 52 minutes from Punxutawney, but the morning drive went fast. They provide breakfast and anything you need, and you can book last minute with this too usually. We paid about $136 a night for this 4 star hotel. Worked great, and near some good food options (pubs) too. The only issue with this plan is the unpredictable weather. If it’s icy that morning, the 52 minute drive will feel much longer.
Like really warm. Get tickets to the Hospitality Village to warm up inside if possible, but if not, bundle up in many layers. There’s a bonfire at Gobbler’s Knob too if needed, but it’s still pretty tough on your fingers and toes up there. We didn’t have any wind or precipitation this year and it was still SO COLD.
Plan time afterward to enjoy the town.
I really enjoyed the Barclay Town Center festivities after the event. It has a number of options for food and drink, and everyone is really happy to be outside in warmer temperatures, still celebrating the hog! This year there were are caricature artists, ice sculptures, balloon artists, a band playing groundhog songs on stage. For food options there were numerous food trucks, brewery tents, cocktails, winery tents, food trucks, free s’mores, and even free beer from Samuel Adams (one per person with ID). There’s usually a movie theater in town showing the movie Groundhog Day all day long.
The best for last. Phil comes out of a burrow at Gobbler’s Knob each year on Groundhog Day, but his home (burrow) is right at the town library on the far end of Barclay Town Center. You can enjoy the festivities, listen to music, grab a bite to eat AND visit with Phil and his wife Phyllis. Yep, he’s married. I got a great video of the two of them having a snack. They’re very cute and the window to their burrow allows lots of people to peer in without really disturbing them. They seem to have a pretty great life there in Punxutawney.
HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY! Sorry about the 6 more weeks of winter. Don’t blame Phil. He’s a national treasure and we’re lucky to be a (fairly) short drive away. See you in Punxutawney next year!