5 Tips to Maximize Your Groundhog Day Experience in Punxsutawney
Every February 2nd, one of the America’s strangest traditions occurs as Punxsutawney Phil is pulled out of his temporary burrow at Gobbler’s Knob to predict the weather. Upwards of 25,000 people brave the cold of an early February morning to catch a glimpse of this rather famous rodent. In 2014, I was a part of that crowd for the first time. (Click here to see my video of Groundhog Day 2014)
Without a doubt, Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney is one of the most fun and unique events that I’ve ever visited in all of my travels. The absolute absurdity of the event’s premise and the atmosphere around the town make for a simply amazing event that certainly won’t disappoint.
So, whether a visit to Punxsutawney has been on your bucket list for years or you’ve just started thinking of attending the event, here are my top five suggestions to make sure you get the most out of your time at Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney.
Gates at Gobbler’s Knob open to the public at 3am on the morning of Phil’s prognostication. I made the mistake of figuring that a 5am arrival time would be okay. I mean, how many people would get there super early? Phil wasn’t even coming out until 7:30am.
The answer is a lot.
When I arrived at 5am, I would estimate that at least 10,000 people were already partying away at the Knob. This was despite the constant drizzle and quickly developing mud that made conditions less than ideal.
The good news is that there is a lot of fun entertainment on the stage to keep you excited and moving until the main event.
So, if you want to get a close view of the morning’s events, get there as close to 3am as possible.
Buy Your Phil Merchandise in Town
When I first arrived at Gobbler’s Knob, I noticed a lot of people wearing ridiculously awesome groundhog hats, scarves, and beanies. It didn’t take long before I really wanted one as well. However, despite asking around, none were to be had on location.
So, if you think you might want to dress up for the occasion, make sure you get your hat while you are still in downtown Punxsutawney. While it might be easier to pick something up the day before, there are a few places open all night to accommodate revelers.
Visit the Attractions in Punxsutawney
While most of the visitors to Punxsutawney come to see Phil’s prediction and then leave, that’s a major mistake in my opinion. After all, there’s a lot of fun things to do in town that will help you forget how tired you really are.
Personally, I really enjoyed popping into the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Headquarters. While their isn’t a lot to see, it’s still interesting to check out the memorabilia from past Groundhog Days. If you’re lucky, a member of the Inner Circle might even be there to answer any questions you might have.
It’s also worth checking out the Punxsutawney Historical Society’s museum. Occupying two facing buildings on opposite sites of West Mahoning Street, the museum details what life was like for residents of Punxsutawney both before and after European settlers. The museum provides a great glimpse into the region that goes beyond the typical Groundhog Day lore.
It’s also a great experience to simply walk through downtown Punxsutawney and see the many vendors and activities going on in the town square. Keep an eye out for the many statues of Phil around town, as well as his burrow on the outside of the town’s library.
While Punxsutawney might be the self-proclaimed “Weather capital of the world”, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a gander at a weather report before heading out for Groundhog Day. After all, early February in Pennsylvania can be quite cold, especially at night.
This is even more true because you’ll likely be standing in one place for up to five hours while waiting to see Punxsutawney Phil. Therefore, make sure that you give some serious thought to what you are going to wear well before you head out the door.
Embrace the Absurdity of It All
Groundhog Day is a great event, and you’re almost guaranteed to have a good time. However, if you really want to enjoy yourself, make sure you go into it with a full dose of imagination.
After all, how else will you fully enjoy the experience of seeing a 130-year old groundhog predicting the weather to a bunch of men in tuxedos?
Groundhog Day is meant to be a ridiculous event. If you don’t accept and embrace the absurdity of the whole thing, you’ll never fully enjoy yourself.