Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is well-known throughout the country as the home of Groundhog Day, and the town is even known as the “Weather Capital of the World”. So, it would make sense that it would be home to an entire museum dedicated to the weather, as well as being the home of the National Meteorologist Hall of Fame.
The Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center is located in downtown Punxsutawney inside the historic Punxsutawney Post Office. This building was in use from 1914 through 1998 and has a lot of incredible touches both inside and outside. Make sure to take a moment to appreciate the architecture here when visiting.
Inside the building, you’ll find a central lobby as well as large rooms around the edge that contain exhibits. Most of these exhibits are geared toward kids, and the displays here reminded me of the type that you’d find in the weather section of a larger science museum such as the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. That being said, as an adult, I also enjoyed exploring the space and really enjoyed my visit.
Not surprisingly, all of the exhibits at the Weather Discovery Center focus on the weather (other than a few in the lobby area). The most prominent of these is a large replica of Phil’s Burrow at Gobbler’s Knob.
Visitors can walk inside the burrow and learn more about Punxsutawney Phil, the Inner Circle, and Groundhog Day in general through signs, a few artifacts, and some fun play areas. The information here is really well done, and I thought it struck a great balance between the amusing myth of Groundhog Day and the facts surrounding it.
I also really liked the area behind the burrow, which does a neat job of covering various weather wives’ tales, as well as the history and science around them. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the story behind spring peepers, wooly caterpillars, or corn height and their relationship to the weather, this is a really interesting part of the museum to check out.
The highlight of the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center for my kids was the large tornado slide. This is basically just a normal spiral slide, but it’s topped with cloth and some sound effects to make it feel somewhat like a tornado.
Even more fun, you can set up a foam brick wall at the base of the slide for kids to knock down when they reach the bottom.
We also enjoyed some of the hands-on activities in the space including the cloud pulleys, a unique sand table, a green screen to do your own weather report, and a lot more. Given the exhibit space isn’t huge, I was impressed with how much they fit in the center.
Out in the lobby area, you’ll find a few display cases with historic photos of the town and other information about the history of Punxsutawney. If this sort of information interests you, you’ll find a lot more at the Punxsutawney Historical Society Museum, but there’s still some great stuff here.
You’ll also find the National Meteorologist Hall of Fame, which has inducted 18 meteorologists (and Punxsutawney Phil) since 2007.
The Hall of Fame area is little more than a single case, so don’t come here just for this, but it’s worth checking out while in the museum.
Overall, my family and I had a great time at the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center. And, while the space is mostly designed for kids, there is enough information here to keep adults entertained while the kids play and learn. Teenagers would likely get bored pretty quickly here, though.
It’s worth noting that, given the size of the space, it could pretty quickly get crowded here if more than a handful of families were visiting at one time. However, on the winter Sunday that we visited, we had the place to ourselves, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for the center but was nice for us.
So, the next time you are looking for something to do with kids while exploring Jefferson County, PA, make sure to stop by the fabulous Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center.
Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 11a-3p
Address: 201 N Findley St