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Did you know you could go to a groundhog reveal (and they’re kind of a big deal)?

Meet the world's most famous groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA, and celebrate Groundhog Day

February 2 may conjure up memories of funny memes on social media using images from Bill Murray’s cult classic 90s film Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is a pretty big thing, especially for people living in Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney Phil, Groundhog Day’s famous furry forecaster, is a local celebrity and the United States official groundhog — but did you know you can see him do his thing in person? It might sound a little weird, but the unveiling of a groundhog is something you can — and many people do — make the trek to.

man holding a chalkboard with Happy Groundhog Day written on it
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Groundhog Day history

The first Groundhog Day celebration in the United States took place in Punxsutawney, PA, with roots that came across the Atlantic Ocean with German immigrants. February 2 is the halfway point between the winter and spring equinox. As legend has it, if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, it’s an early spring. Where you fall on the spectrum as far as the groundhog’s prediction depends on how much you love winter weather.

The idea for turning Groundhog Day into a full-blown party in Punxsutawney, PA, came from Clymer Freas, a newspaper editor, back in 1887. It stuck, and the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was founded.

Getting to Punxsutawney, PA

Punxsutawney is a small town in west-central Pennsylvania. The town is about a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Punxsutawney is best accessible by car. The nearest airport, Dubois (DUJ), is a little over 17 miles away. Travelers can also utilize the train or bus to get to the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney.

Many of the Groundhog Day faithful living in PA make the trip to Punxsutawney on February 2 as a very early day trip. Others make the trek from all over the United States and beyond. Punxsutawney Phil’s reputation is far-reaching thanks partly to Murray’s movie.

People begin gathering for the big moment at 3 a.m. for Phil’s big forecast. Fireworks start at 6:30 a.m., and the forecast takes place at sunrise at 7:20 a.m. The early hour is why many decide to get hotel accommodations in the area, arriving the night before. Places are available but be sure to plan ahead. Many accommodations are booked a year in advance.

Couple posing at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, PA
Paige Matzerath

Gobbler’s Knob

Punxsutawney Phil’s actual forecast takes place in Gobbler’s Knob. This “natural amphitheater” is where everyone gathers to see if Phil sees his shadow or not. Phil’s handlers are members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle. Attending the celebration is free, but getting to Gobbler’s Knob is not unless you walk. Gobbler’s Knob is a two-mile walk from Punxsutawney.

Shuttle buses begin running at 3 a.m. from Punxsutawney and are $5 per person. Bus tickets are cash only. A limited number of parking passes are available for regular-sized cars at Gobbler’s Knob. The parking passes go on sale online at midnight on December 1 and are also sold at the Visitors Center for $60.  All roads leading to Gobbler’s Knob are closed to traffic except for Route 36 and Elderberry Hill Road, which is monitored by Pennsylvania State Police. Only vehicles with parking passes are allowed access.

Punxsutawney, PA town sign
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Gobbler’s Knob VIP passes

For people who’d rather not find a spot to stand to see Punxsutawney Phil’s moment to shine, there are a limited number of VIP passes for $25. This allows people to stand within the amphitheater. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club also offers a Hospitality Village which is heated with food and coffee, a live feed to the big event, seating, and access to the building’s restrooms. Tickets are required and do sell out quickly.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Groundhog Day 2023

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club plans an array of events beginning on February 1 and running through February 4. A full schedule of events is available on the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s website. Ticket prices vary per event and are available online. Remember, entrance to Gobbler’s Knob is free. Phil also hangs out in his stump following his much-anticipated forecast to pose for pictures.

If this sounds like your sort of thing, it’s definitely a different kind of trip to put on your travel bucket list. And if it doesn’t sound like your kind of trip? There’s always Bill Murray.

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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