Crowds gather in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, every Feb. 2 for a charming tradition that stretches back to 1886. 


Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (photo by iStock)

Talking about the weather in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, isn’t just an excuse to make idle chitchat. It’s as essential as snow shovels in February for this town of more than 5,000. At no point is that message clearer than the dark, wee morning hours every Feb. 2 for Groundhog Day, a charming tradition stretching back to 1886 when German settlers brought it here. 

Aboard a yellow school bus bound for Gobbler’s Knob — a clearing atop a hill about 2 miles south of town — the weather is all anyone can talk about. Singing songs or chatting away, the vibe might be a little too excited for 4 a.m., but it is infectious. The big topic of conversation is whether groundhog Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow (meaning six more weeks of winter) or not (signs of an early spring).

Huddled together around bonfires or hopping up and down to beat the frigid temperatures (average temps are anywhere from 23 to 31 degrees Fahrenheit), as many as 30,000 people, locals and visitors alike wait for sunrise, all eyes on a stage where Phil will be roused from his slumber to give the most famous forecast in meteorology. 

Phil’s emergence serves as a kickoff for more fun in this west-central Pennsylvania town. For breakfast, head to Gimmick’s Restaurant for its chopped steak and eggs and buy a souvenir mug. Before you leave, grab a photo with one of 31 Phantastic Phils — public art statues displayed throughout Punxsutawney that honor the town’s most famous resident. Later, head downtown for an annual arts and craft festival featuring Phil-themed goodies such as winter hats and wooden carvings.

Although Phil’s year-round burrow is connected to the town library off Barclay Square, chances are you’ll bump into him if you spend enough time downtown. His handlers, members of the Groundhog Club who are decked out in black top hats and suits, carry Phil around town to meet revelers. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania 15767,