The Arboretum at Penn State

Rental Venue FAQs

Yes, we have several outdoor rental venues in the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens. 

Our primary rental season is from May 16 through September 30 due to the prevalence of strong winds before and after these dates. The rental rates are lower during April, the first half of May, and October because the weather is frequently chilly and wet during these transitional months. We do not rent garden venues from November through March.

We  rent venues solely for invitation-only events such as wedding ceremonies, graduation gatherings, retirement dinners, family reunions, departmental or office functions, and academic or business conference receptions. The Arboretum does not rent venues for wedding receptions and rehearsal dinners.

No, there are no indoor facilities for rent. We, therefore, strongly recommend that you procure an alternate indoor site in case inclement weather threatens your comfort or safety in the gardens.

On weekdays from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., guests may park at no charge in the Arboretum’s lot, which holds approximately 55 cars. However, if you do not have a Penn State parking permit displayed in your vehicle, on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. you must go into the gardens to the office in the Overlook Pavilion to get a (free) parking pass to hang from your vehicle’s rear-view mirror. On the outside of the office door there is a caddy that holds the passes. You do not need to get a pass to park in the Arboretum lot after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays or on Saturdays, Sundays, and University holidays.

If the Arboretum lot is filled, you may also pay by the hour (for up to four hours at a time) to park in the lot of the Lewis Katz Building by using an automated pay station located on the end of the lot adjacent to the intramural fields. The station accepts only coins or a credit card. Another option is to pay $1/hour to park in the East Parking Deck on Bigler Road.

After 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends, there is no charge to park in the lot of the Lewis Katz Building. Parking is also available on weekends in the East Parking Deck on Bigler Road at $1/hour.

If your event will occur on a weekday, you can consider hiring a shuttle to transport your guests or contact the University’s Parking Office to make arrangements for parking.

Visitors must park large vehicles such as motor coaches or school buses at the Porter North parking lot on Porter Road near Beaver Stadium. Rental clients may request permission to park limousines or trolleys in the Arboretum’s lot for the duration of the rental event.

We do not rent venues for wedding receptions and rehearsal dinners, but we do frequently rent them for wedding ceremonies.

In general, we recommend that you reserve a venue a year in advance. For Saturdays in June, which is the most in-demand time, it is best to reserve a venue one-and-a-half to two years in advance. Regardless, you should always check with the event and marketing coordinator because there may be an alternative venue or time that would suit your need.

You may bring your wedding party to the gardens for an informal walk-through prior to the day of the ceremony but if an Arboretum event, tour, or rental event is occurring in the venue when you visit the gardens, you would not be able to enter the venue until that event ends. You should contact the event and marketing coordinator well in advance to ask whether any other activity has been scheduled.

If the rental venue itself is not available for a walk-through, you can meet your wedding party at another location in the gardens to discuss the itinerary and staging of your ceremony.

Contact the event and marketing coordinator ( to discuss the scope and type of event you wish to host and to ask about venue availability. You may also complete and submit the Rental Inquiry Form.

If the venue is available, the coordinator will send you a short form to complete. The form provides contact information for the person who will be signing the rental agreement and describes your event. The event coordinator will use this information to create your rental agreement.

You will have two weeks in which to review, sign, and return the agreement to the coordinator, along with one-half of the rental fee which serves as a non-refundable deposit.

There are three categories of event and nine rental venues. Pricing depends on the venue, date, time, and type of event. Please refer to the first page of the Rental Fee Schedule.

Amenities include restrooms, drinking fountains, and (at the Overlook Pavilion only) a covered event terrace and portico. The Arboretum cannot provide furnishings or tents (other than the canopy at the Overlook Pavilion), but if garden furniture is present in the rental venue, you may use it for your event.

No, you must hire a professional rental company to provide furniture. Several companies in the State College area that rent tents and other event furnishings may be found online by searching for “wedding and party rentals state college pa” and “wedding and party rentals mill hall pa.”

In general, you can bring free-standing props such as pillars, podiums, and arbors, as well as floral containers and planters, but you may not use adhesives or otherwise attach decorations to an Arboretum building, pillar, pavement, or plant. You are responsible for gathering and removing all event-related materials. It is a good idea to ask the event and marketing coordinator specific questions in the early stages of planning your event.

The side curtains are part of the decor only, and clients may not adjust or zip them, even partially, due to the risk of creating a “sail effect” that would compromise the overhead canopy and cause the curtains to rip or tear loose.

Picnicking is not permitted in the Arboretum. If you wish to serve food to guests at a rental event, the University requires that you hire a professional catering service such as Penn State Hospitality Services, Penn State Campus Catering, or a caterer from Penn State’s list of non-University caterers.

No, the Arboretum does not provide catering services.

You may only serve alcohol if the type of event you are hosting is permitted by the Arboretum (such as a business or conference gathering), and if you obtain written permission from the Arboretum and University officials via the procedure described at Alcohol may not be served in the gardens in conjunction with weddings or wedding receptions.

Yes, but the volume of the music must comply with local ordinances which are provided to you in the rental agreement.

Only one rental event is scheduled at any given time, but there may be more than one rental event occurring on the same day. There may be educational activities or tours occurring in other parts of the gardens or on Arboretum land outside of the gardens during rental events.

Yes. Either the event and marketing coordinator or another staff person attends each rental event to address any facility-related questions that arise and to alert the public that a private event is under way in the rental venue.

H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens
The Arboretum at Penn State
Corner of Park Avenue and Bigler Road
University Park PA 16802

Yes. If you are interested in renting a venue on a Saturday afternoon in the fall, you should check the Nittany Lion football schedule first because accessibility to the gardens is affected by one-way traffic patterns before and after home games due to the proximity of Beaver Stadium. You could also contact University Information at 814-865-4700 to ask about public events that might be occurring in the vicinity of the Arboretum on a given day.

You must notify the event coordinator at the Arboretum about your intent to cancel the reservation. In addition to the initial, non-refundable deposit (50% of the rental fee) that is paid upon signing the rental agreement, you would pay the following amounts, depending on when you gave notice:

*Cancellations three (3) months or more in advance of the scheduled date: 
 No additional charge will be imposed.
*Cancellations from one (1) to three (3) months in advance of the scheduled date: 20% of the total rental fee
*Cancellations between fifteen (15) days and one (1) month in advance of the scheduled date: 40% of the rental fee
*Cancellations between fourteen (14) days or less in advance of the scheduled date: 50% of the rental fee