The Fascinating History of Groundhog Day

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Did you know the history of Groundhog Day has its roots in Pennsylvania? Groundhog Day, is the day when a sleepy rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, is yanked from his hole to see if he can spot his shadow in the ultimate seasonal prognostication.

The History of Groundhog Day

While this is a holiday celebrated in various parts of the United States, many people may be unaware that this tradition has its roots in Pennsylvania Dutch folklore. The celebration originated from an old Germanic custom called “Ichtsnacht”, which was held on Candlemas Eve (February 2nd). Farmers would check to see if their animals were healthy by looking at their shadows on that day. If they saw no shadow then it meant that there would be six more weeks of winter.

Each year on Feb. 2, thousands of revelers travel to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to witness the prediction. The longstanding traditions and folklore that surround Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa. have made it one of the nation’s most quirky and family-friendly celebrations. This former coal-mining town provides visitors with the perfect setting for the famous weather forecast while offering many fun attractions for the entire family both in and around town any time of year.

The Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, a group of local dignitaries, announces whether Phil saw his shadow or not. If he does see his shadow, then there will be six more weeks of winter. However, if he doesn’t see his shadow then spring will arrive early.

While the official Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania there are other celebrations held in different parts of the United States. One place that celebrates Groundhog Day is Sunbury, Ohio where a groundhog by the name of Buckeye Chuck makes his prediction from an old bathtub.

But enough about Chuck, let’s look back at this history of Punxsutawney Phil and his mythical forecasting abilities. In 135 years, Phil has only predicted an early spring just 19 times. Yes, 19. This February will mark the 136th year of prognostication since the first trek to Gobbler’s Knob in 1887.

Even if Phil does predict six more weeks of winter, here are 8 attractions you can check out on your next visit to Punxatawney and the Pennsylvania Wilds Region.

The GHC Headquarters

The Groundhog Club Headquarters is the site for historical and rare Groundhog Club and Punxsutawney Phil items. Located in the historical library on Mahoning Street, in downtown Punxsutawney.

The Gobbler’s Knob Trail

Gobbler’s Knob Trail

The nearly half-mile Gobbler’s Knob Trail features the metal artwork created each year on Groundhog Day by Jeff Tech, a local trade school. The flora and fauna is identified by markers along the way and in a brochure at the trail’s entrance. Signage provides the history of Groundhog Day, the Inner Circle, Punxsutawney Phil, and groundhog facts and includes smart phone technology to enhance the visitor experience.

Phil’s Burrow

When Punxsutawney Phil isn’t busy forecasting the weather, he can be found in his burrow, a terrarium built into the Punxsutawney Memorial Library. The clear glass walls offer a great view from both inside and outside the library. No matter what time of year, visitors can stop by and say hello to Phil and his friends as they play, eat and do what groundhogs do best, sleep!

Weather Discovery Center

The Weather Discovery Center provides fun and interactive hands-on exhibits where visitors can explore and understand the science behind all sorts of weather phenomena. Located in a beautiful historic building in downtown Punxsutawney, the “Weather Capital of the World,” there is no better place to explore the technology and folklore behind predicting and studying the weather.

Groundhog Wine Trail

(Closest vineyard is the Groundhog Winery located about six miles east of downtown Punxsutawney on PA-36 S.)

Discover a new side of western Pennsylvania by traveling the route of the Groundhog Wine Trail. Take a break from the crowds and experience the 13 wineries that make up this unique trail, packed with award-winning wineries, beautiful scenery and of course, delicious wine. No matter what Phil’s weather forecast turns out to be, a delightful glass of locally made wine is the perfect way to celebrate the outcome. Continue your Groundhog Day celebration in Clearfield at the Groundhog Wine Festival 2022 on Feb. 5 featuring 15 wineries, 30 other vendors, and entertainment!

Mahoning Shadow Trail

Winding its way through much of the Punxsutawney area, the Manhoning Shadow Trail is the ideal spot for an outdoor adventure with the family. This 15.5-mile long, multi-use trail is perfect for hiking and biking, as well as cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Named for the Mahoning Creek that runs alongside it and, of course, Phil’s renowned shadow, the Manhoning Shadow Trail offers many interesting features along the way, including its own waterfall.

Phantastic Phils!

There is no shortage of groundhog pride in this enthusiastic community and they have the art to prove it. Located throughout town, the Phantastic Phils! Public art project includes 31 larger-than-life fiberglass groundhogs all creatively painted and designed by local and national artists. See how many you can spot on your own, or grab a map of the Phils and pick your favorite.

Punxsutawney Area Historical and Genealogy Society

Learn about Groundhog Day history and the area’s rich industrial heritage by visiting the Punxsutawney Area Historical and Genealogical Society. The extensive museum complex features Native American artifacts, lumbering and area coal mining history, local railroad memorabilia, and a fully restored one-room schoolhouse complete with old desks, books and other materials.

The Burrow

Not to be confused with Phil’s comfy confines, relax and refresh after a full day of Groundhog Day fun and revelry at The Burrow grille and bar. Enjoy a glass of Punxsutawney Philsner with one of their burgers, subs, sandwiches, salads, and finger foods or one of their other seasonal craft beers on tap.


Jimmy Stewart Museum

Indiana (28 miles from Punxsutawney)

Just a short trip south of Punxsutawney, visitors will find a museum that celebrates the life and career of the American film icon, Jimmy Stewart. Located in his birthplace of Indiana, Pa., the museum pays homage to his life as a military hero, civic leader, family man and movie star through interactive displays, gallery talks, and artifacts from his personal life and film presentations. The one-of-a-kind museum dives into the world of the Oscar-winning movie star and demonstrates why his on and off screen personality serves as an inspiration to so many.

Cook Forest State Park

Cooksburg (36 miles from Punxsutawney)

With the Clarion River running along the border of the park and the famous stands of old growth trees, Cook Forest State Park is a wooded paradise packed full of natural beauty and ecological history, including the park’s towering White Pines and Hemlocks that make up the “Forest Cathedral,” a National Natural Landmark.

Elk Country Visitor Center

Benezette (52 miles from Punxsutawney)

Situated on 245 acres within the heart of Pennsylvania’s elk range, the Elk Country Visitor Center is a premier elk watching and conservation education facility in the Pennsylvania Wilds and the entire Eastern United States. The Center’s state-of-the-art interpretive and interactive exhibits inform and educate the public about elk, wildlife conservation, and green building design and make the facility popular for school field trips and family vacation travelers alike.

Can’t visit Gobbler’s Knob on Groundhog Day? Don’t miss our Groundhog Day live stream to watch the virtual prognostication on Feb. 2 beginning at 6:30AM! Be sure to join in the conversation by using the hashtag #GHD2022 on your social channels and following along with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


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