Beaver Falls is divided topographically into two separate areas: downtown and College Hill, separated by the prominent hillside that gives the latter its name. While much of the downtown is functionally a single neighborhood, College Hill has two separate neighborhoods: College Hill proper, surrounding Geneva College; and Morado at the city's northern extreme. College Hill is generally a middle-class neighborhood, while the other two are poorer and generally working-class.
Several small municipalities surround the city: Eastvale on the other side of the Beaver River, West Mayfield to the northwest, White Township to the west, and Patterson Heights and Patterson Township to the southwest. Local residents have a keen sense of identity and will typically be aware of where the precise borders lie. However, these municipalities are rather tightly integrated (some share police departments, for example), and for the traveller, they are functionally separate neighborhoods of the same city. For this reason, all are covered here together.
Founded in the late nineteenth century, Beaver Falls lies along the western side of the Beaver River. Its industries prospered until the mid- to-late 20th Century, when they began to decline; most of the city's industrial sites now either are empty lots or have been redeveloped. Many residents take advantage of the fact that it lies within commuting distance of Pittsburgh, while many other residents are employees of Geneva College in the city's northern side.
Twenty-four airlines serve the Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT IATA), which is the only convenient commercial airport near Beaver Falls. From here, SuperShuttle provides road access to Beaver Falls-area locations. The Beaver County Airport is located much closer to Beaver Falls, but because it isn't served by commercial flights, only private pilots should consider it.
Beaver Falls is typically reached by road. The most prominent route near the city is the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76), with an exit a few miles north of the city; it provides access to Pittsburgh to the southeast and Youngstown and Northeast Ohio to the northwest. From the turnpike, head south into the city on Pennsylvania Route 18 (PA 18). This highway is Beaver Falls' main street and its primary route for access from both north and south.
Travellers from northwestern Pittsburgh and communities closer to Beaver Falls may reach the city by driving northwest on Ohio River Boulevard (Pennsylvania Route 65) until reaching the community of Rochester, at which they can access PA 18 and drive northward. Travellers from New Castle and other points to the north can reach Beaver Falls simply by driving southward on PA 18. From East Liverpool and other points to the southwest, drivers may follow Pennsylvania Route 68 eastward along the Ohio River until reaching Rochester and PA 18. From cities such as Butler to the east, drivers should use U.S. Route 19 to reach Zelienople, which is connected to Beaver Falls via Pennsylvania Route 588.
The Beaver County Transit Authority runs buses that serve Beaver Falls and many surrounding communities in Beaver County. Occasional bus routes also reach as far as Pittsburgh, although there are few enough routes that they aren't likely to be useful for the out-of-town traveller. Greyhound does not serve Beaver Falls directly; one must find transportation to Zelienople, thirteen miles away, to reach the nearest Greyhound stop.
Although Beaver Falls was founded along the navigable Beaver River, it has no public landings. Boaters can use a public landing a few miles south at Bridgewater, near where the Beaver meets the Ohio River; modern dams prevent navigation farther northward.
Due to the hilly terrain, different parts of Beaver Falls aren't particularly well connected. One must rely on specific streets to go from downtown to surrounding neighborhoods: the hilly Pennsylvania Route 588 up Steffin Hill reaches into White Township, Patterson Heights, and Patterson Township, PA 18 climbs a steep slope to College Hill and Morado, and a bridge crosses the Beaver River to Eastvale. A bus system (part of the Beaver County Transit Authority routes that also serve surrounding towns) runs along PA 18 through Morado, College Hill, and downtown.
The city is largely built on a grid with numbered Streets (running east-west, perpendicular to the river) and Avenues (running north-south, parallel to the river), making navigation rather simple. However, because the various parts of Beaver Falls were settled separately, each one has a different street system: only a hillside separates Fourth Avenue in College Hill from downtown's Tenth Avenue, Eastvale's Fourth Street is across the river from Twenty-seventh Street downtown, and Fourth Street in Patterson Heights is a few blocks south of Fourth Street in Patterson Township. Drivers should exercise particular care when using GPS devices, which may not correctly reflect the different street systems.
There are few parking restrictions of note anywhere in the city. Between the small size of Geneva College and its large percentage of residential students, there are no residents-only parking zones in College Hill or elsewhere in the city. Parking meters sit along Seventh Avenue and adjacent sections of cross streets downtown, but visitors can easily park a block or two away in residential neighborhoods without restrictions and without difficulty. The most significant parking issue in the municipal limits of Beaver Falls itself (as opposed to Eastvale, West Mayfield, etc.) is street sweeping: each city street is swept overnight once per week, and if you leave your car on a street on the night that it's scheduled to be swept, a significant fine will be levied. Signs with the sweeping schedule are posted all over the place, so you won't need to wonder about a specific spot's schedule. Avenues and streets in each part of the city are rarely or never swept on the same night, so you should always be able to park your car a block or two away on street-sweeping night without fear of a ticket. Various private lots are located downtown, but parking is typically restricted to customers and employees of the owning business; your car is likely to be towed if you're neither one.
As an old industrial town, Beaver Falls proper is generally walkable, with sidewalks lining most streets downtown and in College Hill and Morado. Comparatively light traffic means that bicyclists can easily navigate within any neighborhood and the bridge to Eastvale, although the steep hills can make it difficult to go from downtown to other neighborhoods. The Beaver River Trail runs along the river from near the city's southern end north to the base of College Hill, providing a motor-free route for cyclists and pedestrians. If you have a free afternoon, you can reach any point in the city and return to your starting spot with a couple of hours' walk, due to the city's comparatively small size.
As a smaller post-industrial city, Beaver Falls has comparatively few attractions. Many visitors will wish to see the campus of Geneva College, a small Christian institution with a 55-acre campus in College Hill; some of its more interesting buildings include Old Main and McCartney Library, older sandstone buildings that permit public access. The library's collection includes the papers of Clarence McCartney, a prominent early 20th-century Presbyterian minister, while its archives and remaining collection are largely focused on college-specific resources. Anyone may visit the library, although only people affiliated with the college can check out books or use its computers.
Downtown is the Carnegie Public Library, architecturally one of the grandest Carnegie libraries in the country; its flamboyant architecture helped convince Andrew Carnegie to demand that future Carnegie libraries be simpler buildings with smaller price tags. Upstairs or up-elevator is the museum of the Beaver Falls Historical Society with extensive local history resources. The library has a National Register of Historic Places designation.
Other cultural attractions can be found in surrounding communities: the Air Heritage Museum at the Beaver County Airport, the National Register-listed Merrick Art Gallery in New Brighton (one mile from the southern end of Beaver Falls), Brady's Run County Park just west of Patterson Heights, and the extensive cultural opportunities of Pittsburgh.
If you're not interested in visiting a specific site, the early twentieth-century residential streets of Patterson Heights can present an enjoyable drive; you'll need to climb up a steep wooded hillside from downtown, either using Steffin Hill through White Township or the obscure Eleventh Street Extension into Patterson Township.
Beaver Falls' most popular activities are sporting matches, especially the football games of Geneva College and Big Beaver Falls High School. Both teams play at Reeves Field on the southern side of the college campus, an early twentieth-century stadium with bench seating. The most significant athlete to play here was Joe Willy Namath, an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback who played for the high school team. Other high school sports are played downtown at the school complex, while the college's sports teams play elsewhere on campus. Sports history fans may be interested in the college's basketball team, which defeated a nearby YMCA in an 1893 game believed to be the first college basketball game.
Other events are largely restricted to artistic programs on the college campus, such as plays and musical performances.
The city's stores are largely small retail or service operations (e.g. convenience stores and car repair shops), many of which can be found on PA 18. Among the few retail chains present downtown are a Save-a-Lot grocery store (Ninth Avenue and Fifth Street, near the southern end); a Family Dollar at 1526 Seventh Avenue (PA 18); a Dollar Tree at 1927 Seventh Avenue; and a Dollar General at 618 Seventh Avenue. Another Dollar General sits at the northern extreme of Morado along PA 18. Larger shopping centers are located a few miles to the northwest in Chippewa Township, including Wal-Mart, a Giant Eagle grocery store, Home Depot, and K-Mart. Eastvale, Patterson Heights, Patterson Township, West Mayfield, and White Township are all functionally bedroom communities without substantial shopping opportunities.
The traveller with transportation needs may wish to visit a couple of different vehicle suppliers. McMahon's Cycle Sales operates a motorcycle dealership on PA 18 near the southern end of downtown, while Ron Lewis Automotive operates a dealership for several automobile brands just south of McMahon's Cycle Sales.
Travellers with empty gas tanks will need to visit the city's northern sections and western edges, as few gas stations are present in Beaver Falls. One station operates at the top of Steffin Hill in White Township, another along PA 18 at the Thirty-seventh Street intersection in College Hill, and another along PA 18 near the Eastvale Bridge at the northern end of downtown.
Athens Family Restaurant, 1005 Seventh Avenue downtown, serves some Greek fare, albeit with a menu more focused on traditional American food. It's an exception among the area restaurants, most of which are fast-food establishments (McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway) or bars. Oram's Donuts, 1406 Seventh Avenue, is one of several stores owned by this local chain that enjoys a high reputation among local residents. Another locally owned operation is the Brighton Hot Dog Shop, 1220 Seventh Avenue. Aside from convenience stores such as the Sheetz gas station, no substantial food-related operations are located in College Hill or Morado, partially because most Geneva College students live and eat on campus. Like shopping locations, eating establishments are functionally nonexistent in the other sections of the community.
More extensive eating opportunities are found a few miles away in the shopping centers of Chippewa Township and in Beaver a few miles to the south, while high-quality dining typically requires a trip to Pittsburgh.
Assorted bars can be found downtown, including the Beaver Brewing Company (a brewpub) at 1820 Seventh Avenue; the Third Base Inn on Eleventh Street at the base of the hill that climbs into Patterson Township; and Nero's Restaurant and Bar at 1204 Seventh Avenue. Like other commercial operations, the downtown drinking establishments are primarily located on Seventh Avenue, as most other streets are predominantly residential. In Eastvale, the Eastvale Tavern can be found at the end of the Beaver River bridge, providing both food and beverages, while the Corner Pub sits on the 37th Street Extension (the neighborhood's main street) at the Third Avenue intersection in West Mayfield. Patterson Heights, Patterson Township, and White Township are primarily residential, while Geneva's strict enforcement of its dry-campus policies diminishes demand for drinking establishments in College Hill.
Lodging operations are located out of town; several basic motels can be found at the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange with PA 18, approximately four miles north of the center of downtown.
Beaver Falls is located within the 724 area code, and its local exchanges are 843, 846, and 847, i.e. a sample local telephone number is 724-843-XXXX. One must always dial the area code when calling even local numbers.
Internet usage for visitors is limited, as hot spots are virtually nonexistent. Geneva College is willing to provide temporary access for researchers, but casual visitors are unlikely to be able to use the campus networks. If you need Internet access, you may do best to visit any of several local restaurants, such as McDonald's and Wendy's, which provide access.
The main local newspaper is the Beaver County Times, which can be found in assorted newspaper boxes and in the public and college libraries, although out-of-town visitors may be more interested in the two Pittsburgh newspapers, the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review, both of which are also widely available.