Altoona is an excellent place to go, either for recreation, shopping, or staying the night. The cops keep things nice and safe. The air is clean, and the roads are well-kept. Traffic sometimes get busy, but that is to be expected in a big small-town. The most important aspect of Altoona that stands out are the shops and the options you have. There is literally food on every street corner, two separate malls (one indoor, one a plaza), and hundreds, maybe thousands, of places to go and see. It also has some public transit, libraries, plenty of doctors' offices, and I hear, good schools, and some nearby colleges. Another good aspect of this town is that, if you can't find it here, Altoona is kind of a hub that is connected to somewhere where you will find what you're looking for. If you like train watching, there are several vantage points from which to view, and taking the highway route 22, from Gallitzin, you will be able to see the famous Horseshoe Curve.
If you plan to visit, you may want to use Google maps and familiarize yourself with the road system. In-town Altoona, as we call it here, is where the UPMC Altoona hospital is. That is near the 'old section' of town, and is kind of dumpy and run-down but still nice. The 'new' section of the city is heading more towards Duncansville, which is sometimes confused with Altoona. This is where the action starts! You've got the Logan Valley Mall, Wal-Mart, two movie theaters, and other things. Heading more towards Duncansville but splitting off, you've got the road to Hollidaysburg, another nice little town, which is kind of ritzy. You can use Convention Center Boulevard behind Wal-Mart to make a short cut to this road, then make a right, and you'll get on a split two-lane, two-way road. When I was little, as an out-of-towner, I remember that one summer my mother took my brother and I every day to Altoona and we all shopped and just ran through the mall!! That was back when arcades were still around. I love that mall! Most malls have suffered over the years, but it is almost fully stocked with stores.