Gettysburg is so much more than a “been there, done that” destination.
A peaceful retreat wasn’t exactly what General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army had in mind in the summer of 1863. But if that’s what you’re looking for now, Gettysburg and its surrounding countryside provides a getaway-worthy combination of serenity, scenery and surprises.
Gettysburg National Military Park (97 Taneytown Road; 717-334-1124, ext. 431; nps.gov/gett) is the obvious must-see attraction. But don’t overlook the town of Gettysburg and its Adams County environs, where you can enjoy everything from antique hunting and art appreciation to flaming foliage forays and apple harvest festivals. Historic hideaways offer cozy accommodations, and the cuisine runs the gamut from homespun to haute. You’ll also find 15 golf courses, more than 200 antique dealers and even a few lions and tigers and bears.
In the valley of the mountain range that rises north and west of Gettysburg—and goes by an array of names including South, Catoctin and Blue Ridge (though it’s all Alleghenies to me)—stretch mile upon mile of orchards. In the summer, many yield peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, blueberries and strawberries; fall means pears, pumpkins and apples—especially apples. Located in the heart of the Pennsylvania Fruit Belt, Adams County is the No 1 apple-producing area in the state, and No. 5 in the country. Its history and prominent place in the local economy is detailed at the National Apple Museum (154 W. Hanover St., 717-677-4556, nationalapplemuseum.com; $2/adults, $1.75/seniors, $1/children), which is set in a restored pre-Civil War bank barn in Biglerville, less than 10 miles west of Gettysburg.
Free maps and instructions for two particularly good, well marked, two-hour, self-guided driving tours of the area are available from the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau (102 Carlisle St., one block north of Lincoln Square, 717-334-6274, gettysburgcvb.org). The two-hour, 36-mile Scenic Valley Tour gives you plenty of opportunities for orchard ogling and a good glimpse of a mid-19th-century covered bridge. The 40-mile Historic Conewago Tour, named for the creek it crosses at several points, passes by East Cavalry Battlefield, a lesser-visited site of Civil War action on Route 116, about three miles east of Gettysburg; charming small towns, including the antiquers’ Eden of New Oxford; and miles of fertile farmland.
If you prefer to leave your car behind when you browse the back roads of Biglerville, just hop aboard Pioneer Lines Scenic Railways (106 N. Washington St., Gettysburg; 717-334-6932, gettysburgrail.com) for a 90-minute or extended three-hour narrated tour ($16.50/ages 13 and up, $9/ages 4-12; add $7 for a boxed sandwich “conductor’s lunch”) that offers both historic and just plain pretty perspectives.
Pick your own apples from among more than 20 varieties grown at the family owned and operated (since 1900) Boyer Nurseries & Orchards (405 Boyer Nursery Road, Biglerville; 717-677-8558, boyernurseries.com), located about eight miles west of Gettysburg. Or if you’d rather just buy a pre-picked bag or bushel, Boyer has a pretty extensive market, too. So do two other Biglerville landmarks, the circa-1914 Historic Round Barn (298 Cashtown Road, 717-334-1984, roundbarngettysburg.com), one of the few surviving structures of its kind in the world, and Hollabaugh Brothers (545 Carlisle Road, 717-677-8412), a 50-plus-year-old family affair now in its third generation and home to the Annual Peach Festival—with music and fresh fruit sundaes—this month.
Savvy leaf-peepers time their touring to coincide with the National Apple Harvest Festival, held annually during the first two weeks of October for the past 42 years at the South Mountain Fairgrounds (10 miles northwest of Gettysburg on PA Route 234 near Arendtsville; 717-677-9413, appleharvest.com; $8/adults, $7/seniors, kids under 12 free). This major community event features more than 300 arts-and-crafts dealers and demonstrators; live music, magic and Native American dancing on six stages; antique autos; apple bobbing and pie-eating contests; and even a personal appearance by Johnny Appleseed himself.
Although it doesn’t have its own festival (yet), organically raised garlic—25 varieties of it from around the globe, ranging from mild Mediterranean to “volcanic” Bavarian—is the star attraction at Hacienda Shiloh Herb Farm (327 Knox Road, 717-642-9161) situated in the hills right above Gettysburg. This is the place where you’re likely to locate those hard-to-find herbs (fenugreek or epazote anyone?), along with more than 200 custom-blended teas, peppercorn blends and spiced-up sea salts. In Fairfield, you can pick your own from among hundreds of varieties of certified organic fresh herbs and everlasting flowers at the family-owned Willow Pond Farm (145 Tract Road, 717-642-6387, willowpondherbs.com). Or just wander through the butterfly garden, five-acre wildflower meadow or the more than 100 varieties of lavender.
Lions and tigers and bears … in Fairfield? Absolutely, along with llamas, lynxes, parrots, monkeys and other exotic refugees from unsuitable homes, zoos and research labs live at the 85-acre East Coast Exotic Animal Rescue (320 Zoo Road, 717-642-5229, eastcoastrescue.org; open to the public on weekends through November, $6/adults, $4/children).
The more than 600-acre Strawberry Hill Nature Center & Preserve (1537 Mount Hope Road, Fairfield; 717-642-5840, strawberryhill.org) is a must-stop for savoring the seasonal scenery and seeking feathered and furred wildlife. Stroll along 10 miles of blazed family-friendly to moderately steep mountain trails on your own by day (free). Or take a guided full-moon, Halloween and other educational forest walks at night ($3). Late summer/early-fall is a great time to see migrating wood thrushes, tree swallows and monarch butterflies.
Antique seekers will find an abundance of early Americana in New Oxford (717-642-6240, newoxford.net), a tiny community located about 10 miles east of Gettysburg. Brick sidewalks, landscaped streets and well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century homes provide the perfect setting for more than 500 dealers offering everything from furniture to folk art and textiles to toys in six malls and more than 20 individual shops. Check out the 70-dealer New Oxford Antique Center (333 Lincolnway West (Route 30), 717-624-7787 newoxfordantiquecenter.com) and the five-building Carriage Trade Antiques at Oxford Hall (106 Lincolnway West, 717-624-2337).
Gettysburg can be a busy place in late summer and fall, so if you’re really serious about getting away from the hustle and bustle, it’s definitely worth the short drive for an overnight stay in a sleepier town such as Fairfield or Cashtown.
A town landmark for 250 years (the official anniversary celebration is Aug. 17 and 18), the Fairfield Inn (15 W. Main St., thefairfieldinn.com, 717-642-5410) has hosted many a famous—and infamous—guest, from Patrick Henry and Thaddeus Stevens to General J.E.B. Stuart and Robert E. Lee. Since 2003, owners Joan and Sal Chandon have been restoring the inn’s six rooms and suites to their pre-Civil War elegance, uncovering early architectural details and adding their own antique furnishings and accents (rooms average $150). The complimentary continental breakfast might pair Sal’s homemade fruit cobbler with a melty chocolate-chip-studded scone or fragrant cinnamon roll.
At dinner time, entrées at the inn’s Mansion House Restaurant run the gamut from traditional chicken and biscuits (the dining room serves at least two tons of this don’t-dare-take-it-off-the-menu dish annually) to rack of lamb with mint and port wine sauce ($15.99-$31.99). Special dinner shows feature live period music and Civil War illusionist and storyteller Professor Kerrigan telling ghost stories and conjuring up a few spirits of his own during a séance.
Although Jack and Maria Paladino have owned the Cashtown Inn (1325 Old Route 30, Cashtown; 717-334-9722) for only about 18 months, they’ve already taken major steps to revitalize the circa-1797 property—from the guestroom décor right down to the dining room menu. Located about nine miles west of Gettysburg, it was the headquarters for Confederate General A.P. Hill during the Gettysburg campaign. Clearly, the Paladinos are committed to preserving the historic look and spirit of the inn (rooms—with full breakfast—$120 double occupancy, suites $150-$160).
Food-wise, veteran restaurateur Jack Paladino has brought his personal preference for fresh and local into play with selections such as smoky grilled elk; pan-fried calamari stuffed with shrimp, Asiago cheese and seasoned bread crumbs; stuffed quail with cornbread and andouille sausage; and mashed potatoes with horseradish and chunks of apple-wood smoked bacon. Needless to say, all of it is well worth deviating from any diet (entrées $16-$25).
If you require an actual Gettysburg address for your accommodations, the Cricket House (162 East Middle St., 717-337-0941, crickethouseatgettysburg.com; $175/weekdays, $195/weekends) is a Victorian guest cottage situated right next to the Culps Hill entrance to the National Battlefield Park and within walking distance of the town’s historic district. It offers plenty of privacy and ample ambiance, including a whirlpool bath, steam room, full kitchen and laundry facilities inside and an enclosed spa with bar, plus a fenced flower garden, outside.
Of course, the history of Gettysburg didn’t begin and end with the Civil War. In 2005, the Majestic Theater (pictured above) (25 Carlisle St., 717-337-8200, gettysburgmajestic.org), a 1925 Colonial Revival-style vaudeville and movie house in the heart of the downtown district, just underwent a $16.5 million restoration (original cost: $350,000). The vibrant venue, with its pressed tin ceilings, hand-stenciled walls, plush seats, grand staircase and stained-glass chandeliers, now hosts major musical, theatrical and dance performances. In the cinema wing, complete with stadium seating including two-person “cuddle seats” and a wine and beer bar in the lobby, two screens show American independent, classic and foreign films (live performance tickets $20-$60, $7 for films.)
For a bite or cocktail before or after, stop in at Mamie’s Café (717-337-8216) inside the Majestic. It’s named after Mamie Eisenhower, who, with husband Dwight D., retired to an area farm and were frequent patrons of the theater, and decorated in true 1950s style with sculpted rugs and Space Age-era furnishings and fixtures. Specialties ($5-$11) include interesting appetizers (try the crab pretzel), soups (golden tomato and fennel bisque, coconut curried chicken rice), salads (Shrimp Fiesta with mango salsa), sandwiches on freshly baked bread, and “Gettysburg’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake” for dessert.
With 15 courses in Adams County, you could spend days golfing your way through the Gettysburg area—and many do just that. Among the most highly regarded courses is the challenging European-style Links at Gettysburg (601 Mason Dixon Road, Gettysburg; thelinksatgettysburg.com, 717-359-8000), with its elevated tea boxes, precise landing areas, multiple water hazards, red rock canyons and sloping greens. (In-season with cart through October: $53/weekdays, $84/weekends; special twilight and senior rates available; off-season $42.)
A few miles west of Fairfield along Route 116, Carroll Valley Resort (121 Sanders Road, Carroll Valley; 888-573-4653, carrollvalley.com) is an Ault & Clark-designed course renowned for its six par-3’s and five par-5’s and stream-front greens. Right down the road in Fairfield is Carroll Valley’s sister course, another Ault & Clark design called Mountain View (4099 Bullfrog Road, Fairfield, 717-642-5848). It offers a very different golfing experience, with its open front nine and longer, winding, tree-lined back nine fairways. Both courses have junior tees, and Mountain View offers junior lessons and clinics. (Carroll Valley: $33/weekday walk, $47/ride, special twilight and senior rates; Friday $39, $53; weekends $42, $56. Mountain View: $26/weekday walk, $40/ride, special twilight and senior rates; weekends $33, $47.)
Luck of the Irish
One of the best places to view the luxuriant fall foliage for miles around Gettysburg is from the battlefield vantage point of the monument to the 140th New York Infantry at the summit of Little Round Top (left). The spot overlooks 75 percent of the battlefield and the mountains eight miles away. On the monument, make sure you check out the bronze portrait of the unit’s commander, Col. Patrick Henry O’Rourke (right) who’d graduated first in his class at West Point two years before his death on the field. While the bronze has been dulled by time and the elements, O’Rourke’s nose is shiny from being stroked so often by visiting students hoping some of his academic success will rub off on them.
Art of War
There’s more than one way to look at Gettysburg National Military Park. Based on a suggestion by a friend who is an avid Civil War buff, I asked my private Licensed Battlefield Guide ($45 for a two-hour tour, up to six people, 717-337-1709) to take me through the miles of monuments as if they were an outdoor sculpture gallery. Among the works was the bronze statue of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick on his horse Handsome Joe, one of the nation’s most finely detailed and studied examples of equestrian art. The North Carolina Monument, one of the few representing the South, features the work of Gutzon Borglum, best known as the man behind Mount Rushmore. You can also construct your own art tour with the help of the book Gettysburg: Stories of Men and Monuments, published by the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides and available at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center.
If you’re like 90 percent of Americans, you like your wine on the sweeter side. Adams County Winery vintner John Kramb gladly admits his affinity for the sweet stuff—and a majority of his customers do, too. Tears of Gettysburg, a Niagara white blend, and Rebel Red, a semi-sweet Concord and Niagara blend, are Kramb’s best-sellers. Try the cherry wine (made from local fruit) with a dark chocolate dessert. Take a glass and a fresh-from-the-oven baguette and some cheese (all available in the tasting room) to enjoy at an outside picnic table overlooking co-owner Katherine (Kate) Bigler’s gardens. (251 Peach Tree Road, Orrtanna, 15 minutes west of Gettysburg; retail store at 25 Chambersburg St., Gettysburg; 717-334-4631, adamscountywinery.com.)
Weekends Thru November: Living History Encampments in Gettysburg. gettysburg.com/livinghistory, (717) 334-1124, ext. 422.
Aug. 23-26: The 54th Annual Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival features outdoor on-stage performances, workshops and the Kids’ Bluegrass Academy. One-day admission $25-$40; $125 all four days; senior and children’s discounts available; kids under 12 free. Granite Hill Campground, 3340 Fairfield Road, (717) 642-8749.
Sept. 8-9: Gettysburg Wine & Music Festival features over 150 local wines from more than 15 wineries, live jazz and blues, food and wine pairing demos, and more. $20. Gettysburg Recreation Park, 59 E. High St., Long Lane; (717) 334-8151, gettysburgwine.com.
Sept. 15-16: Visit the World War II Living History Encampment at the Eisenhower National Historic Site. $6/adults, $4.50/kids 13-16, $3.50/kids 6-12. 250 Eisenhower Farm Drive, Gettysburg. (717) 338-9114, ext. 110; nps.gov/eise.
Sept. 21-23: The Northeast Storytelling Festival at Gettysburg features ghost stories, puppet shows, music, magic, tall tales and outright lies for every age. Call for admission price. (717) 337-0080, northeaststorytellingfestival.org.
Nov. 8-10: The annual pre-holiday International Gift Festival features handcrafts such as toys, jewelry, textiles, home décor and Oriental rugs from over 30 countries. Proceeds support charitable activities and organizations. Fairfield Mennonite Church, 201 W. Main St., Fairfield; (717) 642-8936, fairfield.pa.us.mennonite.net.
Nov. 17: Remembrance Day events include a parade and placement of luminary candles on each Civil War grave. (717) 334-4890, nps.gov.
Nov. 19: Celebrate the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with an annual wreath-laying ceremony, brief memorial service and speaker at Gettysburg National Cemetery. (717) 337-6590, nps.gov.