This family-friendly town offers immersive history experiences, luscious ice cream, and pick-your-own-fruit farms in Pennsylvania’s apple country.
The historic Gettysburg Hotel is right on the main downtown square. Although the building dates back to 1797, the rooms are modern and luxurious. This boutique hotel offers traditional guest rooms as well as two-bedroom suites perfect for families. Some of the spacious rooms have Jacuzzi baths and gas fireplaces. Here, you’ll be steps from shops and restaurants, as well as parts of the Gettysburg Battlefield. One Lincoln, the hotel restaurant, specializes in comfort foods like Lincoln biscuits, bananas Foster French toast, and crab mac and cheese. Ask about the complimentary bike loans. Rates from $98 per night. One Lincoln Sq., Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 717-337-2000
Morning: Gettysburg is best known as the turning point in the Civil War. On July 1, 1863, the Confederate Army attacked a Union Army that was struggling to hold the Mason-Dixon Line. The North won a decisive victory, but both sides experienced a record number of casualties, the most in the entire war. For an immersive history lesson, begin your visit at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center. The film A New Birth of Freedom sets the stage for that fateful three-day battle. Afterward, visitors move to the Gettysburg Cyclorama, a 4-D painting demonstrating the sights and sounds of the battle of Pickett’s Charge. (There are only two cycloramas left in the U.S. today.) Tip: Request an Activity Guide for Junior Ranger Candidates at the information desk in the Visitor Center. Kids can complete the exercises in the workbook—like answering questions about museum exhibits or about the Gettysburg Address—to earn a Junior Ranger badge. Visit nps.gov/gett for more information and to find regularly updated ranger tours. To keep your troops energized, have lunch at the Refreshment Saloon or Battlegrounds Café inside the museum. If the kids are up for it, tour the museum to learn the causes and lasting effects of the Civil War.
Afternoon: The most effective way to explore is by car with a battlefield map and CD or download, which you can buy at the visitor center gift shop. (Another option is to stream the virtual tours on nps.gov/gett.) The 6,000-acre landscape of rolling hills and mature trees contains monuments honoring soldiers and generals, and at each stop, you’ll hear searing tales of fearless foes determined to make the greatest of sacrifices. More than 51,000 soldiers lost their lives in this strategic battle. Keep the kids interested by climbing the observation platforms and playing on the boulders around Devil’s Den.
Evening: After an intense day, relax at Tommy’s Pizza, a Greek-style pizza joint that has welcomed families since 1973. As a reward for their attentiveness, treat everyone to a waffle cone at Mr. G’s Ice Cream Parlor.
Morning: After breakfast at the hotel, take a tour of the Shriver House with a living-history guide. Learn how a family with young children became captives of the Confederate Army, their home turned into a makeshift hospital for wounded soldiers. The tour brings to life what families endured during this horrific period in American history. Afterward, stroll past the David Wills House (currently closed to visitors), where President Abraham Lincoln finished writing his immortal Gettysburg Address. There’s a bronze statue of Lincoln in the town square.
Afternoon: Have lunch at the Dobbin House Tavern. This colonial-era restaurant serves delicious comfort food inspired by menus from the 1860s. Dobbin has welcomed travelers for centuries and was also a stop on the Underground Railroad—the natural spring in the tavern’s basement provided sustenance to enslaved people escaping north. After lunch, drive by Eisenhower National Historic Site, where former President Dwight D. Eisenhower lived after his presidency, raising heirloom cattle. Last stop is the Rupp House, a new museum honoring the “Children of Gettysburg 1863.” It’s designed to inspire young minds to learn history from primary sources.
Evening: Have dinner at the Appalachian Brewing Company of Gettysburg, which offers indoor and patio dining. The burgers, tacos, and other kid-friendly foods will please your youngsters, while grown-ups can sample housemade craft brews. Take the kids back to the hotel for a swim.
Morning: After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Hollabaugh Bros. Inc. Fruit Farm & Market. Pennsylvania is the East Coast’s largest grower of apples, and Adams County produces the most in the state. The family-owned market sells produce from its prolific orchards, along with fresh-fruit milkshakes and baked goods. Stop in the Bee Room and, when in season, walk through the fields to pick your own fruit and vegetables. If there’s time, swing by the Historic Round Barn to pick up the apple-cider doughnuts at this unique family-owned market constructed in 1914.
Afternoon: Before heading home, have lunch at Mela Kitchen at Jack’s Cider House. Adams County apple cider is on tap here, along with farm-to-table cuisine. Choose from the scratch-made pastas, burgers, pizza, salads, and tapas.