Gettysburg has over eighty holiday activities in November and December. EIGHTY. And that doesn’t even include the multiple times each activity might be offered. Theater performances, Santa visits, Victorian home tours, wreath classes, a Tuba Carol fest, and murder mystery dinners are just a taste of what is in store when you spend a holiday weekend in Gettysburg PA this year.
I have always had an odd fascination with Gettysburg. Most people, including my father, flock to Gettysburg for the Civil War history and memorabilia. Trust me, I sat on a lot of cannons as a kid in Gettysburg National Park.
HOLIDAY WEEKEND IN GETTYSBURG PA
I love Gettysburg for the quirky, small-town charm it offers up. It’s walkable, plus shop owners remember you even if you haven’t been back in a year. I swear, I don’t spend that much when I visit. Really! Plus, there are always new spots to explore, despite the amount of history surrounding you.
Gettysburg is a quick, one-hour drive from Washington, D.C and about a two-hour drive from Philadelphia. My family can go up for a day of skiing near Gettysburg. We can also go for dinner at one of our favorite Gettysburg restaurants or to simply load up on the local cider we crave all summer long.
HOLIDAYS IN GETTYSBURG
Like most small towns, the holidays in Gettysburg is something extra special. There are plenty of activities that tie into the Civil War, but even more that just celebrate the festive season. It’s a win, win for everyone in the family.
Grandparents who want to tour the battlefields and historic homes can do so, while mom can get a little shopping done and kids can meet Santa with dad. Everyone can come back together to see “A Christmas Carol,” a highlight throughout the region for the whole family.
Since there are 80+ activities to choose from, we are just going to stop your panic right in its tracks. Here’s a quick guide to help you plan out your trip so you don’t miss a few of our favorites. And yes, we gave you some hotel options too.
Mustn’t Miss Gettysburg Holiday Events
Every weekend, from Thanksgiving through the new year, offers entertainment, concerts and tours the whole family can enjoy. Keep in mind that some of these are more geared towards older children though. Some require a bit more patience than babies and toddlers can muster. Use your judgement before you drag a squirmy five-year-old to a historic tour of homes or a two-hour play.
TUBA CAROL FEST
Tuba Carol Fest started out as a grass roots movement to simply bring tuba players together for a little fun during the holiday season. Twenty years later, this annual tradition held outside of the Gettysburg Hotel brings tuba players from all over the world together. A crowd gathers as the sun begins to set. The tourism board provides hot cocoa for the crowd to stay warm as more and more tuba players gather for the first time for a quick rehearsal. Song sheets are passed out to the crowd for some spontaneous singing. At 7pm the show begins and the joyous sound of tubas played by kids through seniors, with tubas dressed in all sorts of holiday finery are played. Upwards of 75 tuba players show up. It is a sight (and sound) not to be missed the second Friday of December each year.
“A CHRISTMAS CAROL” AT THE MAJESTIC THEATER
Christmas Past, Present and Future come together as Mr. Scrooge and Tiny Tim hit the stage once again to teach us the meaning of Christmas. This highly anticipated theater production by the Totem Pole Playhouse is great for families, especially since they do offer weekday and Sunday matinee performances. Sometimes 8pm shows are just too late for the little ones.
Christmas at the Shriver House Museum
Gettysburg is well known for its tour of historic Victorian homes, and the Shriver house museum should always be on your list. Learn how the Shriver family lived and might have celebrated the holidays before and after the Civil War.
PRESIDENTIAL CHRISTMAS AT THE EISENHOWER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
You really can’t go to Gettysburg without going to Gettysburg National Military Park. However, you won’t be going onto the battlefield when you head to the Eisenhower National Historic Site. This was the only home that President Eisenhower and his wife ever actually owned since they were military personnel before he was president. During the holidays, the main living room is all dressed up and open to the public for viewing, as well as the sun room, which was their favorite spot in the house.
HOLIDAY FEASTS IN GETTYSBURG RESTAURANTS
Gettysburg Baking Company, 17 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, PA 17325. For a picnic feast, pop in for sandwiches, warm soup, and a pear and chocolate tart. You will not be sorry. Coffee and espresso drinks, as well as hot cocoa are also a must when you need to warm up on a chilly day.
The Historic Fairfield Inn, 15 West Main Street, Fairfield, PA 17320. The inn operates mainly as a bed and breakfast, but is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm until 8pm for dinner. If you are lucky, you can sample a similar version of the ham and bean soup. This was the soup served to Confederate soldiers by the local residents as they marched out of Gettysburg after they were soundly defeated. Don’t forget to leave a coin. Not sure what this means? Ask the owner or any of the staff. The stories that come with dining at this inn are more than half the fun.
Hickory Bridge Farm Restaurant, 96 Hickory Bridge Rd, Orrtanna, PA 17353. Hickory Bridge Farm is a historic B&B and part of the Select Registry group of properties. While guests of the B&B will always be served breakfast, those looking for dinner in the restaurant will have to wait for the weekend. Dinners for individuals are served by reservation only Friday through Sunday (check website for hours). The rest of the week is reserved for large parties and specialty events, like murder mystery dinners, weddings and company parties. All meals are served family style. We loved the stewed apples, oven-fried chicken and corn fritters.
Read our full Gettysburg Restaurants Guide now!
HOLIDAY GETTYSBURG SHOPPING
No one ever thinks that one of the things to do in Gettysburg is shop, but let me tell you, this town has some great boutiques worth the drive. Yes, you can get all sorts of Civil War memorabilia and antiques. However, I’m talking about a few more modern, and definitely more cute items to buy.
Lark Gifts, 17 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Lark is one of my favorite Gettysburg shops. It is filled with all sorts of treasures. Each display shows off different unique, custom-made jewelry, toys, scarves, vases, handbags, maps, notecards, etc. I usually pop in at least twice while I am in town and always have to set myself a budget, which I always blow. I just can’t help it!
FourCorners Comics, 42 Baltimore St, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Opened in 2015, this comic book shop just off of the main square in town is perfect for anyone looking for a gift. It is owned by a friendly and fantastic husband and wife team. Holly can help every confused grandparent, wife and friend navigate the shelves so you are sure to impress the comic lover on your list. Best of all, they have kids. They will know what is age appropriate and what the “cool kids” are reading and playing with right now.
Board & Brush Gettysburg, 100 Buford Ave, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Sometimes, you just want to be a little crafty, but not responsible for all the perfection that comes with having to be crafty. This is why I love DIY spots like Board & Brush. You can bring your own bottle of wine and meet up with friends to create beautiful wood boards to give as gifts to parents and grandparents, or keep for yourself. There is no heavy lifting or power tools involved, so even kids could join the fun (minus the wine).
The Christmas Haus, 110 Lincoln Way W, New Oxford, PA 17350. Step back in time and transport yourself to Germany where handcrafted holiday ornaments are made. Just watch where you walk or you could break everything in the place. This German Christmas shop is an institution in Gettysburg. I love to just wander in and look at all of the beautiful ornaments, nutcrackers, pyramids and wood lanterns. Prices range from affordable to investment, but these are heirlooms you will want to pass down to your kids and grandchildren.
Gettysburg Hotels for a Holiday Stay
Gettysburg Hotel, 1 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Stay right in the middle of town so you can park once and walk to most of the shops, restaurants and many Gettysburg holiday activities happening around town. Rooms are comfortably appointed, suites can easily fit a family of four, and yes, there is a pool! Parking is available in the lot behind the hotel for a fee. You are able to pull up in front to check in and bring in your bags. Just don’t stay too long or you will be ticketed.