Go, Monica Byers, USA — September 6, 2012 at 12:32 pm



Photo by Tony Byers

GETTYSBURG, PA – So you’ve been roped into an educational vacation – a trip to visit the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  And wondering whether you can possibly have any fun in what appears to be a one-trick tourist town.  I was the same.  I’ve been trying to expose my British husband to all sorts of Americana, and a road trip to Gettysburg felt like a good destination in the service of this goal.  I booked two nights and then, on the car ride, began to regret it.  Did we REALLY need two nights in such a small town (actually, it’s a borough)?

My buyer’s remorse was in vain, since it turns out that Gettysburg is a-ok.  The downtown is downright charming, with its historic buildings and friendly locals.  And here’s the big news – you can actually find nice lodging, great food and quality shops here.  I sound surprised because….well….I was.  Most small tourist towns are swimming in mediocrity, knowing that their local attraction will get them through no matter what.  But the good folks in Gettysburg actually step up to deliver a wonderful visitor experience.  Here are my personal highlights in downtown Gettysburg:

Where To Stay:  James Gettys Hotel (27 Chambersburg Street).  A quaint 12-suite establishment in a building listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, this hotel offers lovely accommodations (literally) from another era.  Add to that friendly staff and free treats (Cookies! Cakes! Chocolates!) there to greet you in your room, and you have a wonderful home away from home.

Tasty In-Room Treats at James Gettys Hotel, Gettysburg, PA (photo by Tony Byers)

What To Do on Night #1:  Arrive (no later than 8 pm – that’s when the James Gettys stops checking in guests for the night) and get yourself down to Garryowen Irish Pub.  An Irish pub in a small Midwestern town. Recipe for disaster?  No, it’s not.  This is a proper pub with…..wait for it…..really great food.  Plus friendly service and live music on certain nights.  Get there early, though; this place fills up by about 8:30 weekend nights (as do most bars in this neighborhood).

The Day After Night #1:  You’ll do the obligatory Civil War stuff.  ‘Cause that’s why you came to town. The film, cyclorama and museum at the Gettysburg National Military Park will gobble up 2-2 ½ hours, then you’ll need another 2+ for the battlefield tour.  Start early (the park opens at 6 am, and the Visitor Center opens at 8 am) so you still have time to visit a few of the shops.  If you love all things Civil War and Presidential, you don’t need my help suggesting stores – you literally can’t miss them.  If, like me, the war memorabilia and military art are not your jam, here are a few ideas:

A&A Village Treasures (53 Chambersburg Street):  Cute and somewhat funky, this shop offers housewares, clothing, and accessories that feel like they’re straight out of SoHo….but without the Manhattan markup.

Subterranean Soul (22 Carlisle Street):  Yep, this is a hippie joint.  They sell records (vinyl!), 60s and 70s themed T-shirts, leather goods, jewelry and other assorted goods.  Mostly I just loved that there was a counterculture shop in the middle of decidedly patrician Gettysburg, but the merchandise is worth checking out.

Hippie Shit at Subterranean Soul, Gettysburg, PA (photo by Monica Byers)

Adams County Winery (25 Chambersburg Street):  Set yourself up for dinner by sampling locally produced wines (each person can try a flight of five for free), served up by chatty wine enthusiasts.  You can also enjoy a $5 wine slushie (I’m not making this up – the wine slushie is actually a thing).


Temptation at Adams County Winery (photo by Monica Byers)

What To Do on Night #2:  Try hanging at the bar at McClellan’s Tavern (1 Lincoln Square), where you can get some pretty good grub (the crab cakes are awesome) whilst getting your drink on.  There are actually quite a few other watering holes around, but this one is the classiest.

What is the little thing that makes Gettysburg worth a stay?  Amazing charm set amidst a rather somber history.

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