Take your choice of history, music, a unique food tour, or a tiny holiday celebration in the Gettysburg area and adjacent Franklin County, Pa., this season.
The holiday fun in Gettysburg includes five Christmases at the Shriver House, a Civil War home central to the battle in the town. Thanksgiving weekend and Saturdays through Dec. 15, take a candlelight tour of the Shriver House Museum decorated for an 1860s Christmas, while hearing the story of the Shriver family and how the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War changed their lives forever.
While the 30-foot-tall tree in Lincoln Square will be lit Nov. 23, Gettysburg’s inaugural Christmas Festival takes place Dec. 1, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. There will be holiday bazaars, greens sales, free carriage rides, a gingerbread celebration, a Christmas parade, carolers, and even a free showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Majestic Theater.
Different streets have different themed activities during the festival. You’ll find a “A Roaring 20s Christmas” on Chambersburg Street and a “Civil War Christmas” on Baltimore Street. On Steinwehr Avenue, it’s “A Victorian Christmas,” while York Street offers “A Colonial Christmas.”
Food and more tour
Check out the local food and shopping scene with a 12 Tastes of Christmas holiday walking tour. Lori Korczyk, who operates Savor Gettysburg food tours, put together this special combination tour on three Saturdays and one Sunday in December.
“We visit four or five places for comfort food, plus a winery,” Korczyk said. “In between, we stop at interesting boutiques along the way, so it’s a real taste of the holidays in Gettysburg.”
Insider tip: The tours sell out, so check savorgettysburg.com for availability.
President and Mrs. Eisenhower loved Christmas, and their retirement home in Gettysburg carries on that tradition by decorating the historic site as Ike and Mamie would have. Tours are available throughout December. Tickets and shuttle buses are available at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.
On Dec. 8, another tour takes you to 10 inns in the Gettysburg area. At each, you’ll see holiday décor and try food and drink samples.
The annual Holiday Tuba Carol Fest on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. brings tuba players from across the country to play carols on Lincoln Square in an amazing exhibition of holiday spirit.
Beginning Dec. 14, the holiday favorite “A Christmas Carol” will play at the Majestic Theater. It’s the fourth year the theater has hosted the adaptation of the Dickens classic by the Totem Pole Playhouse in nearby Franklin County.
From December through mid-January you can pay your respects at Soldiers’ National Cemetery, site of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, where 1,600 wreaths are placed on the graves each year.
Not far from Gettysburg, in New Freedom, Pa., you can take a holiday train ride with Steam Into History. It’s a great family excursion. Just south of Gettysburg, in Emmitsburg, Md., visitors can take candlelight tours of the two historic homes and grounds where St. Elizabeth Ann Seton lived and worked. Tours take place at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1–6.
In neighboring Franklin County
“Franklin County has a number of traditions for the holiday season,” said Janet Pollard, who promotes the area. The first Friday in December, Chambersburg brightens with glistening trees, carolers, a cocoa crawl, and a festival of wreaths and trees in the new visitor center.
Make a miniature tradition at Tiny World in Shippensburg, Pa. It’s the brainchild of retiree Ernest Helm, who’s been constructing the miniature buildings since the 1980s, complete with details and furnishings. Read reviews on the attraction’s Facebook page and you’ll quickly see that the prime time to visit is around the holidays (through New Year’s), when the lights and decorations add to the experience.
Insider tip: A nighttime visit is recommended for enjoying the full effect.
The town of Greencastle hosts its Heritage Christmas on Dec. 7 and 14. It’s a festival on the square with Santa, wagon rides, food, children’s activities, and entertainment. On Dec. 9, Greencastle-area homes are showcased during the Holiday Home Tour.
For a bit more musical entertainment, catch the Pennsylvania Opry in Mercersburg, where the old-fashioned musical revues and comedy come with a holiday twist. Sing along and be entertained as the Opry celebrates its 28th season, Nov. 8, 14, 15, and 29 and Dec. 6.