Even the well-worn and nicked doors of old Civil War buildings in Gettysburg are interesting. Prepare to be charmed.
I expected the town of Gettysburg to be filled with plenty of Civil War trinket shops.
Considering the battlefield is Gettysburg’s main attraction, I figured the town would be devoid of much charm and character. I had it pegged as the typical tourist trap. My hunch was wrong.
I quickly regretted not allowing more time to meander Gettysburg’s streets lined with homes and businesses dating back to its original founding in the mid-1700s.
In our hotel room, I picked up a walking-tour map of Gettysburg featuring its highlights. I longingly read it, sadly realizing we were out of time to use it.
However, we did get to experience a few of the town’s attractions, giving us insight into where we’d direct greater attention next trip.
Take a look at some of our favorite finds off the battlefield in Gettysburg.
Stay in a schoolhouse
We had a hard time deciding where to stay in Gettysburg. History ended up swaying us to stay at the Federal Pointe Inn.
Gettysburg public school students used to call this place home. Dedicated in 1897 as the Meade School, named after Union Major General George Meade, it started as a high school before switching grades to elementary.
Our room on the first floor was large (think classroom size), classic and clean. It had been modernized but not at the expense of its architectural integrity.
It’s conveniently located within a few blocks of the Gettysburg Town Square, making it an easy walk into town for dinner.
Dine to your delight
Speaking of dinner, there are plenty of options to tide you over during your stay in Gettysburg.
The dining options and period dress make the Dobbin House Tavern an appetizing and fun choice.
For lunch, dine in its basement-level Springhouse Tavern. Do not miss the French onion soup and plan on making this hearty dish your meal.
For finer dining, eat in one of the Alexander Dobbin Dining Rooms. There are six historic rooms from which to choose. I’m not sure why you’d want to, but you can even dine in what looks like a canopy bed.
We went for a quiet table for two by the fireplace. Anything crab is a good choice here. Top it off with pecan pie a la mode for a sweet ending.
While visiting the Dobbin House Tavern, be sure to check out its Underground Railroad exhibit. The tavern was part of a secret network of safe houses used by slaves escaping to free states and Canada.
Another honorable mention in the dining department goes to The Garryowen Irish Pub. It offers all of the traditional Irish fare classics like my yummy shepherd’s pie served in a historic building with a warm, old country feel.
The mahogany bar beckons you to take a pint. I obliged.
It wouldn't be an Irish pub without music to accompany the food. Traditional Irish music is played on the first and third Sundays and other bands take the stage on weekends.
My husband and I also love a good deal. We’re constantly figuring out how to score a cheaper meal through creative splitting combinations. Waiters love us. Not.
We found our best deal ever at the Dunlap’s Restaurant next to our hotel. This family diner won us over for a quick meal of eggs, toast and coffee. It’s not Starbucks-quality coffee, but the price of breakfast for two costs about as much as one fancy coffee from the retail chain.
Scream for Mr. G’s Ice Cream
You know a place is good when every time you pass it – day or night – there’s a line forming outside its doors. Hello, Mr. G’s Ice Cream.
This establishment churns out some of the best ice cream I’ve tasted. “Mr. G” (I assume) generously scooped massive mounds of the creamy stuff into a delicious waffle cone. I “split” a scoop of two decadent flavors – oozing-good salted caramel and death by chocolate with chunks of rich devil’s food cake.
Trust me. It’s worth the wait.
Learn lifestyles of the Gettysburg famous
We arrived too late to tour the Shriver House Museum, but we got the chance to chat with the friendly and photogenic guides donning Civil War period dresses.
A visit to the home is a great way to get perspective on civilian life during the Civil War.
The Shriver family of four built the residence and saloon in 1860. In it you’ll find a sharpshooter nest in the attic where two Confederates died, Civil War bullets and markings found in the brick walls, medical supplies from when the home was used as a hospital, and a 19th century period garden.
Don’t make our time-management mistake. Plan wisely to fit a tour into your schedule.
Get a bird’s-eye view of the battle
The Gettysburg History Center gives a unique perspective of the battle with its narrated diorama show. The scale-model recreation of the battle is the largest of its type in the United States, with more than 800 square feet of display.
It’s not as exciting as the cyclorama at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, but it does a good job of laying out the flow of battle.
Dish about Poland
Shopping is plentiful and surprising in Gettysburg. The Gettysburg Polish Pottery store was an unexpected but pleasing find, especially for a dish lover like me.
The shop is owned by a couple who relocated to Gettysburg upon retirement. Now they’re selling beautiful stoneware from a cooperative in Poland called Boleslawiec Ceramika Artystyczna. That’s a mouthful. The vivid colors and intricate designs also are an eyeful.
Tempted to buy a whole new set of dishware, I restrained myself to a decorative dish that would fit into my carryon luggage. But I’m hanging onto the shop’s card for future purchasing reference.
I have no doubt we’d find more to love if we had spent extra time exploring Gettysburg. You come for the battlefield, and rightly so. But you leave wishing you had seen more of the town.
What else would you do with your time while visiting Gettysburg?