Weekend Getaways: Gettysburg and Adams County

Adams County, Pennsylvania, has something for everyone: From national historic sites to wineries and antiques, it’s easy to spend a weekend getting lost in the area’s history and culture.

Located just two hours from Penn State's main campus and best known as the home of the Battle of Gettysburg, over 23,000 soldiers perished here in the largest conflict ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. This monumental battle site is memorialized throughout the Gettysburg National Military Park, which protects and interprets the 1863 battlegrounds.

We recommend stopping at the museum and visitors center first. This beautiful facility houses the famous 1884 Gettysburg Cyclorama and includes artifacts like cannons, firearms, uniforms and more. There’s also a gift shop and restaurant.

This is a great place to start your day: Grab a map and head out to the historic battlefield on your own private auto tour, or take one of the many offered guided tours. We love the freedom the auto tour affords --- there’s nothing like taking your time to fully explore all this 5,989-acre park has to offer.

The original farms and forests that make up the battlefield surround the town of Gettsburg, and are preserved as closely as possible to their 1863 aesthetic. We recommend heading north of town to take in the views from the Oak Ridge observation tower, moving on to the Eternal Light Peace Memorial which was built to commemorate the 1913 Gettysburg reunion for the 50th anniversary of the battle.

Other highlights include Little Round Top and Devils Den. Little Roundtop was successfully defended from Confederate troops on the second day of the battle, ending with a dramatic downhill bayonet charge. This site is commemorated with various granite memorials, including a miniature castle that offers beautiful views of battlefield, including Devil’s Den. Kids will love exploring this tangle of rocks, which offers numerous cannons, memorials, walkways and a bridge spanning two boulders.

Lastly, don’t miss the Pennsylvania State Memorial, the largest of the state monuments at the park. This striking granite structure was completed in 1914 and commemorates the 34,530 Pennsylvania soldiers who fought in the battle.

THE FRUIT BELT

Beginning in the early 19th century, fruit orchards have dotted the landscape of northwestern Adams County, growing more widespread follow the Civil War. The region’s South Mountain – the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Mountains – provides the prefect microclimate for various fruits, especially apples. It’s no surprise that Adams County hosts the National Apple Harvest Festival, which offers steam engine displays, live music, antique cars, orchard tours, demonstrations and so much more. This event is held the first two weekends in October.

Also important to the region are its wineries. With tasting rooms existing downtown and throughout the countryside, there’s always a spot for a drink nearby. Sommeliers can forego the battlefield tour for the Adams County Pour Tour. Collect either 5, 12 or 20 stamps and receive a prize from any of the tour’s partners.

MORE TO DO

Ghost tours: Ghost tours are popular here, and for good reason. Gettysburg is considered by some to be the most haunted town in America, and tourists have flocked here to test their luck with the supernatural. Dozens of teams have investigated fields, homes and taverns in the area … are you ready to learn more about their findings?

Antiques: East of Gettysburg along the historic Lincoln Highway sits the quiet town of New Oxford. Known as the Antiques Capital of Central Pennsylvania, this small village offers an abundance of shops along its main street. Abbottstown lies a few miles east, and offers even more outlets for antique shopping.

Horses: The Land of Little Horses Farm Park opened in 1971 and has grown into a beloved family attraction. This performing animal theme park will entertain young and old with animal stars who have appeared on America’s Got Talent and Animal Planet’s PET STAR, in the Ringling Bros. Circus, and more.

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