Want to start a new tradition, or do something new during the holiday season? All around the MidAtlantic, there are towns rolling out their most festive decorations and hosting their most entertaining activities. If you’re looking for a place to take the family or hoping for a romantic couple’s getaway this December, consider these two special Pennsylvania destinations: Gettysburg and Bethlehem.
Gettysburg is an iconic American town, where visitors come from around the world come to see the famous Gettysburg National Battlefield Park. The United States National Park Service offers multiple ways to learn about this Civil War battle through exhibits and films at the Gettysburg National Battlefield Visitor Center and with self-guided battlefield tours. But…..
Gettysburg is much more than a battlefield! This charming town with its historic architecture, eclectic shopping and a serious culinary movement is a perfect place to celebrate the holidays. The surrounding acres of farmland around Gettysburg are beautiful, but especially at Christmastime, when grave sites of the fallen soldiers are decorated with fresh pine wreath, courtesy of the National Wreath Project. More than 1,600 wreaths will be placed on the grave sites across Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
One place I recommend visiting is the Shriver House. This is my kids’ favorite place in Gettysburg (as you can see). From Thanksgiving weekend through the month of December, the Shriver House Museum is offering “A Civil War Christmas” which includes a candlelight tour of the decorated museum to learn how the Shriver family prepared for the upcoming Christmas holidays.
Similarly, the Eisenhower National Historic Site, a former presidential home, is decorated for a 1950s-style Christmas in the styling of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower throughout the month of December. The house will be full of decorations, a kitchen full of cookies and a dining room set for Christmas dinner. This month-long celebration includes a holiday reception with cider and cookies Saturday, Dec. 10.
On Dec. 9, the Holiday House Tour will give guests a chance to walk through some of Gettysburg’s historic homes, inns and properties which are decorated for the holidays. Visitors will be able to sample specialty dishes and local wines. In addition to the many festive events Gettysburg offers to guests, Adams County is an ideal place to gather the family to pick a fresh Christmas tree to take home. There are many Christmas tree farms throughout the county, many offering special holiday events, wagon rides and a chance to cut down your own Christmas tree.
For over 275 years, Bethlehem, also known as Christmas City, has been a sight to see as the historic community comes alive with festive cheer and streets lined with twinkling lights. Charming Lehigh Valley is steeped in pre-Colonial, Early American and Industrial history. It’s one of the best places to get into the spirit of Christmas! Here are some of the holiday activities that await your holiday weekend getaway in Bethlehem.
Most notable is probably Bethlehem’s Christkindlmarkt, a European style holiday market with vendors selling handmade arts and crafts. Enjoy the sounds of Christmas music, sample the local gingerbread and find that perfect gift to put under your tree. The Bethlehem Carriage Company is a fun way to explore the town. These horse drawn carriages can accommodates small groups, couples and families. It’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit (see photo above)
The Moravian Book Shop is the oldest continually operating bookstore in the United States. After shopping, enjoy the holiday decorations in the Historic Hotel Bethlehem and stop for seasonal cocktails in the hotel’s Tap Room bar. The Lehigh Valley Zoo is adorned in a fabulous Winter Light Spectacular. The best way to take in all the festivities is on the Bethlehem by Night Bus Tour.
Enjoy your travels this season, and if you’re a hiker looking for a great gift, consider my book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Washington DC. You can order it on Amazon: amazon https://www.amazon.com/Hikes-Within-Miles-Washington-Including/dp/1634040821
Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.