Updated on November 27, 2023 by Julie McCool
A Gettysburg Christmas offers special holiday events, excellent shopping, and seasonal beauty to inspire a unique and fun Pennsylvania getaway. Gettysburg goes all in on holiday spirit making it one of the best Christmas towns near DC to visit. Most Gettysburg Christmas events return every December, so bookmark our list and tips for future years.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is best known for the tragic Civil War battle that raged over three days in July. During the holiday season, the town celebrates happier times and traditions. Here are some fun things to do on a Gettysburg Christmas visit, along with tips on where to stay and dine in the area.
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Capture the Perfect Photo and Enjoy Holiday Decorations
Lincoln Square is at the heart of the compact and walkable downtown and the area goes all out with seasonal decorations. Wreaths and bows adorn street lamps. A lovely Christmas tree, accompanied by happy carolers, brightens the center of the rotary.
Downtown businesses like The Pub and Restaurant and Gettysburg Hotel are festooned with lights and greenery.
The big guy even has his own Santa Shanty in Lincoln Square.
Tips: A group of snowmen and two festive soldiers stand outside The Pub and Restaurant. Both are ideal spots to capture the perfect family photo or a snowman selfie. The Christmas tree is a lovely backdrop, but it sits in the middle of the rotary so enjoy it from a distance.
Enjoy a Gettysburg Christmas Festival
The annual Gettysburg Christmas Festival celebrates the season in a weekend-long festival throughout town. Different areas of town have themes such as “Winter Wonderland” and “Santa's Central Depot.”
Businesses and restaurants in those areas offer specials and activities based on the theme. Events include free carriage rides, festive contests, and a holiday film fest.
Shop for Unique Gifts
You will discover a diverse range of unique and special gifts during your Gettysburg Christmas shopping. The downtown area balances small-town charm with lots of eclectic shops; a wonderful break from cookie-cutter malls.
Lark is one of our favorite stores for gift shopping in Gettysburg. Their collection includes home decor, jewelry, humorous pieces, scarves, and more. Lovely holiday decorations take over much of the store in December.
Stop in Gallery 30 to shop their collection of holiday decorations made from gourds, plus jewelry, art, purses, blankets, and many more American-made goods. Ask about items that catch your fancy, and you'll be inspired by stories of the independent American artisans behind the works.
A Gettysburg Christmas visit must include a stop in The Christmas Haus. The store is filled with authentic German ornaments and crafts. Owner Roger Lund travels to Germany every year to seek out independent artisans who create these handmade items.
There are many more downtown stores to shop for Gettysburg Christmas gifts. The proprietor of A & A Village Treasures stocks their shelves with Pennsylvania goodies (Schmiggitty Sauce anyone?). Specialty stores like Nerd Herd Gifts & Games, Sunrise Soap, Union Drummer Boy Antiques, and many others offer something for everyone on your gift list.
Create Your Own Unique Gift at Board & Brush
Get your creativity flowing as you make a one-of-a-kind gift at Board & Brush Gettysburg. The couple who own and operate the shop guide you through every step, as you transform a plain board into a beautiful sign.
You'll choose a stencil when you book your visit. On arrival, all the materials are set up and the fun begins. Choose a stain, effects, paint colors, and special techniques to create your masterpiece. I am not at all artsy, but every step was fun and I'm so happy with my finished sign. By the way, I created a “Let it Snow” sign, and snow started falling during my session. Coincidence?
Sing Along at the Gettysburg Tuba Carol Fest
One of the most unique and fun Christmas celebrations of the year takes place at the Gettysburg Hotel in Lincoln Square in early December. For over 20 years, amateur tuba players from around the country and Canada have gathered to play Christmas songs at the Tuba Carol Fest.
Anyone is welcome to play, and the impromptu band only has an hour to practice before the music begins. Festive decorations and costumes add to the fun, and a happy crowd turns out to sing along. Check out our short Tuba Carol Fest video on Facebook.
Tip: Arrive early to pick up a free hot chocolate and check out the wacky decorations on some instruments. The conductor announces who has come the farthest and awards a best-decorated tuba and euphonium before the night is over.
Watch “A Christmas Carol” at the Majestic Theater
Make your Gettysburg Christmas visit memorable with a trip to the theater for a holiday classic. We were truly impressed with the quality of the staging and performances of A Christmas Carol, and the Majestic Theater is beautiful. The production is simplified but true to the original book by Charles Dickens, and includes impressive effects and an excellent cast.
Tip: The production is very family-friendly, but there are some scary effects during scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Future. Follow the link for showtimes and ticket options.
Learn About Christmas at the Shriver House Museum
The Shriver House Museum is one of our favorite historic sites in Gettysburg. The restored home depicts the life of the Shriver family, who lived there when the small town of Gettysburg, population 2,000, became a battleground for over 170,000 soldiers.
During the holiday season, the museum hosts special Christmas tours that are more upbeat than the usual battle-focused tour. It's a fascinating view of life in Gettysburg from the civilian point of view.
Tip: Costumed tour guides tell the Shriver family stories on all three floors of the house. Expect to climb some narrow stairs. It's worth another visit to see the usual Civil War-focused tour and learn about the sad fate of the Shriver family.
See How Ike and Mamie Welcomed the Holidays
Experience the homey elegance of a Presidential Christmas at the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Dwight D. Eisenhower purchased his Gettysburg home after retiring from a life of military and public service—the only home he ever owned. The Eisenhower's modest home is carefully preserved and decorated for the season in Mamie's holiday style.
Tip: Purchase tickets and board the shuttle bus for the Eisenhower Site at the Gettysburg National Park Visitor Center. Cars are not permitted at the site.
Refuel with Local Dining and Drink
Gettysburg is blessed with a wonderful range of local restaurants, distilleries, cideries, and wineries. In fact, we highly encourage a Gettysburg foodie getaway during the fall apple season. During December, local spots decorate for the holidays and feature special Christmasy fare.
Mason Dixon Distillery & Restaurant
Enjoy delicious drinks and dining right in town at Mason Dixon Distillery. Father-son owners are dedicated to crafting the highest quality spirits, from scratch and on premises. Their commitment to local sourcing extends to the menu. In fact, spent grain from the distilling operation goes to a local beef farm, and the beef returns for use by the restaurant.
Tip: The Hot Buttered Rum is absolutely delicious and it's perfect for a chilly winter day. Check the daily specials for seasonal flavors, like a recent Boar Ribs with butternut squash that was bright and flavorful.
Hickory Bridge Farm Restaurant
Take the gang “over the river and through the woods” for dinner at Hickory Bridge Farm Restaurant in the neighboring town of Ortanna. Comfort foods are made from scratch and served family style in a 150-year-old barn.
Public dining is available on weekends and menus vary by day. We feasted on ham, delicious fried chicken, and the house special crab imperial, along with vegetable and fruit sides, biscuits, and dessert.
Hickory Bridge is also a bed and breakfast with a cottage and farmhouse with a big, wrap-around porch. If the Country Store is open, stop in to see shelves lined with old-time remedies and household goods.
Dobbin House Tavern
Another dining destination perfect for a holiday meal is the historic Dobbin House Tavern. Located in the oldest building in Gettysburg, built in 1776, meals are delivered by servers in period dress. The menu is full of classics like a rich French Onion Soup and a hearty Pork Tenderloin.
Where to Stay During a Gettysburg Christmas Visit
You'll have access to everything downtown has to offer when you stay at the Gettysburg Hotel. The central location in Lincoln Square is perfect for shopping and dining, and the Tuba Fest happens right on the front porch.
The hotel offers 119 rooms and suites and has a friendly bar and an on-site restaurant, One Lincoln. Festive decorations and a lovely tree in the lobby make this a perfect base for your Gettysburg Christmas getaway.
Check availability and pricing for this and other area hotels: plan your Gettysburg getaway.
These are just some of the great things to do during the holiday season in Gettysburg. If you have a history buff in your group, allow time to visit the battlefield and other Gettysburg Civil War sites. Whether you're planning a shopping trip with friends, a family weekend, or a romantic holiday outing, you're sure to find Christmas fun in this quaint and historic town.
Destination Gettysburg hosted our holiday visit. As always, all opinions, text, and photos are our own.
Read these related articles for more mid-Atlantic US holiday fun:
- 10 Fun and Free Things to Do on a Washington DC Holiday Visit
- 12 Holiday Favorites from Northern Virginia Experts
- Holiday Lights in the Northern Virginia Area