Gettysburg may be synonymous with the Civil War, but this thriving town is stepping out of the shadows. “The travel experience in Gettysburg and the surrounding countryside is more diverse than it’s ever been. Most people think of Gettysburg as a Civil War town, and that it is, but there is so much here that starts with history and ends with great food, outdoor recreation and a variety of shopping and unique events,” says Carl Whitehill, director of communications for Destination Gettysburg.

Anchored by Pittsburgh to the west and Philadelphia to the east, Gettysburg is just 39 miles from the state capital of Harrisburg, but its rural setting in bucolic Adams County makes it a true getaway. “The Gettysburg region is a perfect backdrop for meeting and event planners that are looking for a place that not only has a rich historical meaning, but one that offers its attendees a variety of experiences that extend throughout the region,” Whitehill says.

WHERE TO STAY

The 18-room Federal Pointe Inn is perhaps one of the most unique hotels you’ll find anywhere in the United States. Tucked inside a former schoolhouse dating to 1896, this boutique hotel is within walking distance of downtown Gettysburg’s attractions. It is a natural choice for smaller groups seeking a memorable stay. “Federal Pointe Inn provides guests with history and a unique experience, unlike most cookie-cutter group accommodations,” says Pete Monahan, owner. “Our boutique hotel provides charm and comfort while also offering an upscale experience.” Indeed, the schoolhouse history is present throughout, as each former classroom has been divided into two suites. “We saved as much as possible,” explains Monahan, who even kept the original glass classroom doors to serve as dividers between suites. “You’ll even find chalkboards in some rooms.” The Pointe Pub, located on the lower level, offers a wide variety of craft beers, wines and spirits. “The pub has a cozy schoolhouse setting complete with original class photos, chalkboards and places to relax,” Monahan says. Next to the pub is a 20-person meeting room.

Gettysburg Hotel dates to 1797 and has been front and center in the town’s illustrious history, but there is nothing dusty or drafty about it. In fact, the entire hotel and its 119 rooms and suites share a cool, contemporary style that pays homage to the past but is decidedly present-day. “We are the only upscale, historic,  full-service hotel with on-site banquet and meeting space located in the downtown,” says Andrea Proulx, director of sales and marketing. “The fact that we are in the heart of downtown Gettysburg within walking distance to many attractions, shops and restaurants is an attractive benefit for groups.” Amenities include a rooftop swimming pool and One Lincoln, the hotel’s stylish restaurant where the walls are emblazoned with the Gettysburg Address and the menu spotlights southern-style food (Maryland crab macaroni and cheese, anyone?). “Guests love our unique historic features like the vault in our Grand Ballroom,” says Proulx, referring to the ballroom’s 9,000 square feet of meeting space. The Grand Ballroom was once a bank located next door to the hotel and has been ingeniously blended to create one property. The original bank vault, which can be reserved for intimate private events for six to eight people, is certainly unique.

Smaller groups staying in town will find a gracious home at The Baladerry Inn (capacity 30), which offers a classic country inn ambiance within a historic setting. The inn was first constructed in 1812 on the Bushman Farm and served as a field hospital for the Army of the Potomac during the Battle of Gettysburg. It is set on 4 acres: “perfect for playing games, using the grill and/or fire pit and sitting back and socializing with friends,” says Judy Caudill, owner. “The Baladerry Inn is a perfect choice for relaxing and enjoying the countryside. We have lots of wildlife and birds to enjoy.” There are 10 distinct rooms within the inn and while all are individually decorated, they all share the country warmth expected of a bed-andbreakfast retreat. A full breakfast is provided for all guests.

WHERE TO EAT

It’s a short drive from downtown Gettysburg to the country setting of Fidler & Co., but if you close your eyes and taste the food, you might as well be in a top city restaurant. It’s innovative minus the pretension. “We try to be genuine and authentic in everything we do,” says chef/owner Josh Fidler. “We make all of our food from scratch, sourcing the very best in local, national and international ingredients.” For Fidler, who wants “customers to feel like family and to create great and memorable dinners they can share with friends and family,” owning a restaurant was his calling. “I wanted a restaurant since I was about 24. I grew up working in food service and just loved the camaraderie and the ability to make people happy every day … I just wanted to bring well-crafted food to this area,” he says. Fidler’s gourmet experience is ideal for intimate meals, and the main dining room easily accommodates groups of eight to 12 nightly. Upstairs, a private dining room seats up to 25 and the entire restaurant can be rented for larger parties of up to 60. Fidler & Co. also has a delicious lunchbox program for groups seeking gourmet goods on the go.

Food 101 opened in April 2015 but has been a hit with locals ever since. “We offer a diverse menu that differs from most of the other local restaurants in a bright and cheery atmosphere. We’ll take some typical menu items and put a slight spin on them to make the dish unique,” says Don D’Antona, owner. “The comment I hear the most is how fresh (and delicious!) everything tastes. We make just about everything from scratch and try to source locally as much as we can.” As for the name? Food 101 plays on Gettysburg College, just a few blocks away. “Having previously done six Italian restaurants over the last 35 years, I was looking for another location when this one became available,” he explains. “A close friend suggested that I try something different this time and with her help, we came up with this concept. She was right, of course!” Food 101 is small, with seats for just 30, and there are no reservations. “When I receive calls for groups, I always suggest they try to come in during the nonpeak hours between 3-5 p.m. For large groups, we can do box lunch catering,” he adds. It’s also BYOB, and with many local wineries setting up storefronts nearby, grabbing a bottle is never a problem.

Appalachian Brewing Company’s fun, casual environment offers a different vibe. The brewery is based in Harrisburg, but ABC has expanded throughout Pennsylvania, with Gettysburg one of its newest locations. “We are best known for our craft beer and craft root beer. We are also known for our delicious AYCE fish fry every Friday and our Black Angus burgers,” says Nate Voss, general manager. “The beer is what brings people in, but the quality of food and service is what really makes people happy.” The brewpub can accommodate group sizes of 75-100.

WHAT TO DO

Lori Korczyk created Savor Gettysburg Food Tours over a year ago to “share the hidden culinary gems and diverse cultural food offerings,” she says. “Gettysburg is known for its emerging culinary scene. We’re the only food tour company in town, and the tours provide an opportunity to take a trip back in time as we weave stories of the past together with the most delectable culinary delights.” Walking tours of downtown include Wine, Cider and Dine with five stops and Historic Downtown with seven stops. The tours are geared for 12 to 14 participants and spotlight a variety of tastings that reflect each location’s specialty along with the history of the each establishment. New group bus tours can accommodate 20-55 guests, and run April to mid-November. “Food always tastes better when it’s coupled with the story behind it and the history of its origin,” Korczyk says.  “Food is universal; it reflects different cultures and history.”

Adams County is the fourth largest producer of apples in the country, so it goes without saying that hard cider is a real treat in Gettysburg. Reid’s Orchard and Winery has two spots where visitors can sample cider and wine: The Home Winery in nearby Orrtanna and the Cider House Café in downtown Gettysburg. “The apples used in our hard cider production are grown on the Home Winery farm,” says Kathy Reid, owner. “We have over 100 varieties of apples here; many are heirlooms and English cider apples.  We also make juice from some of our cherries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries to add into hard cider, creating a merge of flavors that is natural and not created from fruit syrup or flavorings. … Folks who have traveled abroad often remark that some of our hard ciders remind them of the English and Irish pub-style ciders that they enjoyed overseas.”

The Home Winery has an outdoor tasting room with a beautiful view of Buchanan Valley, while downtown at the Cider House Café up to 75 people can sit and sip in the garden or in the climate-controlled sun porch as they gaze out on the Witness Tree. “This sycamore tree witnessed Lincoln walking down Baltimore Street to give his famous address at the cemetery,” explains Reid. There is also a private room upstairs that can be booked in advance for groups of up to 30. Groups can prearrange a farm-to-table dinner, a wine 101 food-wine pairing or a cider 101 hard ciderfood pairing at both spots.

You wouldn’t go to Rome and skip the Coliseum, so don’t visit Gettysburg and miss the battlefield. There are a variety of ways to see it, but nothing beats a tour atop a horse. “You’re riding right where the history took place,” says Rachel Stephens, who owns Confederate Trails with her husband Doug. Their company runs horseback tours of the battlefield for groups up to 15. The two-hour tours are accompanied by a licensed battlefield guide or set to a historical recording. “We run our tours with a transmitter system, so no matter where you are in the group, you can hear what’s being said,” Rachel clarifies. The horses walk the trails the entire two hours—there’s no stopping and starting—but battlefield rules stipulate no running so those who are afraid of horses taking off are assured. “Our horses aren’t motivated to run off anyway,” jokes Rachel.

Still, there are a few things to note prior to booking horseback tours for groups. Closedtoe shoes are a must, helmets are available and suggested for those over 18 (mandated for those under 18) and riders must be under 250 pounds. Larger groups should opt for the horse-drawn carriage tours, available as one- or two-hour tours. Rachel and Doug are able to send three carriages out at once, accommodating a group of 32, while individual carriages handle 10-12 guests. “The carriages travel slowly, so guests have the chance to really drink it in, listen and learn about what happened. You’re not racing past things. You’re getting to really experience it,” she says. In addition to the tours, the Confederate Trails’ private farm is available for team-building sessions, such as learning how to ready the horse for riding. They also book historical personalities (Lincoln and Generals Lee and Grant, for example) who speak to groups, as well as a performer who specializes in period music.

Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) held an event with corporate planners at Mistral at the King of Prussia Mall to spread the word about Cirque du Soleil’s VOLTA, which debuted in July at the Big Top on the grounds of the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center.

 

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