This post is in partnership with Destination Gettysburg. All opinions are my own. You can read my full Disclosure Policy here.
Gettysburg, PA is one of our favorite local travel destinations. You probably know about it as a famous Civil War battle site, but Gettysburg is a lot more than that. Within day-trip distance from Harrisburg, Baltimore, and Washington DC (even Philly is only 140 miles away), it’s the perfect family getaway spot this fall.
Fall Day Trip to Gettysburg, PA
My kids had a day off from school in early October and we hit the road early and drove to Gettysburg to spend the entire day. We had the best time! Below I’ll show you all the things we were able to squeeze in within just one day’s time to give you ideas for planning your trip. You can also get plenty of day-trip inspiration on the Destination Gettysburg website.
Tour the Battlefield by Horseback
The first thing on our agenda was to tour the battlefield by horseback. We were SO excited about this adventure and it did not disappoint!
Confederate Trails Gettysburg Battlefield Horseback Tours
There are different horseback tour operators, and we rode with Confederate Trails which I highly recommend. These ladies were fun, informative, helpful, and their horses are amazing (especially with my kids, and we are not experienced riders!).
The lady that owns the horses has a lot of horses (I think they said 50, but I took in a lot of info that day so don’t quote me on that), and that allows her to swap out the ones working the tours every day. Her horses are living the good life, and she also rescues, something we really support. So when you are choosing a horseback tour operator, go with this one!
After we got signed in and filled out the waivers, they matched us up with a horse. They got the kids on first, and made sure they were comfortable. My children rode up front right behind the guide, and even though the horses were well trained and totally gentle, it was a nice reassurance to know someone was keeping an eye on them and was close by if they did need help.
We rode down the trail single file and there were about 10 of us total. This time of year is absolutely beautiful for this, and we’ve done self guided walking tours and driving tours, but none of us had seen the battlefield like this. It’s incredible!
There was a guide up front, one in the back, and a Licensed Battlefield Guide in the middle. Her name was Andy and she was fantastic. Talk about making history fun!
These Licensed Battlefield Guides aren’t your average history teacher giving you a lesson on the Civil War. They have to take the most rigorous tests and REALLY know their stuff before they are permitted to talk to the public about the Battle of Gettysburg.
Each of us had a radio receiver that we wore around our necks, and an ear bud plugged into that so you could listen to Andy talking as we were riding. So you didn’t have to turn around or strain to hear what she was saying and know what she was pointing out as we rode. Her voice was in our ear the entire way.
I also want to note that we were close enough to just shout out questions and make this totally interactive. Sometimes history is boring (ahem, just me?) if someone is talking at you, but let me tell you, when you’re on a gorgeous horse, riding down the same paths that Civil War Generals have been down, and someone is pointing out the view they had as they charged the field, there is NOTHING boring about it!
Not only is it cool to be on the battlefield in way we’ve never experienced, and get that vantage point, but the views are gorgeous. Take your cell phone for photos. There’s no place for a big camera, but the horses have a little carrier attached to their saddle that you can put your phone and a small bottle of water in. You’ll definitely want something to take photos with.
This tour was about 90 minutes long, and that was just the right amount of time for us. We’re not used to riding on horses, so we were limping a bit when we got off! Within a few minutes we were back to normal, but I think any longer might have gotten uncomfortable.
It’s probably best to wear pants, and all 4 of us wore shorts. Oops. I did think of that, but it was HOT that day, and we had an entire day’s worth of activity planned so we wanted to be comfortable for all of it. Definitely wear sneakers or close toed shoes. No sandals or flip flops. The kids are required to wear helmets, which are provided, and adults can sign a waiver if you choose not to wear one.
After we returned to camp, we were all helped to dismount and then got to feed our horses carrots. This was so fun! We had just ridden with them for an hour and a half so it was nice to be able to see their faces better and sweet talk them!
Definitely add Confederate Trails to your Gettysburg to-do list. We absolutely LOVED this. It’s an amazing way to see the battlefield and learn about history from a unique perspective, and our tour guides were fantastic. Plus…horses!!
Pick Your Own Apples
After our horseback tour, we worked up an appetite. We discovered Tommy’s Pizza on our last Gettysburg visit and the kids were begging to go back there. They have the BEST pizza. So we grabbed a quick lunch and then headed back out to our next stop in the country.
Adams County is home to tons of apple orchards, and we visited one that not only had a pick-your-own option, but a beautiful farm market and some other surprises.
Hollenbaugh’s Fruit Farm
Hollenbaugh’s Fruit Farm and Farm Market is located in Biglerville, which is about 20 minutes outside of town. This place is SO neat! We actually hung out here for a good hour, hour and a half and could have stayed longer. If you need a little downtime to just chill out for the kiddos, this is a great option.
Hollabaugh is a family-owned farm, and they’ve been growing their own fruit on 500 acres of land for more than 60 years. So they have tons of seasonal fresh produce in their farm market, and right now you’ll find a huge assortment of mums and pumpkins outside.
Inside, you’ll find apples galore! You guys, these are the BEST apples I’ve ever eaten and I’m not kidding. You can pick your own, but we got there a little late to do that. Instead we grabbed a few out of these bins. And you can load up – they have big bags and a bulk price, but we were on the go that day and I didn’t want to leave them in a hot car, so we just got a couple.
I was kicking myself later, wishing I’d have bought more. These are all grown right on the Hollabaugh farm and were freshly picked. There’s none of that waxy coating you get on apples at the grocery store. They were SO good. And the kids found a sign that said kids get a free apple, so they were all about taking advantage of that!
The farm market is full of unique products and gift items including local canned and jarred items, local meats, and a yummy coffee bar and bakery.
There were some apple cider donuts purchased by this family that day. We bought a half dozen, and then took them outside with our apples (it’s all about balance, right?) to enjoy. Soooo good!
The outdoor space is our favorite. You can see the pick-your-own orchard. So pretty! And there are tables and other seating outside so you can enjoy some food from the farm market, or just take in the view which is stunning.
They also have games set up like cornhole (this could keep my son busy for hours!) and a fun slide. It was a beautiful day, and we relaxed at Hollabaugh’s for quite a while before heading back into town for dinner. Depending on when you visit, they may have a special seasonal event planned, so check the calendar on their website. Definitely stop here for some fresh air, relaxation, and delicious local eats!
Dine in Downtown Gettysburg
After a little treat at the farm market, we came back into town for dinner. Downtown Gettysburg has some really cute shops and eateries, so if possible, give yourself a little time to explore. We walked around and went in and out of a few shops before hitting O’Rorke’s Eatery for dinner.
It was a little cold for outdoor seating, but if you’re visiting at a warmer time of year, they do have that. Inside is pub and a restaurant, and it’s family-friendly with a kids’ menu so it was perfect for us.
O’Rorke’s was named after Union commander Patrick Henry O’Rorke, who was an Irish immigrant and fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. So on the menu, you will find some yummy traditional Irish fare along with classic American dishes (can’t go wrong with a burger and fries!).
To start, we shared an appetizer order of fried dill pickles. Delicious! If you’ve never had them, you should try them. These were some of the better ones I’ve had!
My husband and I decided to give the Irish entrees a whirl. I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie which was so good. I never make this at home, so it was a treat to eat out and tasted delicious.
My husbanded ordered the Guinness Beef Stew served over mashed potatoes and he loved his, too. If you love Irish food, or even if you don’t but you like the atmosphere of a laid-back, family-friendly restaurant with a good drink menu and hearty food, check out O’Rorke’s Eatery. They have a huge selection on the menu, so there’s something for everyone.
Get Scared on a Ghost Tour
After dinner, we were able to walk to our final stop on our day trip, a ghost tour! My son has been obsessed with the idea of a haunted Gettysburg since we visited a couple of years ago, and he signs out library books about ghosts in this town all the time. We were excited to go try to see one!
You’ll find a variety of ghost tour operators in Gettysburg, and this is the only one we’ve ever done so I can’t really compare for you, but I will say this one was great. Ghostly Images offers tours of the Jennie Wade House, and of the Haunted Orphanage.
You check in, or buy your ticket if you haven’t done that online already, at their shop, and then a tour guide will walk you to your destination. We went to the Jennie Wade House, which was a very short walk from where we started.
Jennie Wade, if you are not familiar, was the only civilian killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. She was baking bread in her mom’s house when bullets came through the front door, went through a second door in the home, and hit her in the back of the neck. You can still see the bullet holes in the front door.
This is the room Jennie was baking in when she was shot and killed. Creepy! The tour guide gave us a lot of background on what happened the day Jennie was killed, and the family situation. I didn’t realize that she wasn’t killed in her own house. She was with in her mom’s house, who lived in a duplex with her sister and the brother-in-law on the other side.
The house is made to look like it would have during the battle, and some of the items are actually original and were there during the war.
Did we see a ghost? I don’t think so. But we had fun getting creeped out looking for one! The tour guide encouraged us to take a lot of photos, because many times you’ll catch a light or some other unexplained object in a picture that you don’t see with your naked eye.
The spookiest part of the tour was the cellar. After Jennie was killed, they couldn’t really leave the house and take her to be buried. There was a battle raging outside. So they retreated with her body to the cellar and waited for 18 hours until the fighting stopped. You can see where they imagine her body would have been placed. Yikes!
This corner of the cellar is considered to be the most ‘active’ spot in terms of ghost activity. The guide turned all of the lights off for us and we did see some flashes of light. Was it a ghost, or a cell phone?! We’ll never know!
It was really fun to get inside the actual house where Jennie Wade died, and have a little spooky fun with my family. If you’re thinking about doing this with your kids, I’ll mention that my kids are 9 and 13, so they are older and not as easily freaked out as really little kids might be. Was it scary? Nah, I don’t really think so. It was more fun and a exciting with a side of creepy thrown in, but we weren’t clinging to each other in fear. Use your best judgement!
Plan Your Gettysburg Visit
We had the best day trip in Gettysburg, and while you can totally make a long weekend (or more!) out of a visit, if you’re close enough to just spend the day, there is a ton to do that your family will eat right up. I hope I’ve given you some great ideas for your own family adventure in Gettysburg!
Visit the Destination Gettysburg website for a bunch of great ideas for your fall visit. Whether you want to take in this history, do a little shopping, or pick your own apples, there is something for everyone and every family in Gettysburg. You can get more ideas and see what’s new by following along on social media: Facebook| Twitter | Instagram.