First Impressions: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

It was time for our summer long weekend – one of them, at least. My wife is something of a history buff as well as an author of an upcoming book on the Civil War, so Gettysburg was a natural choice to soak up some of that history.

First of all, the drive to Gettysburg took us through some scenic winding roads through the Pennsylvania countryside, although once the sun set, driving was a bit of a white-knuckle affair since it was difficult to see what was coming around the corner – or even where the corners were. To make it worse, locals who were used to the mountain roads were tailgating and honking, anxious to go speeding by me at 70 miles per hour.

Once we arrived in town, it was beautiful. Unlike most of my Indiana hometown, many of the homes in Gettysburg date back to the 19th century, and simply driving by them is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the old architecture and imagine the history behind it.

There are plenty of historic Bed & Breakfasts all over town, but we opted for the Wyndham Gettysburg, which was conveniently located and comfortable (although a ghost did follow us back to our room – more on that later!). We loved the huge, authentic cannon in the lobby, and Civil War era portraits throughout gave this modern hotel a bit of 19th century charm.

We always go to local restaurants, never chains while traveling. That’s part of the travel experience – we can go to Applebee’s back home, but while traveling, we want the local flavors. The historic Dobbin House, an old home built in 1776, has been transformed into a restaurant, which maintains its historic identity all the way down to waitresses in period costume, and a menu in 18th century English. I thoroughly enjoyed the Roast Duck Adams County, which was prepared with tart apples and hard cider with citrus herbs. The restaurant, which was used as part of the Underground Railroad before and during the Civil War, also offers free tours, so we had a chance to see the secret hiding places and some of this building’s wonders.

Our other favorite Gettysburg restaurant wasn’t quite as historic, but it nonetheless carried on the Civil War theme. The Blue & Grey Bar and Grill has a fun menu with two sides, one with “Union” burgers and the other with “Confederate” burgers, and depending on which side you order from, you’ll get served your burger with a tiny Confederate or Union flag on top.

Finally, we had to take one of the city’s famous ghost tours, after learning that Gettysburg is probably one of the most haunted cities in the country. Gettysburg Ghost Tours, with an office on Steinwehr Street downtown, gave us a wonderful night-time, candlelit walking tour, of course led by an enthusiastic guide in period costume. Walking by Cemetery Hill, everyone in the group noticed the distinct odor of gunpowder – which turns out is a very common manifestation of ghosts of Civil War soldiers who died on the battlefield.

When we went back to our hotel and got into the elevator, we heard a strange noise, which sounded like somebody jumping on top of the elevator car – and when we got to our floor and started walking towards our room, the noises followed, although we saw nobody in the hallways. We later learned too, that it’s not unusual for ghosts to follow people around, and it seems that we had attracted our very own Gettysburg ghost, who stayed for the night!



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