gettysburg for the holidays

Gettysburg for the Holidays – Winter 2023 Essential Guide

Each year, as the holidays approach, the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, comes alive with a newly festive seasonal ambiance. Glittering wreaths adorn streetlights and historic structures throughout the town, while gaily painted nutcrackers, snowmen, and beautifully crafted life-sized nativity scenes dot the seasonal landscape of Gettysburg for the holidays. Sparkling lights twinkle merrily, illuminating Gettysburg’s lovely businesses and historic residences, many of which have stood since the Civil War era or longer.

Gettysburg’s holiday season is loaded with captivating events and festooned with decorations stretching across the town from one end to the other. Christmas in Gettysburg is a joyful time, whether you’re into browsing festive displays, enjoying exquisite dining, or immersing yourself in the excitement of annual concerts and performances. For history enthusiasts who cherish the holiday spirit, Gettysburg stands out as an ideal destination for the holiday season.

Christmas Events in Gettysburg This Year

Whether you’re looking for a day excursion or are planning an extended weekend getaway, there are a whole lot of activities to keep you busy in Gettysburg this time of year. You’ll be amazed by the many exciting options available to you during the holidays in this charming town. Below are the details of just a few festive happenings on the schedule in one of the most famous and beloved small towns in America.

gettysburg for the holidays - tree lighting

Start The Holiday Season Right  at the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Lincoln Square

Join us on Friday, November 24th to officially herald the beginning of this year’s Christmas festivities! Come early to enjoy hot chocolate and Christmas music before counting down to the moment that favorite jolly man in red, Santa himself, lights the Gettysburg Christmas Tree and kicks off the most wonderful time of the year! Hot chocolate and music begin at 5:30 pm, and the tree lighting happens at 6:00 pm on the dot!

Gettysburg for the Holidays - Christmas Festival Enjoy Seasonal Splendor at the Christmas Festival

There are lots of fun things to do and plenty of special events throughout the holiday season, but one of the biggest is the annual Gettysburg Christmas Festival. The first weekend of December (Dec. 1-3), all of downtown becomes one big celebration. The popular Christmas celebration in Gettysburg features holiday activities, promotions, and traditional small-town holiday charm with historic Gettysburg battlefield tours.

There are many activities and loads of holiday-themed family fun all along Baltimore Street and Steinwehr Avenue. That includes several live music venues plus assorted roving street performers and wandering musicians entertaining visitors around the square. Concessions include mulled wine, cider, and various other warm adult beverages at numerous pop-up bars. There are also face-painting booths, carriage rides, and food trucks to raise your spirits and fuel your travels.

Gettysburg for the Holidays - Spirits of Christmas

Spirits of Christmas

Even the Gettysburg ghost tours take on a Christmas flavor during the holiday season! Spend an evening with the ghost of Mary Wade, the mother of Jennie Wade, as she returns to the house where her daughter was killed on July 3rd, 1863. Christmas was a special time for the Wade family, and Mary has returned to visit the spirits who linger in the house, discuss Christmas traditions of the time, and explore paranormal activity in one of the most haunted historic homes in the country. This dramatic presentation has been a Christmas favorite for many years. Advance ticket purchase is suggested.

Gettysburg for the Holidays - Jennie Wade House Other Christmas events at the Jennie Wade House include a seasonal Specialty Tour featuring Adam Shefts, The Victorian Historian, on December 2nd. And the Jennie Wade House will also be hosting a visit from their very own Civil War Santa at the same time! Space is limited on these popular tours. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended.

Gettysburg for the Holidays - Santa Express

Santa Express at Northern Central Railway

This magnificent period locomotive is decked out for the festive season, bringing holiday cheer, no matter your age! Boarding at the beautiful Historic New Freedom Train Station, holiday travelers can ride with Kris Kringle himself to Glen Rock. After your ride, visit the NCR Engine House for a complimentary hot chocolate and a cookie! Don’t forget to visit the model train room or enjoy the sounds of our strolling fiddler! Now booking tickets through the end of December.

Gettysburg for the Holidays - Luhr Center

Christmas at the Luhr Center

Celebrate the festive season at the Luhr Center by enjoying exciting and heartwarming Holiday Entertainment for the entire family! Upcoming events include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the Musical), In the Christmas Mood with Glen Miller’s Orchestra, Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland, Terry Fator: A Very Terry Christmas, and more! Tickets are on sale now.

Gettysburg for the Holidays - Tuba Carol Fest

Sing Along at the Annual Tuba Carol Fest

The annual Tuba Carol Fest and sing-along is a popular Christmas event in Gettysburg for the holidays. For over 25 years, tuba players from around the area and beyond have gathered on the second weekend of December to share hot chocolate and play Christmas carols together on the steps of the Gettysburg Hotel. The tuba concert combines lively holiday spirit with mad dash fun and the rollicking hilarity of a sea of decorated tubas on full blast. Singing along by the crowd is not only encouraged, it’s mandatory. The Tuba Carol Fest is a delightful celebration of holiday spirit! It’s fun, free, festive, and appropriate for children of all ages. The 2023 Annual Tuba Carol Fest will be held at 7 p.m. on December 8th at 1 Lincoln Square in downtown Gettysburg.

Gettysburg for the Holidays - Christmas Shopping

Shopping in Holiday Style

Gettysburg offers a wonderful selection of shopping all throughout the year, but our stores and specialty shops truly come alive in Gettysburg for the holidays! The entire downtown historical area that comprises Lincoln Square, Steinwehr Avenue, and the surrounding streets take on a lovely new aspect, their buildings beautifully bedecked for the season. Inside you’ll find unique gifts and treasures that capture the historical essence of the fabled town and distill the holiday spirit!

horse drawn carriage rides

Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride

Few experiences evoke the holiday spirit like a horse-drawn carriage ride. This memorable holiday experience deftly combines the warmth and majesty of the horses, the ringing of their metal-shod hooves against the cobbled pavement, and the brisk winter air as you glide through the surrounding beauty of the holiday bedecked streets and lanes.

The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg is offering free scenic carriage rides at The Land Of Lights on Fridays and Saturdays, 5 pm-8 pm, from November 24th through December 23rd.

shriver museum christmas

Visit the Shriver House Museum

The Shriver House Museum is dedicated to relating the history and experiences of the people who lived in the town at the time of the famous battle. During the holidays, the 1860 four-story house is beautifully adorned for the season with period-appropriate decorations, including a patriotic Christmas tree, fragrant pomanders, and mistletoe.

A tour guide dressed in historical garb tells the tale of George and Hettie Shriver and their two young girls during the candlelight tour. The Shrivers were an ordinary family whose lives were drastically altered by the battle that overwhelmed their town on that summer day in 1863. Understanding the Christmas customs and daily life of a typical family during that turbulent time offers a unique glimpse into the many lives touched by the Civil War.

Eisenhower Christmas

Experience an Eisenhower Christmas

President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife Mamie only ever owned one house: the large white mansion at the end of the Norway spruce-lined road. The residence was tailored to their requirements and served as a gathering spot for loved ones and friends.

The home still largely retains its original appearance as the Eisenhower National Historic Site. The tour includes the bedrooms, offices, and other private areas once shared by the former First Family and their guests, still furnished with family heirlooms and priceless White House souvenirs.

Each year when its time for Gettysburg for the Holidays, the holiday decoration matches the seasonal décor seen in the house during its heyday as the “alternate White House.” The halls are bedecked in period-appropriate trimming, poinsettias cover every available space, and a perfect Christmas tree shimmers in the corner. The dining table is set, as if ready to receive the next round of guests. The holiday splendor is truly breathtaking.

Holiday Tours of the Eisenhower Home are presented by the National Parks Service from November 24th through December 31st, providing a poignant glimpse into the holiday celebrations of the 34th President of the United States.

A Christmas Carol

Attend a Performance of “A Christmas Carol”

A beloved Christmas tradition in Gettysburg for the holidays is the annual performance of A Christmas Carol onstage at the local Majestic Theater. A multi-talented company of actors, singers and dancers bring Dickens’ tale to life with warmth, music, and laughter. This stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Wil Love and Carl Schurr, evokes the true magic of the holiday season and is entertainment for the entire family. The show runs from December 8th through December 17th.

Christmas Haus

Visit The Christmas Haus

Looking for a unique and authentic Christmas experience? Look no further than The Christmas Haus! Located just off the square in downtown Gettysburg, this amazing shop offers a wide selection of German-made merchandise, from traditional handmade items to more modern décor and gifts. Their selection of gifts and collectibles is simply amazing, representing Christmas as well as other holidays, and much of which is crafted by the finest German artisans in a traditional manner. Experience the special flavor of a German Christmas and find the perfect gift or decoration to adorn your home at this festive season of the year at The Christmas Haus!

Dobbin House Christmas

Dine by Candlelight at Dobbin House

Dobbin House was built in 1776 and is the oldest structure in Gettysburg. Down through the years it has maintained much of its historic authenticity, keeping the same warm, homey, and rustic vibe one would expect from a stone house from the Colonial era. The Dobbin House Tavern serves colonial-inspired cuisine, its dining room lit by candlelight and warmed by an open-hearth fire in a cozy, historical atmosphere that hearkens back to days of yore. Tucked beneath the building in the rustic cellar is the delightful Springhouse Tavern, with a similar laid-back vibe that remains faithful to the history of the buildings and their legacy. Tastefully decorated for the Christmas season, either of these destinations can be the perfect treat to warm a wintery holiday night.

 Visiting Gettysburg? Tour the Historic Attractions of Gettysburg by Bus!

There’s nothing like Gettysburg for the Holidays! Our bus tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield and other notable historic local attractions are still running to help visitors celebrate the season in beautiful Gettysburg PA. Reservations can be made by calling our toll-free number at 877-680-8687. You can also purchase bus tour tickets online.  Tours depart from the Gettysburg Tour Center located at 778 Baltimore Street across from the National Cemetery.