By Eliza Hunt – I still remember the first time I visited Gettysburg when I was 7 years old. Where I grew up – in New Jersey – there are only cornfields and forests, so the hustle and bustle of even a small town like Gettysburg seemed almost magical to me. Even now, as I walk the streets, the quaint charm brings me back to that first visit. There’s just something about this town you can’t find anywhere else.
When I hear my friends from bigger cities say there isn’t much to do in Gettysburg at night, I encourage them to walk through town and take in all of the different activities going on: from grabbing ice cream to open mic nights, wineries, ghost tours, restaurants and antique shops. Gettysburg is far from a boring small town; it has a ton to offer – it’s just a matter of walking around or asking someone what is going on.
When I’m out with friends, we’ll often walk through the Square, down Baltimore Street and then onto Steinwehr Avenue. They are the streets to be on after normal business hours; they’re always busy with people taking walks and experiencing the town. After grabbing dinner, we’ll walk around to burn off some of the calories we just devoured. That’s when I’ll usually find myself craving something sweet, and Gettysburg has great ice cream parlors and places to grab dessert. One of my favorite shops to stop in is Kilwin’s. I’m a chocolate fanatic – the more, the better. Kilwin’s is filled with chocolate and fudge, and their handmade ice cream is definitely worth every chocolate stain in my shirt and the stares from friends as I lick my fingers clean.
But as the nights start to cool, I want to sip on something hot. Sometimes, we’ll walk down to a cozy coffee shop, the Ragged Edge Café on Chambersburg Street. I love to sit on the porch and look out over the street while sipping on a mocha. Wednesday nights are my favorite time to go because the Ragged Edge holds an open mic night every week in their back garden. It’s always completely different; you never really know who’s going to show up. The garden is gorgeous – there are flowers everywhere, black iron porch tables and chairs and arches with flower vines growing up them – one of the best aspects of the place. Some weeks I perform my own poetry, while others I just watch, drink a coffee and soak in the laid-back atmosphere.
Ghost tours are another a great way to have some fun during a stressful week. Regardless of whether I actually experience something paranormal, the tours are enjoyable, especially for a firm believer in ghosts like me. Tour guides like Johlene “Spooky” Riley of Gettysburg Ghost Tours are adorned in an all-black, period dress. With lantern in hand, she led us down back alleys and told us stories I had never heard before about popular haunted sites in Gettysburg. I found myself hanging on to her every word. Although I didn’t catch an orb in any of my photos, I had some camera issues, which gave me goose bumps.
Just recently, while walking around with friends, we saw a new winery had opened up next to Mr. G’s on Baltimore Street and decided to check it out. Wine and hard ciders are huge in Adams County (and with me). Reid’s Tasting Room and Hard Cider Café is a great spot for a relaxed night out. The small café is easy to overlook from the street, but as soon as I took a step inside, I was glad I had stopped in. The place has a warm, comfortable atmosphere. A wine tasting is an experience all its own – Ned, of Reid’s Orchard, puts on a great show and makes the sampling a blast. I’m not a wine connoisseur, but after Ned’s explanations of each wine’s “personality” and his rendition of them, I understand the difference between a merlot and a pinot noir. Their wines are delicious and very smooth, even the reds. My favorite is the Volunteer – I almost forget I am drinking wine at all. Beginning Thursday nights, the café hosts bands that perform on the back porch throughout each weekend. I like to kick back with a new bottle of wine and enjoy the local music. Adams County Winery and Hauser Estate Winery also have locations in Downtown Gettysburg, and each one features its own variety of entertainment throughout the week.
In Gettysburg, the “night life” isn’t the same as one you’ll find in big cities. But for a small, rural town, it has many things to offer visitors. Sometimes you just have to know the right places to look, or take a walk around and you’ll stumble upon something.
About the author:
Raised in the southern New Jersey countryside, it’s no wonder Eliza felt immediately at home in the beautiful Adams County landscapes three years ago when she enrolled in Gettysburg College. She often spends her time writing poetry and enjoying the outdoors – camping, hiking, kayaking, walking, riding her bike, running and any other way she can find to do so.