15 Best Things to Do in Carlisle, PA

Carlisle, PA
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No matter the season, you will find the best things to do in Carlisle, Pennsylvania will keep you entertained.

Located in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, Carlisle is a borough and the county's seat.

An agriculturally-rich area, the Cumberland Valley, lies to the north of Carlisle.

The Harrisburg–Carlisle Metropolitan Statistical Area encompasses all Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties in South Central Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1751 by Scots-Irish immigrants, Carlisle served as the county capital of Cumberland County, which had just been established.

Carlisle, Cumberland (now in Cumbria), England, inspired the town's name.

Carlisle has a lively downtown area with various cultural and commercial institutions, all within walking distance of Dickinson College, the country's first college.

From art galleries, museums, antique stores, and farmers' markets, you will fall in love with the small-town charm of Carlisle!

Here are the best things to do in Carlisle, Pennsylvania:

Discover Military History at U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center

Headquarters of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
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In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the United States Army Heritage and Education Center serves as the Army's primary historical research institution. ]

The Military History Institute, Army Heritage Museum, Historical Services Division, U.S. Army War College Library, Collections Management, and Visitor and Education Services are all in this 56-acre complex.

Army tanks at U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
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It features 16 million military artifacts, including the world's most extensive collection of Civil War photography.

It also hosts the Soldier Experience Gallery, which chronicles American military history from the Spanish-American War to today.

You may also stroll through the Army Heritage Trail featuring tanks and helicopters.

Army clothes inside the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
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Tour the Carlisle Barracks

The "Carlisle Barracks," located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is one of the most fascinating and historically significant locations you'll ever see.

It's no secret that Carlisle Barracks is a popular destination for tourists.

The barracks here house the U.S. Army War College and serve as a military installation for the United States Army.

In addition to its age, it is the second-oldest army installation in the United States still in continuous service.

They were built in 1757 and have a long history of military service.

In 1863, the Confederate Army razed the site eventually housed the Carlisle Indian School, a controversial institution.

From 1879 through 1918, Jim Thorpe, the famous athlete, and 10,000 other American Indian students attended this school.

Even though it is still used by the military, tourists can see the facility and tour on weekdays.

Explore the Region's Past at Cumberland County Historical Society

For a fascinating and one-of-a-kind experience when visiting Carlisle, Pennsylvania, stop by The Cumberland County Historical Society.

In 1873, local attorney James Hamilton, Jr. left the Cumberland County Historical Society, a library endowed by his estate.

The library has evolved into an educational institution, complete with museums and picture archives.

People who visit here will be awed by the variety of things to see and do.

More than 250 years of art and artifacts are shown in sixteen galleries.

Over 30 carved creatures by folk art carver Wilhelm Schimmel and handmade clocks and silverware by local craftsmen are highlighted.

In addition, it hosts a slew of public activities throughout the year.

People may participate in various activities, from lectures and seminars to walking tours and family-friendly events.

Wander around Kings Gap Environmental and Education Center

Entrance gate of Kings Gap Environmental and Education Center
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Kings Gap Environmental and Education Training Center is a 1,454-acre destination that offers various activities for the whole family.

People come here for hiking and picnicking, and it's a favorite destination for families.

And if you're a fan of nature and wildlife, you'll be glad to learn that this region is home to a wide variety of plants and animals.

Mountain laurel and huckleberries may be found in the forests and gray squirrels, turkeys, and white-tailed deer.

On the other hand, the Cameron-Masland Mansion is one of the park's most recognizable features.

About four miles from the main gate, the mansion offers a stunning perspective of the Cumberland Valley.

Bring Your Kids to Bent Pine Alpaca Farm

There are roughly 25-30 alpacas and a few llamas at the Bent Pine Alpaca Farm, located halfway between Carlisle and Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

The 16-acre farm was established in 1770 and passed down through the generations.

The alpacas are pretty friendly and enjoy meeting new people.

The whole family is welcome to meet them on Sunday afternoons or other times if you make an appointment in advance.

With the option to offer them a healthy carrot snack, children will enjoy getting up close and personal with these lovely creatures.

The on-site shop sells fashionable alpaca-fleece items, including scarves, mittens, and other accessories.

The alpaca dung is also composted for sale.

Thanks to this organic, chemical-free soil enhancer, your flowers and plants will blossom brighter than ever before!

Knitting and crocheting lessons are available as well.

Learn How the Country's First College Came to Be at Dickinson College

Entrance gate of Dickinson College
ravedelay, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dickinson Institution is often regarded as the first college to be founded in the United States after it was established.

According to its charter, Dickinson College was initially launched on September 9, 1893.

Since the Treaty of Paris signing took place just a few days before this date, it is considered the first college to be created in the United States since it was established.

A liberal arts institution, this college is a massive 144 acres in size and has a student body of over 3,000.

Exterior of a building at Dickinson college
Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Many students in state and beyond continue to come to this college to further their education.

The Dickinson Red Devils, the college's hometown sports team, are now a part of the university's rich and gratifying academic experience, including theatrical productions and sporting activities.

People who visit this college can tour the entire campus.

While strolling through the grounds and admiring the magnificent architecture of this castle, you'll get a natural feeling of its long history.

A wooden bench at Dickinson College
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Catch a Show at Carlisle Theatre

In May of 1939, the Carlisle Theatre first opened its doors.

By far, it was the most luxurious of three cinema "palaces" within a block that was air-conditioned for the first time in Carlisle's history.

Known as "streamlined moderne" in the art deco lexicon, the Theatre was constructed in this manner.

Art Deco influences can be found throughout the building, from the glitzy contemporary marquee to the ornately decorated interior.

The historic Carlisle Theatre, located in the center of Carlisle, has been referred to as "the jewel of downtown."

The Carlisle Regional Performing Arts Center hosts various events, including plays, musical performances, films, and family-oriented activities.

There's always something intriguing to see at Players on High, whether an independent film or a new international release, a stage performance, or a cinematic experience.

Have a Blast at Midway Bowl

Midway Bowling is more than just a bowling alley; it's an indoor sports and entertainment facility that offers everything you need for a night of fun.

It has 32 lanes of bowling available for you and your family and friends to compete.

Regardless of your age or taste, you may find something to enjoy.

Instead of bowling, you may try your hand at the excellent golf simulator, billiards, or arcade games.

In addition to offering a bar and food options, the facility hosts the renowned Rock & Bowl event on Friday and Saturday nights, which features live rock music.

Go Hiking and Fishing at LeTort Spring Run Nature Trail

Wooden footbridge at LeTort Spring Run Nature Trail
Morsea24, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LeTort Spring Run Nature Trail is a fascinating place to visit if you enjoy being surrounded by nature and taking in some stunning scenery.

The famous LeTort Spring Run Nature Trail in Carlisle Borough covers two miles.

It has a trailhead located a little over two miles away on Spring Garden Street from Carlisle Borough's LeTort Park Carlisle Borough.

A French-Swiss trader named James LeTort was the inspiration for the path's name, one of the area's most popular recreational outdoor destinations.

Fly-fishing, for example, is quite popular here.

These streams are teeming with beautiful limestone trout.

The book "Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die" even mentions this spot.

Along with the opportunity to fly-fish, visitors to this location may also take advantage of the many paths that wind their way through the area, taking them through breathtaking scenery.

Another popular pastime in this area is birding, owing to the large variety of birds that can be found roaming freely around the room.

Over 90 of America's best-known painters are showcased at the American Artisan Gallery in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

At the gallery, art enthusiasts may expect to see paintings in a range of mediums, glass tile mosaics, sculpture, jewelry, and woodwork, as well as other types of craft art.

Whether you're looking for a handcrafted leather case or an original piece of jewelry, you'll find something for everyone here.

Shoppers who become peckish can satisfy their cravings while out and about by stocking up on confections like handcrafted chocolates and gourmet brittles.

Before it was transformed into the American Artisan Gallery, this shop sat vacant for 12 years.

Carlisle's history is intertwined with the business, which has been open since the 1700s.

Unleash Your Creativity at Create-A-Palooza

A trip to Create-a-Palooza is a terrific option if you're searching for something new to do or if you want to learn a new skill.

This intriguing-sounding location is essentially an art and activity center where adults and children alike can create one-of-a-kind crafts without needing to purchase a wide selection of supplies.

Ceramics, gourd crafts, canvas painting, and glass painting are just some of the possibilities.

Classes in the manufacturing of both candles and soaps are also available.

It also offers seminars, corporate team building, summer workshops, birthdays, baby and bridal showers, and other services.

It could be any kind of Palooza you can think of!

You or your child will need nothing to produce a work of art; the completed items are yours to keep and display at home.

Tour the Two Mile House

Exterior of the two mile house
Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It's hard to think of a finer example of a Federal limestone mansion than Two Mile House.

It was given its moniker because of its remoteness from the main square.

Mrs. Mary Wheeler King presented the house to the Cumberland County Historical Society in 1857 after being converted into a private dwelling for her.

From 1826 to 1857, the building served as a bar, providing food and lodging for passing visitors.

On five acres of beautifully manicured grounds, a charming old mansion has 12 rooms — 11 of which have fireplaces.

In 1992, the Cumberland Country Historical Society received the building through a bequest.

Since then, the lovely old building has served as a location for various special occasions, including weddings.

The gardens are open every day of the year and are accessible to the public.

Try the Spirits at 1794 Whiskey Rebellion

Bar and eatery 1794 Whiskey Rebellion may be found right in the middle of downtown Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

You'll find more than a hundred whiskeys from across the world, along with local favorites like Bastille Medallions and Colonial Chicken Pot Pie.

You may also sample some of the finest artisanal spirits and beers.

In 1794, diners may taste, touch, and experience history in a whole new manner.

When President George Washington visited in 1794, he was inspired to open a restaurant known as the best place for booze.

The Commander-in-presence Chief's on the field as the Army prepared to protect against the enemy was the only time in history that the Whiskey Rebellion was quelled.

Bring Home Souvenirs from Bedford Street Antiques

Bedford Street Antiques is a well-known destination where people browse and buy a wide range of unique and intriguing antique goods.

A new owner purchased this 33,000-square-foot clothing factor in 2003.

It was then renovated into the charming vintage shop it is now.

Visitors to this antique shop will be greeted by more than 100 antique sellers spread across two levels.

Everything from furniture and artwork to glassware and kitchen utensils to children's toys and clothing to signage and more may be purchased here.

There's more to it than that, of course. In reality, this location hosts a broad range of events throughout the year, including several antique exhibits that set up business in this establishment.

Even more, products may be seen and purchased than previously thought feasible.

Visitors will have the time of their life browsing every inch of this shop's offerings because there are so many items on display for them to purchase.

Cap Off Your Night at Market Cross Pub and Brewery

This family-owned restaurant in Carlisle, England, serves English/American cuisine coupled with more than 250 types of beer for lunch and supper.

Market Cross Square in Carlisle, England, was the inspiration for the Market Cross Pub and Brewery.

It opened in 1994 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, when the proprietors learned the city had a sister city in England.

Once known for its steaks, burgers, and beer garden, the restaurant has now been transformed into a garage brewery and beer garden.

Here, you may enjoy the English Red Ale, Excalibur Imperial Stout, and Old Yeller IPA while chatting with the locals or your friends.

Final Thoughts

One of Pennsylvania's most picturesque municipalities, Carlisle Township, is a must-see for nature lovers and history buffs.

With so much to see and do, visitors to Carlisle are sure to have a great day exploring everything that the city has to offer them.