"Carlisle PA in the Cumberland Valley" Carlisle by zuhur

Carlisle Travel Guide: 24 reviews and 59 photos

Carlisle PA - established 1768

Carlisle goes back to colonial times. It is not the home of my heart, but I have lived here for five years so can post a few tips! You might want to visit Carlisle from Gettysburg PA (a 40 min. drive) or Harrisburg (35 min) or Lancaster if you visit the Amish country. Farmland all around here too.
Carlisle is home to the U.S. Army War College, Dickinson College and the U-Penn-Dickinson law school. So it is a little more busy from the end of summer to June. Very conservative, but with a tinge of the opposite too!

Carlisle's weather is unpredictable! Fall can be warm or cool, but it is cold by November. Sometimes snow waits until January as the valley is protected by hills.

If you want to get the real flavor of the relative small town, you should park and walk.

Walking in Carlisle

Carlisle is a pre-revolutionary town -- but only in certain parts! Park near the town square, which is at Hanover Street (11) and High Street (641).

Two old churches face the old Courtroom (if open, you can walk upstairs) and the newer Town administration building. If you come in the summer or early fall, there is a farmer's market - pricey but good vegies.

Walk south on Hanover, a block down is Molly Pitcher's Hotel on the left.
On Pomfret turn right. You will find several cute gift shops, a tea parlor, two nice restaurants on Pomfret, one very expensive, Calif. Cafe in an old fire house. In the summer, next to Piatto restaurant on Sat. afternoon there is free music.

Walk back to Hanover, one block right (south) to South, then half a block or so east on South and you will spot a large cemetary - with revolutionary and later graves. Back up to Pomfret and walk east and there is the earliest Catholic church in the area, St. Patrick's and directly across from it the first black church and a stop on the Underground Railway.

Now, walk back up to High Street and continue West. Highlights for me are the Carlisle Theater, a vintage clothing store, Amy's Thai food and a nice coffee shop. On your left, Bosler Public library near College Street has an old fashioned reading room, very pleasant. Keep walking onto the Dickinson campus and relax in the shade on some of the big red chairs.
Dickinson website lists public lectures or concerts. For a lovely 2 blocks walk down College towards South.

For a view of the other part of society, walk up to Louther street and turn right, proceed past the post office and see old firehouse on your left. Keep walking several blocks and you will see little rowhouses, which are essentially commonwall houses - each side has half, built for Carlisle's workers in several now-closed down factories. If instead of going down Louther, you were to walk up N. Hanover, just before the traintracks spot Marian Anderson's house on the right side.

Back to your car, then drive along North Street to the east, Turn in to visit the Carlisle Barracks. Now, officially you have to have a point of contact, but legally it is supposed to be open to the public. So give a phone number, show your license and registration, drive back around and in.
Directly past the entrance, if you park at the PX, you can walk back and see the graves of the little Indian children who used to attend the Indian School which was housed at Carlisle. (Mary Wasington Hall, now used as billeting for guests was the infirmary of the school). If you drive up past the churches, bear left and then turn right at the firehouse, then next left, continue about a block, park (be careful don't park in any numbered spaces) and walk inwards to the quad, and you will be at George Washington's Hessian Powder house, where he kept his gunpowder -- low stone buildings. The Barracks are very pretty to walk around in, but another point of interest is the Army Heritage Educational Center - so you have to leave for that, and drive down what was North St. to the east, then right at next intersection and about another 1/2 mile, you'll see AHEC looming up on the right. If you call ahead, you can ask to look at their
holdings, or items of interest.

Another fun place to walk - (real hikers go to the Appalachian Trail or up to Pine Grove Furnace) is found in Boiling Springs. Take York Road from HIgh down to Boiling Springs, or down Hanover (11) to Old York Road going east. You'll miss the center of town at a small lake if you drive too fast, but park there, and you can walk around the lake, feed some voracious geese, and nearby is the family-friendly Allenby Theater - a deal where you pay for dinner and see a musical theater.

Hungry in Carlisle - or Swimming in Carlisle

Now after walking downtown, the food choices are limited - but there is a new Belgian restaurant near Dickinson, the 2 restaurants noted above, Piatto and Calif. Cafe, and also on the pricey side, but good are Sunnyside, right near the front entrance to the Carlisle Barracks on 11, or Rillo's (American/Italian) off HIgh, then York, then turn right.

Many people like Market Crossing - but that is beer and loud music, not my thing. All else is diner food.

Breakfast is good at Kim's Creamery and Cafe on High (641) just past Dickinson.

Swimmers - used to be able to get a pass into Dickinson's very nice pool, not sure that operates now. YMCA on West has a large pool. In summer, public pools in Carlisle, and one in Boiling Springs (expensive at $7). If you are allowed in the Barracks, you can pay by use or month in the summer at their outdoor pool. There is also a private swimming club south of Carlisle at something more than $350 a year.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Very quiet, safe,
  • Cons:isolated from "culture," between two noisy freeways, and crowded with Mustangs and Corvettes during car shows
  • Last visit to Carlisle: Sep 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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