Take a patriotic trip to a town with roots that reach back to Ben Franklin and the Revolutionary War
Located in south-central Pennsylvania's Cumberland Valley, historic Carlisle is a "Preserve America" community that was named after its sister town in Carlisle, England. Since its founding in 1751, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has played host to several legendary Americans. Benjamin Franklin once made an official visit to the area for negotiations with Indians of the Six Nations. As the American Revolution unfolded, Carlisle's citizens bonded together to show their support for rowdy New Englanders who staged the notorious Boston Tea Party. First American president George Washington and Revolutionary War heroine Molly Pitcher (who dared to carry water to battling soldiers) both spent time in Carlisle. So did Declaration of Independence signers James Smith and James Wilson. And later on during the Civil War era, Carlisle's Old Courthouse was the site for key criminal trials associated with the Underground Railroad.
Even though Carlisle's historical significance is quite impressive, the annual Carlisle Events Auto Shows at the Fairgrounds in Cumberland Valley are the town's biggest present-day claims to fame and fun. The nearly-continuous line-up of car-crazy events offers a full spectrum of family-friendly entertainment. From vehicle auctions, swaps and giveaways to celebrity appearances, musical acts, stunt shows, test rides, drag racing and autocross, all automotive interests are well-represented. You can attend informative talks by industry experts and take part in activities focused on collector cars, motorsports trends, motorcycles, monster trucks and imported vehicles. Ford, GM and Chrysler hold major national events in Carlisle, and Ford and Corvette even stage their own parades through the downtown district. Without a doubt, the annual Auto Shows help keep the car rolling in Carlisle.
If you prefer peace, quiet and woodsy wonders to automotive revelry, you can focus your attention on 46 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) as it slices through scenic Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania. For less-experienced walkers, there's even a 13-mile AT section that's relatively flat, low and readily accessible for easygoing day hikes.
At the Bent Pine Alpaca Farm, you can meet and greet alpacas, fleecy grazing animals that are cousins of llamas, dromedaries and camels. Members of the current alpaca herd at Bent Pine are direct descendents of South American alpacas. They are sheared periodically, and the resulting fleece fiber is processed locally to fashion unique shawls, sweaters, socks, jackets, scarves and such that are available for purchase at the farm.
Boaters and anglers have several good water spots to explore in and around Carlisle. You can drop a line from your boat at Opossum Lake or North Middleton Park, or try your luck at fly fishing at Le Tort Spring Run and Nature Trail. Le Tort is a classic limestone trout stream where reeds are plentiful, currents are challenging, and the wild brown trout are good at getting away. To learn how golden rainbow trout are raised as stock fish for Pennsylvania's waterways, be sure to take a tour of Huntsdale State Fish Hatchery.
Also outdoors in Carlisle on Wednesdays from May through December, you can purchase fresh-picked local produce or a dozen free-range chicken eggs at Farmers on the Square Market. As for area festivals, Army Heritage Days are held in May, Harvest of the Arts and McLain Celtic Festival are on September's calendar, and Oktoberfest is on tap in (you guessed it) in October.
Explore Carlisle Indoors
Here's a bit of local military history: Carlisle Barracks, the second oldest Army post in the United States, has seen lots of action since its origin in 1757. The barracks served as a munitions depot during the American Revolution, was set on fire by the Confederacy during the Civil War, was converted to a schoolhouse for American Indian children from 1879 to 1918 and is presently the home site of the U.S. Army War College. With the help of brochures from Cumberland Valley Visitors Center, guests can take self-guided tours of the barracks on weekdays.
Carlisle's "Dine around the World" recommendations involve visits to the town's internationally themed restaurants, many of which are within a few blocks of one another. You can partake of English afternoon tea at Camellia's Sin Tea Parlor & Gift Shop, try Japanese sushi at Mt. Fuji or request spicy fajitas at Cancun Mexican Restaurant. Feast on Italian lobster ravioli at Trattoria Piatto or sample Spanish or Moroccan fare at Andalusia. Desserts galore are also onboard at Carlisle's fine lineup of sweet shops. From hand-dipped chocolates and cream puffs to frozen custard and homemade ice cream, Carlisle answers the hungry foodie's call.
Higher Education in Carlisle
Dickinson College is one of Carlisle's main institutions, and its history mirrors the many challenges and event that affected the nation.
The college was founded by Benjamin Rush, a prominent Philadelphia physician. In the decade prior to laying the groundwork for Dickinson, Rush had marched alongside the American army, signed the Declaration of Independence, served as a physician to the Philadelphia community, and maintained his eminent position among the progressive political and intellectual minds of the budding nation. He was a revolutionary in the midst of a revolution.
Now that America had fought for its liberties, Americans needed to maintain a nation worthy of those liberties. Rush knew that America could only live up to its own expectations if it was a country built of an educated citizenry. So seven years after he met with other members of the Continental Congress to add his signature to the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush signed the charter of a new college on what was then the American frontier. In 1783, a struggling grammar school in Carlisle was transformed into Dickinson College. Less than a week earlier, the Treaty of Paris had officially ended the Revolution and guaranteed international recognition of the United States of America. Dickinson was the first college charted in these new United States.
Rush was an outspoken opponent of slavery, a vocal proponent of equal education for women, a supporter of the rights of the mentally challenged, and a generous provider of health care to the indigent in Philadelphia. His voice was strong and distinctive, and he believed that the students at Dickinson College could, like him, develop their own voices and positions on issues of the day. They could be leaders and shapers in the new nation.
Over the years, the college has grown in size and stature. Having weathered the War of 1812, the Civil War and two World Wars, Dickinson continues to provide a liberal arts education for its students. Tour the picturesque 180-acre campus to see examples of neoclassical architecture.
Carlisle Civil War History
Did you know that Carlisle played a pivotal role in the Civil War? During the 1863 Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania, Confederate cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart didn't heed General Robert E. Lee's orders to ride to Gettysburg and instead raided Carlisle for supplies. As a result, General Lee was without his best reconnaissance group in Gettysburg and therefore didn't know the strength of the Union army arrayed before him. Lee ordered a charge against superior Union forces, resulting in a devastating Union defeat. After leaving Carlisle, Stuart's army was held up by the forces of Union general David M. Gregg. Stuart only arrived in Gettysburg in time to cover Lee's retreat.
For More Information:
Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau