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Fun Things to Do in Carlisle, PA

Indoors or outside, you’ll never be bored in this charming small town

By Laura Hill on June 1, 2015

Ford Mustangs line up in the street in Carlisle, PA during a car show.
Carlisle borough

Carlisle’s rich history dates back to the 18th century, and a walking tour of the borough’s fascinating downtown will bring the early years of the area and country to life. The self-guided tour takes you past 17 sites and includes handsome stone, brick and even log homes built in the 1700s. The large amount of things to do in Carlisle, helped it earn a spot on our Top 100 Best Small Towns list. 

See Your Dream-mobile

Carlisle is internationally known as the home of major car shows, bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to town annually. Join in the fun, and see collector cars and trucks celebrated most weekends at the fairgrounds from late April through early October. Events include Ford, GM, Chrysler and Corvette shows, fall and spring swap meets, and even an import event.

Stock Up on Art

Carlisle offers a number of unique shopping choices, but the American Artisan Gallery on Hanover Street has a mission in its selection of arts and crafts pieces. The shop specializes in jewelry, fiber art, ceramics, metalwork and items in glass and wood, all handmade in America by professional artisans from around the country. From the elegantly decorative to the simple and functional, you’ll go home with a one-off treasure.

Gaze at Stars-to-Be

The Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet is one of Carlisle’s crown jewels, known in the international dance world as a premier training ground for ballet stars of the future. Its young dancers perform during the year at several venues in the area, and each year present a special No Place Like Home performance for the Carlisle community. Check out the schedule and ticket information.

Eat Like a Belgian

The international population of Carlisle enriches the community in many ways, large among them its culinary scene. Explore the menu at Café Bruges, and see why people get that dreamy look on their faces when they talk about Moules Frites (mussels with hand-cut fries), Carbonade Flamande (a delicious beef stew) and, yes, waffles. Café Bruges also stocks more than 100 Belgian bottled ales and holds regular tasting events.

Join the Army

Well, almost. The U.S. Army National War College is headquartered in Carlisle, and while you may not be able to attend strategic training and educational sessions with top brass and foreign dignitaries and scholars, you can enjoy a visit to its U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. Here you can hear lectures, see Army-related material and follow the Army Heritage Trail, which documents the history of the U.S. Army in 14 exhibits that include reproductions of Revolutionary War redoubts, Civil War encampments, WWI trench system and smaller exhibits of armor, aircraft and artillery. Gift shop and café are on site too.

Feel Festive

Celebrations come naturally to Carlisle, where festivals and public events dot the calendar. Fourth of July weekend prompts the 10-day Carlisle Summerfest, a week-plus of parades, ice cream socials, craft shows, fireworks, edible goodies, music, and theater and symphony performances. 

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