Carlisle Travel Guide

Get to know Carlisle, Pennsylvania by discovering its culturally important attractions, natural wonders, hiking/biking routes, best things to do, food and drink scene, where to stay, local culture and customs, safety and health, transportation and logistics, and nearby destinations, all in this comprehensive Carlisle travel guide.

Introduction to Carlisle

Carlisle is a charming small town situated in the Harrisburg area, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, in Pennsylvania. This Mid-Atlantic region is known for its historic places, scenic views, and outdoor adventures. Carlisle is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors with its rich history, beautiful parks, delicious food, and unique culture.

List of Places to Visit in Carlisle

Carlisle has a lot to offer its visitors from culturally important attractions, museums, and historical places, to natural attractions, outdoor adventures, and scenic views.

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Carlisle is steeped in history and culture, with several museums and historical places to visit.

  • Army Heritage Center: A museum dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the US Army. It has several exhibits, artifacts, and outdoor displays that showcase the army’s contributions.
  • Cumberland County Historical Society: It exhibits the history of Cumberland County through its collection of artifacts, documents, costumes, and memorabilia.
  • Carlisle Barracks: A historic military post that dates back to the Revolutionary War era. It is home to several important military institutions, including the US Army War College.

Natural Attractions of Carlisle: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

Carlisle boasts of natural attractions that offer awe-inspiring views and thrilling outdoor adventures.

  • LeTort Spring Run Nature Trail: A picturesque walking trail that follows the LeTort Spring Run Stream. This trail offers a unique view of the local wildlife, including the famous native brown trout.
  • Lamar Lake: A serene and peaceful spot to enjoy fishing, kayaking, and swimming.
  • Mill Race Historical Village: A restored early 19th-century village that features several historic houses, a grist mill, a machine shop, a barn, and a distillery.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Carlisle

Carlisle is a perfect place for hiking and biking enthusiasts, with various natural trails to explore.

  • Cumberland Valley Rail Trail: A scenic trail that runs over 11 miles along the old railroad line. The trail features lovely views of the Conodoguinet Creek and offers an excellent opportunity to bike, run or hike.
  • Appalachian Trail: A 2,000-mile trail that runs through 14 states, including Pennsylvania. Carlisle is an excellent base camp for hikers looking to explore the southernmost part of the trail.

Best Things to Do in Carlisle: Activities and Tours

Carlisle offers a wide range of activities and tours to travelers of all interests and ages. Some of the things to do while in Carlisle include:

  • Carlisle Theatre: Catch a movie or live show at the historic theater. They offer a fantastic selection of movies, plays, and musical events.
  • Carlisle Country Market: Enjoy fresh local produce, meats, and baked goods. The market is open year-round and offers a unique shopping experience.
  • Army Heritage Days: An annual event organized by the Army Heritage Center, where visitors can enjoy historic displays, military demonstrations, and a living history program. The event occurs in May annually, and admission is free.

Week-Long Itinerary for Carlisle

Here’s a suggested itinerary to explore Carlisle in a week:

Day Itinerary
Day 1 Visit Army Heritage Center and USAHEC Gift Shop
Day 2 Hike along the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail
Day 3 Explore Mill Race Historical Village and Carlisle Barracks
Day 4 Catch a live Show at the Carlisle Theatre
Day 5 Go kayaking or fishing at Lamar Lake
Day 6 Visit the Cumberland County Historical Society
Day 7 Attend Army Heritage Days (if possible)

Food and Drink Scene of Carlisle

Carlisle has an exciting food and drink scene, with a variety of options to cater to all tastes and preferences.

Must-Try Dishes

  • Scrapple: A traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dish made with pork scraps, cornmeal, and spices.
  • Shoo-Fly Pie: A molasses and crumble pie that originated from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
  • Pork and Sauerkraut: A classic dish served in Carlisle and surrounding areas as a good luck meal at the start of every new year.

Local Beverages

  • Pennsylvania Apple Cider: Made from fresh apples and a perfect drink during the fall season.
  • Yuengling Beer: A local beverage and the oldest continuously family-owned brewery in America.

Where to Stay in Carlisle: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Carlisle has various accommodation options that fit all budgets, preferences, and locations.

  • Comfort Suites Downtown Carlisle: A mid-range hotel located in the heart of the downtown area, with easy access to most attractions, shops, and restaurants.
  • Carlisle House Bed and Breakfast: A charming and intimate inn that offers personalized service and comfortable rooms.
  • Days Inn by Wyndham Carlisle North: An affordable hotel located close to major highways and shopping areas.

What to Buy in Carlisle: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Carlisle offers plenty of locally made souvenirs and products that make for perfect gifts for your loved ones or yourself.

  • Traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Quilts: Made with intricate designs and beautiful colors, these quilts are a great souvenir to take back home.
  • Local Apple Butter and Jams: Made with fresh ingredients and a sweet flavor, they make for excellent souvenirs.
  • Brewery and Winery Souvenirs: Take home a bottle of local wine or Yuengling beer to enjoy later or gift to someone special.

Local Culture and Customs of Carlisle

Carlisle has a unique culture that blends its historic past with modern times. The area is known for its Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, which is evident in its food, traditions, and Amish communities.

Best Time to Visit Carlisle

The best time to visit Carlisle is in the fall (September- November), when the leaves change color and create a breathtaking scenery. Spring (April-June) and summer (July- September) are also great times to visit the town with pleasant weather, and outdoor attractions are in full swing.

Do’s and Don’ts of Carlisle


  • Do try out the local cuisine.
  • Do explore the historic places and museums.
  • Do hike or bike along the natural trails.


  • Don’t litter or damage the natural landscape.
  • Don’t be disrespectful to the local culture and customs.
  • Don’t forget to book your accommodation in advance.

Safety and Health

Safety in Carlisle

Carlisle is generally a safe place to visit. However, travelers should still take precautionary measures such as locking their cars, keeping their valuables secure, and avoiding walking alone at night.

Health in Carlisle

Travelers should be up to date with their routine vaccines, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, and polio vaccine.

Getting to Carlisle: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Carlisle

  • Harrisburg International Airport (MDT): The nearest airport to Carlisle, located 33 miles from the town center.
  • Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI): Located 92 miles from Carlisle.

Bus Stations Near Carlisle

  • Carlisle Greyhound Station: Located in the downtown area, with several daily connections to nearby destinations.

Other Options

  • Drive: Carlisle is easily accessible by car via major highways like Interstate 76, Interstate 81, and Route 11.
  • Train: Carisle does not have a train station. However, Harrisburg Amtrak Station, located 20 miles from Carlisle, offers train connections to major cities on the East Coast.

How to Get Around in Carlisle

The best way to move around in Carlisle is by car. Alternatively, visitors can also bike, walk or take public transportation.

  • Carlisle Circulator: A free trolley service that connects major attractions and locations within the downtown area.
  • Bus Service: The Cumberland County Transportation Authority offers bus services within and around Carlisle.

Where to Go Next from Carlisle: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Gettysburg: A historic town located 30 miles southwest of Carlisle known for its significant role in the American Civil War.
  • Hershey: A town located 29 miles east of Carlisle known for its chocolate factory, amusement park, and Hershey’s chocolate world.
  • Lancaster: A city located 57 miles southeast of Carlisle known for its Amish community and countryside.


Carlisle is a charming small town that offers a rich blend of culture, history, natural wonders, and outdoor adventures. With plenty of attractions, activities, and events, the town is a perfect destination for travelers looking to experience a unique blend of modern living and historic heritage.