Why Downtown Carlisle?
Our downtown is the beating heart of the Carlisle area, and we're delighted to welcome you to discover what we already know.
We have such a hard-working, dedicated, and talented community of small business owners in downtown, who have put together some of the most unique dining and retail experiences seen anywhere. From the shores of the Mediterranean to the backroads of the American South, our 30+ downtown restaurants celebrate the diverse cuisines of the world. American, Belgian, English, French, Greek, Himaylayan, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, and Vietnamese food in diner or fine dining settings are presented by talented restaurateurs in downtown Carlisle. Our neighborhood of 40+ specialty shops, from quirky gift stores to galleries and from trendy clothing boutiques to vintage shops, are all worthy of exploration. Apparel, art, baked goods, beer & wine, books, candy, coffee & tea, collectibles, eyewear, home décor, jewelry, musical instruments, outdoor gear, and more await you in shops locally owned by experienced shopkeepers. We think if you walk our sidewalks and spend some time with us, you'll be happy to let our downtown become your downtown as well!
Carlisle is more than just eateries and shops. Because Carlisle has been at the center of so many important historical moments in American history, it's difficult to imagine our town without such a varied and rich past. From our beginnings as a town on the edge of the colonial frontier, we've been tightly woven into the narrative of America. Ben Franklin came to Carlisle to speak to native tribes, the Forbes Expedition jumped off here, and indian captives were returned to their families on our Square after the French Indian War. We were early supporters of the independence movement, supplying some of the first troops for what would become the Continental Army, and we have ties to many Revolutionary politicians, heroes, and heroines, such as the Armstrongs, Blaines, and Butlers, but the most celebrated of which in Carlisle is Molly Pitcher, who is buried in our Old Graveyard. Even John Andre, the British official with whom Benedict Arnold conspired, was held prisoner here for some time during the war. John Dickinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the first justices on the Supreme Court, lived here, and Benjamin Rush, another signer of the Declaration, founded Dickinson College here in 1783 just days after the Treaty of Paris ended the war, making it the first college founded in the new nation. During the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, George Washington assembled and reviewed troops not far from our town square before heading west to quell the rebellion.
Other highlights include having stops on the Underground Railroad and the shelling of Carlisle during the Civil War, which many speculate caused the Confederacy to lose at Gettysburg because part of their calvary got delayed here The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was at the Carlisle Barracks, and the illustrious WWI Gobin's Guard mustered from this area. Artists, such as the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Marianne Moore, authors, such as Newberry award-winner, Lois Lowry, and the most celebrated athlete of the 20th century and Olympic gold medal winner, Jim Thorpe, have called the Carlisle area home at some point in their lives, as have MLB player Sid Bream, NBA player Billy Owens, and NFL player Lee Woodall. We've also had visits from Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, several United States Presidents and many other renowned figures that it's difficult to imagine what Carlisle would be like without its history. One of the most interesting things about all this history is that many locals just take it in stride, as if it's normal for a smaller town such as Carlisle to have so many ties to history--it's not!
Carlisle also offers such a mixture of landscapes and ways of life. We're 20 minutes from the state capital, and 2-4 hours from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, DC, and New York. Locals can jump off from Carlisle to so many other places for day trips or weekends while still living a small-town life. As far as lifestyles, we have such an amazing mix of urban, suburban, rural, and wilderness right here in close proximity. You can live in downtown Carlisle and walk to virtually anything you need or live in the mountains among nature in almost total seclusion and be no more than 10 minutes from the center of town. While we have the conveniences of modern living, you can drive in any direction of our town square and be among rolling hills of farmland or deep in the wilds.
While our roots are deep and there's such a solid sense of place--there's a feeling of being anchored here as you walk around our downtown among our historic buildings--our community is made up of a very diverse mixture of families who have lived here for generations and gets injected with Army War College families and Dickinson College students that have lived all over the world. It helps us stay youthful and evolving.
The Carlisle area is such a special place that it's difficult to find a another like it because of all the unique ways history and modern living coexist. And the activities and experiences the area can provide mean you almost never run out of things to do. We invite you, whether you're a local or tourist, to spend time with us in downtown Carlisle.
We can't wait to see you,
Stephanie Patterson Gilbert
President, Destination Carlisle, Inc
Owner, Georgie Lou's Retro Candy
Photo: Jennifer Oswald--Secretary, Destination Carlisle; Owner, TimeWalker Tours