Cumberland Valley is a fun melding of outdoorsy and old school cool. It offers both locals and visitors a chance to feel like they’ve stepped foot into ideal small town America while giving us a laidback vibe with plenty of places to enjoy. From shopping to museums and dining, here are the best things to do in Cumberland Valley.
Where’s Cumberland Valley, PA?
If Cumberland Valley has never made your travel radar, it’s about three hours east of Pittsburgh on the Turnpike. If you’re heading west, it’s about 3 3/4 hours from Philadelphia and 2 1/2 hours from Washington DC.
Things to Do in Cumberland Valley, PA
If you love a fun mix of outdoorsy meets small town, you’re in for a fun visit. Here are my suggestions on where to go, what to see, and where to eat.
Stroll Around Children’s Lake
In the quaint town of Boiling Springs is a hidden Central Pennsylvania gem: Children’s Lake. A 7-acre manmade lake, it has the prettiest crystal clear water that’s fed from local springs.
I loved visiting Children’s Lake first thing in the morning, although it would be pretty any time of day. We moseyed around the lake, took photos of the ducks and geese that call the area home, and enjoyed some breakfast from the restaurant adjacent, Caffe 101.
Walk the Appalachian Trail
Right beside Children’s Lake is part of the Appalachian Trail, believe it or not. While the area around the lake is an easy walk, if you’d like a bit more of a challenge, hike the four mile route from Boiling Springs to White Rock Trail.
Visit Downtown Carlisle
For me, Downtown Carlisle is a spot that I could visit over and over again. The locals couldn’t be friendlier and I found a mountain of information in the Cumberland Valley Visitors Center.
If you want a fun lesson in country history, just a short walk away is the Cumberland Valley Historical Society. The museum is filled with local details and exhibits that make learning about the area well worth a visit.
Shop the Mom & Pops in Downtown Carlisle, PA
One thing I love about traveling is supporting local mom and pop shops, especially in smaller towns. And my visit to Downtown Carlisle was the great spot to buy local.
My must-visits are Whistlestop Book Shop (don’t forget to say hello to the in-house cat resident, Mulan!) and Market of Curiosities for its authentic vintage clothing. Ahh, the dresses…
Learn the Ways of the Army from its Beginnings to Now
You know what I love when traveling? Being happily surprised. Full disclosure, I am a military brat but Mr. Locke, apart from his grandfather, has no connection to the U.S. military.
So, a visit to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center was eye opening for both of us. Super immersive, walking the outdoor path while walking through barracks and bunkers was not only educational, it was fun. The learning experiences are plenty and I’d be elated to revisit.
Taste Test the Cumberland Valley Ice Cream Trail
Hands down, ice cream is my favorite food. So, knowing there’s an official Cumberland Valley Ice Cream Trail, there was no way I wasn’t going to partake. There’s a downloadable guide (click the link above) to let you keep track of the places you’ve visited.
During our visit to Carlisle, we stopped in a couple of ice cream joints to try the offerings, Leo’s and Massey’s. And after a deep debate on which one is best, it was a tie: I enjoy the custard at Massey’s while Mr. Locke digs Leo’s. So, the debate continues!
Where to Stay in Cumberland Valley, PA
The place we called home for two nights is the one I’d highly recommend: Allenberry Resort. If you adore staying in historic lodging, it’s definitely the one I’d choose.
Located in Boiling Springs (and about three minutes’ drive from Children’s Lake), it has an historic-meets-luxury look and feel. With several styles of rooms to choose from, there’s a room for everyone’s taste, budget, and style.
For us, we loved the Stone Lodge. It has a common room with a large fridge on the lower level (there are no mini fridges in the rooms) and beautiful, wood flooring. Our room on the second floor overlooked the entrance and, with its flowers in full bloom, it was lovely to spy anytime I looked out our windows.
If you enjoy fly fishing, there’s a stream on property that’s ideal for your sport. When we visited, there were several fishermen trying their luck.
As for onsite dining, we got takeout on the last night of our stay. The in-house restaurant, The Barn, gets super busy on wedding nights and weekends, so make sure you lock down a reservation ahead of time.