Gettysburg is a name that every American recognizes. It’s historic and part of our heritage. Gettysburg is the site of the biggest battle that also marked the turning point during the Civil War. It is also the site of Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech “The Gettysburg Address.”
With so much history attached to it, it’s no surprise that you and many others want to make a trip out to see the Gettysburg National Park. But what exactly is there to do on an old battlefield? What activities are there? Are there things to do for children as well as adults? If you’ve got these questions and more on your mind, we’ve got answers for you.
TRAVELER’S TIPS: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Planning a trip anywhere can be stressful. You have to choose how you’re getting there, where you’ll stay, and budget your money for what sorts of activities you plan on doing along with things like meals and souvenir shopping. While we can’t book your flight or do your budgeting for you, we can offer you some tips to help make your trip to Gettysburg National Park as enjoyable as possible.
One thing to keep in mind is that Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania. This means that it goes through all four seasons, so you have to choose carefully the time of year you plan to go. The park is open all year round, but weather can affect any outdoor tours or camping you might want to do. Once you’ve chosen which season you plan on going in, you can plan your activities accordingly. It is also good practice to check the weather reports for the area when you start packing so that you can choose proper clothing and miscellaneous items like bug repellant or umbrellas that you might need.
Another important tip to remember is to pack for the activities you plan on doing. If you know you’ll be doing a lot of walking, especially outdoors, bring proper footwear. You want to at least have an idea of what you’d like to do so you can pack and plan accordingly. It’s okay to wing it a little bit once you’re there, but it can become quite a hassle – and expensive – to have to pack for everything you might want to do. Why carry around those heavy binoculars if you plan on spending all your time in museums and historic buildings?
7 ACTIVITIES AND SITES TO EXPERIENCE IN GETTYSBURG NATIONAL PARK
You’ve got your tips, you’re excited for the history you will experience in Gettysburg National Park. All you need now is to know the how behind the experience. There are a lot of things to do in Gettysburg, but we’ve narrowed it down to seven things you simply must fit in on your trip.
1. Ranger Programs at the Gettysburg Visitor Center
The Ranger Programs at Gettysburg National Park are free tours and talks led by a park ranger. There are a variety of different walks and information sessions to choose from, some of which are special events and others that occur daily. They also vary by season. These walks and information sessions are family friendly and last anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours on average.
If you’re looking for something really fun for just the kids, there is a Ranger Program called Join the Army in which children ages 5 through 13 take part in a mock army enlistment from the Civil War Era. What makes it especially fun is that they get special costumes that look like the uniforms soldiers wore and pretend weapons. They are taught about the soldiers and military life during the time period and get to participate in a mock battle at the end. For the adults who enjoy learning and exercise, we recommend participating in a Battle Walk. These extensive guided hikes take you over the woods and fields where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought, showcasing both famous and lesser known points of interest. You can look on the National Park Service website to see which programs are currently being offered as well as gain some basic information on them.
2. Living History Programs
What trip to Gettysburg National Park would be complete without a battle reenactment? The park’s Living History programs take you back to the Civil War days through knowledgeable historians—in costume, we might add – giving live demonstrations showing the lives of soldiers in their camps and on the battlefields. These programs show you both sides of the war, allowing you to get both perspectives, just in case you dislike only getting the winner’s side of history. The Gettysburg Nation Park’s Living History Programs run from April to October on Saturdays and Sundays.
3. Eisenhower National Historic Site
No history buff will want to miss a visit to the Eisenhower National Historic Site. This site is the home and farm of President and World War II general Dwight D Eisenhower, preserved as it was back in the 1950’s. The National Park Service offers guided tours and it costs only $9 online through the Gettysburg Foundation Website to reserve a ticket. You can also purchase tickets at the Gettysburg National Park Visitor Center, where a shuttle bus will take you to the site directly.
4. Gettysburg Cyclorama and Museum of the American Civil War
Okay, so that’s technically two things, but they are a package deal on the Gettysburg Foundation Website along with a short film for just $15 per person. Both are located in or near the Gettysburg National Park Visitors Center. The Gettysburg Cyclorama is massive—we’re talking almost four stories high and longer than a football field – realistic oil painting by French painter Paul Philippoteaux. Paired with sound and light effects, the Cyclorama completely immerses patrons in the fateful third day of the Battle for Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy a trip into the Museum of the American Civil War with its interactive exhibits, relics from the Battle of Gettysburg, and presentations within the 12 galleries. You can read more about these and the short film on the Gettysburg Foundation page.
5. Gettysburg Museum of History
The Gettysburg Museum of History is located north of Gettysburg National Park, but it is definitely worth the visit for history enthusiasts and collectors of relics. The museum features exhibits on the Civil War, both World Wars, and Presidencies, so the history fans in your group will enjoy a visit. Collectors will especially love it, as you can not only buy artifacts and collector’s items from the museum, you can also sell, donate and loan items to it. To make this even better, entry into the museum is free of charge.
6. David Wills House
Another home of a famous figure turned museum, the David Wills House is known for being the place where Abraham Lincoln stayed before giving the Gettysburg Address. The museum is focused on Lincoln and his famous speech through the six galleries. Two of the galleries are rooms that have been restored in order to preserve their 1863 appearance. You can get to the David Wills House from the Gettysburg National Park Visitor Center by taking the shuttle if you choose not to rent a car while you’re visiting. Entrance is just $7 per adult, but if you plan your visit during a certain time of the year – check the National Park Service website for exact dates – admission may be free for everyone.
7. The Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station
Another historic place – and one that made the National Register of Historic Places list – is the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station. What makes this station so memorable and therefore a place to visit is that it is where Abraham Lincoln arrived the night before he delivered the Gettysburg Address. You will learn about the station itself and Lincoln’s arrival through the living history guides and tours that you can take yourself through.
There is no fee to get into the station and you can take the shuttle from the Gettysburg National Park Visitor Center there. It’s a great first stop on your tour of Gettysburg.
7 FUN THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS IN GETTYSBURG NATIONAL PARK
There are many things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, especially for you history lovers. Plan ahead and pre-purchase activity packages through the Gettysburg Foundation Website or wing it when you get there without risking too much damage to your wallet. If you’re seeking an inexpensive, educational trip for your family, you can’t go wrong with the Gettysburg National Park.
We hope our list helps you with your trip planning. Safe travels!