Attractions

10 Things to Do in Gettysburg on Your First Visit

When you hear Gettysburg, your mind probably goes to “Gettysburg Address” or “Battle Of Gettysburg” automatically (I know mine does).

There’s no doubt that Gettysburg is steeped in history and has played a huge role in shaping the United States.

But there’s more to Gettysburg than its historical role. There’s plenty of things to do for everyone.

In today’s blog post, I list down 10 things to do in Gettysburg for first-timers.

Things To Do In Gettysburg

1. Spend a day at the Gettysburg National Military Park.

This national park aims to preserve the landscape of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War.

Gettysburg Cannon

Booking a tour is best if this is your first time in Gettysburg, but one of the best things to do in Gettysburg is to spend a day in the military park without a plan or a guide and just explore everything you can.

Essential Information: Gettysburg National Military Park
Address: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA | 717-334-1124
Hours: April 1 to October 31: Mon-Sun 6am-10pm; November 1 to March 31: Mon-Sun 6am-7pm
Duration: spend a whole day here
Website: Gettysburg National Military Park

The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center is the recommended starting point for when you visit this National Park.

Your first stop should be to the National Park Service Information Desk to talk to a friendly park ranger. Pick up a park map to help you navigate park roads, learn about what’s being offered in the museum and visitor center, and find out all your options for touring the battlefield.

The main things to do in the visitor center are watching a film about the American Civil War, immersing yourself in a massive painting, and exploring artifacts from the civil war.

Every 15 minutes in the summer and every 30 minutes in the winter, a film called A New Birth Of Freedom narrated by Morgan Freeman is shown. It’s meant to orient visitors to Gettysburg’s place in the American Civil War.

Originally displayed in 1884, The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama is an enormous 360-degree painting that takes you to the middle of Pickett’s Charge on the decisive third day of the Battle.

Gettysburg National Military Museum

Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell

Longer than a football field and as high as a four-story building, with light and sound effects, the Gettysburg Cyclorama is an immersive experience like no other.

Also inside this visitor center, the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War features one of the largest collections of Civil War relics in the country in 22,000 square feet of exhibit space.

The museum also features interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations that educate visitors about the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, and its aftermath.

Essential Information: Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center
Address: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA | 717-338-1243
Hours: April 1 to October 31: Mon-Sun 8am-6pm; November 1 to March 31: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Cost: Entering the premises: Free; Film, Cyclorama, and Museum Experience: $15 per head for adults; discounts available for seniors, military, and children
Website: Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center

From the visitor center, you can book a tour with Licensed Battlefield Guides who have been helping thousands of park visitors better understand the Battle Of Gettysburg and give context to the 1,300 monuments, markers, and memorials scattered throughout the 7,000-acre battlefield.

These guides are not your ordinary tour guides. Licensed Battlefield Guides are rigorously tested and licensed by Gettysburg National Military Park.

Thus, these Guides are able to answer almost any question you’ll inevitably have about the battlefield, as well as the various items and markers you’ll see there.

You can book the tour at the visitor center as I’ve mentioned, but if you’ve already planned your trip in advance and already know what date you plan to tour the battle field, you’ll save on tour rates.

Essential Information: Licensed Battlefield Guides
Address (Visitor center): 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA | 877-874-2478
Address (Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides ALBG): 241 Steinwehr Avenue, Gettysburg, PA | 717-337-1709
Duration: 2 hours; 3- and 4-hour tours are also available upon request
Cost (if booked through the Gettysburg Visitor Center): Car Tours: 1-6 people per vehicle: $75; 7-15 people per vehicle: $100; 16+ people per vehicle: $150
Cost (if booked directly through the ALBG): Car Tours: 1-6 people per vehicle: $63; 7-15 people per vehicle: $83; 16+ people per vehicle: $132
Website: Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides

Soldier's National Cemetery, Gettysburg

Photo Credit: lcm1863

Here are other places of interest to visit in Gettysburg National Military Park.

  • Eisenhower National Historic Site. Home and farm of President Dweight D. Eisenhower
  • Rupp House History Center. Provides a glimpse of civilian life during and after the Battle of Gettysburg
  • Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Reflect on those who have given their lives for freedom
  • George Spangler Farm & Field Hospital. Historic farm turned to field hospital during the Civil War
  • David Wills House. Center of immense clean-up after the Battle of Gettysburg and where President Lincoln put finishing touches on his Gettysburg Address.
  • Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station™. Transportation hub for dead and wounded soldiers, medical personnel and supplies, and families looking for their loved ones. Also where President Lincoln pulled up to give the Gettysburg Address

 

2. View the diorama at the Gettysburg History Center.

Get a bird’s eye view of the Battle of Gettysburg when you visit the Gettysburg History Center for the largest military diorama in the country.

It represents over 6,000 acres of land, with over 20,000 hand-painted pieces depicting soldiers, horses, cannons, buildings, and more. Plus, the story is fully narrated complete with light and sound effects.

There is also a huge display area for various historical items and Civil War paintings. Also, this is the headquarters of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides.

Essential Information: Gettysburg History Center
Address: 241 Steinwehr Ave, Gettysburg, PA | 717-334-0982
Hours: Vary per month; call to get hours
Duration: 2 hours
Cost: $8.50 per head for adults; discounts available for children and seniors
Website: Gettysburg History Center

3. Watch (or join!) the Annual Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment.

The Gettysburg Anniversary Civil War Reenactment is a popular all-day family event designed to both entertain and educate.

Living history tents with continuous programs are set up, with participants all in period costumes. Field demonstrations are also held in the military camps by reenactors in full battle gear.

Gettysburg Reenactment

Photo Credit: S Pakhrin

Of course, the highlight of this event is the actual battle reenactments, complete with explosions, full-scale artillery fire, thundering horse hooves, and metallic clangs of steel sabers.

Unfortunately, the 157th Reenactment has been canceled for 2020, though the 158th Reenactment is expected to push through in 2021.

Essential Information: Gettysburg Reenactment
Address: 965 Pumping Station Road, Gettysburg, PA | 800-514-3849
Schedule: July of every year
Cost: One-day ticket: $29 per head for adults; Two-day ticket: $49 per head for adults; Three-day ticket: $69 per head
Website: Gettysburg Reenactment

4. Experience civilian life before, during, and after the Civil War.

The Civil War impacted thousands of soldiers, but sometimes we forget that it touched many civilian lives as well.

Civil War Life

Photo Credit: Jon Dawson

The Shriver House Museum is a house that was occupied by the real-life Shriver family: George, Hettie, and their two young daughters.

A guide dressed in a period costume takes visitors around the house and gives them a taste of what civilian life was like at the time of the Civil War.

Sometimes, the owner pops in and hosts tours around the house, highlighting the renovations and the work done on the house to make it look like how it did in the 1860s.

Tours normally begin every 45 minutes, but may change due to large groups with advance reservations.

Essential Information: Shriver House Museum
Address: 309 Baltimore Street, Gettysburg, PA | 717-337-2800
Hours: Hours vary per month or season; call or refer to their Rates & Hours page to know the hours on a particular day.
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: $9.50 per head for adults; discounts available for childresn
Website: Shriver House Museum

5. Go on a food tour.

You may not think of Gettysburg as a foodie town, but you’d be mistaken.

Go on a food tour with Savor Gettysburg to sample a variety of local specialties and to find the best restaurants, cafés, and pubs in Gettysburg.

Savor Gettysburg offers several food tour options as well as cooking classes and other food experiences.

Their most popular food tour is the Historic Downtown Food Tour, which takes around 3 hours and covers six to seven restaurants for $64 per head.

Essential Information: Savor Gettysburg Food Tours
Telephone Number: 717-688-9584
Duration: Differs per type of food tour; consult this page: Savor Gettysburg Food Tours: Types and Rates
Cost: Differs per type of food tour; consult this page: Savor Gettysburg Food Tours: Types and Rates
Website: Savor Gettysburg

6. Sample various handcrafted beverages on a pour tour.

Gettysburg is known for history and the whole of Adams County is known for apples.

But Gettysburg is slowly but surely making their mark on the wine, cider, beer, and spirits world.

To promote this to all visitors, the Adams County Pour Tour gives out so-called passports with 34 slots for visitors to have stamped every time they go into a Pour Tour stop.

If you feel a bit directionless, they also list down itineraries that may appeal to different types of travelers.

Be sure to make an afternoon (or two!) to taste your way across Adams County.

Essential Information: Adams County Pour Tour
Telephone Number: 717-334-6274
Cost: Varies per stop and per drink
Website: Adams County Pour Tour

7. Shop at a farmers’ market

So many different kinds of vegetables and fruits are grown on the farms found all over Gettysburg, and farmers converge at one of the farmers’ markets found all over the county.

Gettysburg farmers market

The most popular has got to be the Gettysburg Farmers’ Market smack in the center of Gettysburg, in the historic Lincoln Square.

The fresh food, friendly service, and amazing ambiance all make the Gettysburg Farmers’ Market a fun, enjoyable place to shop.

Vendors sell the freshest produce, herbs, and other products such as baked goods, homemade products, and honey.

Shopping is made even more fun when the market shares its space with music shows, art shows, and craft fairs, making every visit a novel experience.

Market Day for this farmers’ market is every Saturday morning from end of April till the end of October.

Essential Information: Gettysburg Farmers’ Market
Address: Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, PA
Hours: April 30 -October 31 Saturdays 7am-12nn
Website: Gettysburg Farmers’ Market

8. Score bargain designer items at the outlet stores.

Everybody loves a bargain, especially on normally expensive brands.

The Outlet Shoppes have a collection of more than 60 designer brands offering up to 70% discount off every single day.

You can shop apparel, shoes, electronics, home furnishings, books, jewelry, souvenirs, toys, candy, collectibles, and so much more. They even host farmers’ markets every now and then so you can get your produce shopping done as well.

A number of the stores offer additional discounts for military, students, and teachers.

Essential Information: The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg
Address: Rt. 15 & Baltimore Street (PA97), 1863 Gettysburg Village Drive, Gettysburg, PA | 717-337-9705
Hours: Jan-Mar: Mon–Thu 10am–7pm, Fri–Sat 10am–9pm, Sun 10am–6pm; Apr-Dec: Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-6pm
Website: The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg

9. Hunt for ghosts.

Thousands of soldiers died in Gettysburg, and it shouldn’t be surprising that this town has the unfortunate reputation of being one of the most haunted towns in the country.

Mark Nesbitt wrote the bestselling Ghosts of Gettysburg series of books based on these ghost stories, which spawned a number of Gettysburg ghost tours.

The Ghosts of Gettysburg Tours are the only ghost tours in Gettysburg sanctioned by Mark Nesbitt himself.

They offer four different tours: Baltimore Street Tour, Carlisle Street Tour, Steinwehr Avenue Tour, and the West Confederate Tour.

Essential Information: Ghosts of Gettysburg Tours
Address: 271 Baltimore Street, Gettysburg, PA | 717-337-0445
Hours: Varies per type of ghost tour; check the tour description page for exact schedules, duration, and price of admission
Website: Ghosts of Gettysburg Tours

10. Take pictures at Sach’s Covered Bridge

Speaking of haunted places, this gorgeous red pedestrian-only bridge long rumored to be haunted is a short drive from downtown.

Sach's covered bridge

Photo Credit: m01229

Sach’s Covered Bridge was used by both the Union and the Confederate armies during the Civil War, and legend says plenty of lost souls still wander up and down the bridge.

Haunted or not, it’s a photogenic bridge, and the surroundings are peaceful enough to take walks, picnic, or just hang out and take it all in.

Essential Information
Address: Waterworks Road (TR 509 / TR 405), Gettysburg, PA | 717-334-6274
Cost: Free

Visiting Gettysburg: Tips and Useful Information

Getting To Gettysburg

There isn’t a commercial airport within Adams County, so you’ll have to fly into one of the nearby international airports and then travel by car or by public transportation to Gettysburg.

The international airport closest to Gettysburg is Harrisburg International Airport, but they only accommodate a few flights. The Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport handle more flights.

Getting Around

It’s most convenient to rent a car, especially if you’re traveling from a surrounding airport.

However, when you’re getting around on Gettysburg, especially within the Military Park, you can rent a bike or a segway to go around and save on gas and parking fees.

Where To Stay

The Lodges at Gettysburg is housed in a renovated 19th-century schoolhouse that sits on top of the highest ridgelines in Gettysburg, giving its guests a stunning view of the Gettysburg battlefields below.

If you want something that’s near the center of action, the Gettysburg Hotel on Lincoln Square is your best bet.

However, if you want accessibility but also a home-like ambiance, the Brickhouse Inn Bed & Breakfast won’t disappoint. It’s known for its excellent breakfast and for being awarded the best B&B in downtown Gettysburg for three years in a row.

What To Wear

Gettysburg is known for its hot, humid summers and cool winters.

Visiting in the summer? Light shirts and blouses on comfy walking shorts or pants are recommended, or light dresses if that’s your style.

Planning to be outdoors for most of the day? Pack a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and bug repellant.

On the other hand, if you’re visiting in the winter, bundle up! Temperatures range from the 30s to 40s in the daytime and then dip in the night time.

Spring or fall travelers will benefit from dressing in layers.

Best Time Of Year To Visit

Summer is the best time to visit Gettysburg, when it’s time for summer celebrations, Civil War battle reenactments, farmers’ markets, and all the ice cream you can eat.

However, it never runs out of things to do in Gettysburg any season of the year; the Christmas festival in the winter, various music festivals in the spring, and apple picking and cider making in the fall.

How Long To Stay

A three-day, two-night stay should be enough for you to see and experience everything you can, but a four-day three-night stay gives you more flexibility and allows you to see places in a leisurely pace.

No matter how long you stay in Gettysburg, remember to allot one whole day to exploring the Gettysburg Military Park.

Where To Eat

Don’t miss dining at the Dobbin House Tavern, which prides itself on being the oldest, most historic home in the area.

Try the baked King’s onion soup, the crab cakes, and wash them down with a Rum Bellies cocktail.

For an authentic local experience, dine at Lincoln Diner any time of the day (they’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week).

Order their ham steak & eggs or keep it simple with their country fresh eggs and bacon.

If you prefer to keep it casual with classic American fare, Gettysburg Eddie’s is a restaurant and sports bar dedicated to Edward Plank, a local baseball Hall of Famer.

Their bowl of chili is topped by loads of cheese and is probably their most popular item. Their steaks are freshly cut daily in-house, and they offer everything from homemade soup to burgers to chicken wings.

Visit Gettysburg And Learn About The American Civil War!

I hope this list of things to do in Gettysburg helps you plan your trip.

If you want to experience more history and culture, Washington, D.C. is a short drive away. Why not make a weekend trip into a week-long one?

Are you planning to visit Gettysburg soon? Are you a Civil War buff or just a curious traveler? Tell us your story in the comments section below!