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Things to Do in Gettysburg

Gettysburg is just one of those great historic places that we’ve been wanting to experience for a long time.  We wanted, of course, to learn more about the battle, but we also wanted to make some family memories together.  It’s important for my daughter to learn about the events that shaped our nation, even if she is only seven-years-old.  Though the events in Gettysburg were tragic, I wanted her to have a basic understanding of what happened along with doing some family-friendly activities.  We spent four nights in Gettysburg, but I think you could easily do a shorter trip or spend more time here.  We spent most of our evenings watching the sunset over the battlefield.  Here are our recommendations after experiencing Gettysburg.

Take a Tour of the Battlefield

Licensed Battlefield Guide at McPherson Ridge

We took a tour with the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides, and it was fantastic! This was the highlight of our stay, and you can read about our experience in depth here.  We made reservations in advance to be sure there was a guide available.  I would highly recommend this.  This guide drives your vehicle all over the battlefield.  I found it a little strange when I first heard about it, but it was the perfect way to see the battlefield and to understand how the battle unfolded. It was also a better deal for our family; bus tour tickets would have cost our family of three more, and this tour was really personal.  We had a two-hour tour, but you can arrange for longer tours and tours that focus on a specific aspect of the battle.  Don’t miss this!

Visit the Gettysburg National Military Park and Museum

Gettysburg National Military Park and Museum Sign

The Gettysburg National Military Park is kind of the backbone of your Gettysburg experience. We spent three evenings at the park until it closed, which was 10:00 p.m. in the summer.  The museum, Cyclorama, cafe, and gift shop close earlier, so be sure to pick up a schedule so that you don’t miss something you want to do.  You’ll have to schedule your film and Cyclorama times if you are interested in those, so get there early while times are available. You can also combine the museum admission with these, but it is not on a scheduled time; you just need to get it in before the end of the day.

Lincoln Statue at Gettysburg National Military Park

I really enjoyed the Cyclorama, but if you are low on time, I might skip the film and Cyclorama and just do the museum.  If you’ve done the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennslyvania, you may consider skipping the museum at Gettysburg if you are pressed for time.  I did enjoy the exhibits in the Gettysburg museum, so I would recommend doing it if time allows.

Cyclorama at Gettysburg
A section of the Cyclorama

It was also nice to come back to the park after our tour and look at specific places again and at different times of day.  We now had the basic story, and we could return to places we wanted to see again.  The view from Little Round Top is amazing, so we spent a couple of evenings there at sunset.  We also saw a little red fox one evening, so you never know what wildlife you may encounter!

Take a Ghost Tour

We’ve started taking ghost tours in historic towns for several reasons.  First, it’s often cooler.  As long as I’m a teacher, we will do our longer trips in the summer.  It’s nice to be able to tour something without being in the blazing sun.  I will note that Gettysburg in early June was not terribly hot at all, though.  Second, you get to hear a historical story in a different way.  We try to pick a tour that involves seeing something of real historic significance, even if the stories themselves stretch the truth a little.  Third, I like having access to historical places outside of normal business hours.  It often puts a whole new spin on a place, and it gives us an evening activity when other places are closed.

Gettysburg Ghost Tour

Our ghost tour started with a guide who is playing the part of Jennie Wade’s mother. We chose Ghostly Images of Gettysburg because you have access to the Jennie Wade House during the tour.  Miss Wade was the only known civilian casualty of the Battle of Gettysburg.  You can also tour her home during the day if you would rather not have the ghostly spin.

Her home is now next to a hotel.  The house was in town at the time, but as progress happens, new buildings have appeared here and there. Buildings that were standing at the time of the Civil War are noted with a plaque near the front door. One thing that’s hard to remember until you come here is that the battle happened in the city.  The battlefield is all around you.  The Union Army retreated right through town, and the Confederates occupied Gettysburg during the Union retreat.  Jennie Wade was staying at this house, which was her sister’s.  She was kneading bread when she was killed instantly by a sharpshooter who was likely aiming at some union soldiers positioned behind the house.

Ghostly Images of Gettysburg Ghost Tour

The tour heads initially away from the house towards a cemetery, but eventually, you are led to the house–the main event of the tour.  You get to see a lot of the house.  We even went upstairs, and many historic homes don’t permit that.  After you tour the inside, you get to go into the cellar to where the family stayed with Jennie Wade’s body during the battle itself.  We were encouraged to take many pictures during the tour, and the guide also had an EVP meter.  It was a great tour!  Liz Lang was our guide, and she did a fabulous job. It also wasn’t too scary for our seven-year-old, but you’ll have to decide if this tour is right for your family.

Eat at a Locally-Owned Restaurant

Gettysburg Eddie's

Not everything in Gettysburg has to do with the battle.  We heard a lot of mentions of  Gettysburg Eddie’s, so we decided to give it a try.  Now realize, it’s difficult to get my two travel companions to try the unfamiliar.  They are picky, and they get nervous when they don’t know a restaurant.  Rest assured, we ate at plenty of chain places on our trip.  But every once in a while, I can persuade them to try something locally-owned.

Gettysburg Eddie’s pays homage to early baseball hero, Eddie Plank.  The food is typical American fare, or as Jeff would say, bar food.  But it is very good bar food!  I had a nachos appetizer for my entree, and I don’t think I really put a dent in it.  It was huge!  It was also delicious–the toppings were plentiful and fresh.  My travel companions had chicken strips and fries, and they enjoyed them.  Kristin ordered chocolate milk, and it was hand-stirred.  Her favorite!

Gettysburg Eddie's at Gettysburg

It’s a pretty intimate, fun little place.  We also played bar trivia while we waited.  The service was exceptional, and this was the best meal we had in Gettysburg during our stay.

Stay Near the Battlefield

I’m a planner.  I like to have my hotels set up at my destination in advance.  I am flexible on the journey as we’re getting to the destination, just to be clear.  But I like to know that the best place to meet our needs at the price we want to pay is waiting for us.  I also like to be sure that there is a room available at all.  So, I plan.  I actually was having a hard time choosing a place for a long time.  I finally went with a hotel that was a little out of the way, but it had the indoor pool, mini-fridge, and hot breakfast that we like to have.  As we were traveling, I noted that a hotel I had been interested in but wasn’t yet open had now become available.  We decided to make the switch.  I’m so glad we did!

We made the change to stay at the Best Western on Steinwher Avenue, and it was perfect for us!

Best Western Gettysburg Room

Please note that Kristin may or may not have leaped across the beds before this picture was taken.  Anyway, it was an excellent place to stay! The hotel had only been open for a week before we arrived, so everything was new.  The location is great; it’s on Steinwehr Avenue which is a major road through town.  Gettysburg National Cemetery, where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, can be seen from the hotel. This location is so convenient to everything we wanted to do.  We later saw just how far out our original hotel would have been, and we were glad we were able to stay closer. The room also had all our favorite amenities, like a mini-fridge and microwave.

Best Western Gettysburg Kitchenette

The hotel had three floors, and the elevator was fast.  The breakfast room was on the third floor so you could have a view of the battlefield.  Kristin’s favorite amenity anywhere is the indoor pool.  This pool also has a view of the battlefield.

Best Western Gettysburg Pool

While we were there, a painter was working on a mural on the other side of the pool room; it was just another reminder of how new this place is. This hotel really was perfect for our four-day stay.

Enjoy the Things That Make Gettysburg Unique

There really is so much to see and do.  One thing we enjoyed was a drive out to Sachs Covered Bridge just outside of Gettysburg.

Sachs Covered Bridge Near Gettysburg

We also enjoyed just walking along the streets to see the Civil War buildings and houses.

Street in Gettysburg

On weekends during the summer, the National Park Service hosts re-enactment groups to come in and do demonstrations.  The biggest demonstration, of course, is during July 1-3. But we were lucky to see this infantry demonstration.

We also visited the Gettysburg National Cemetery where President Lincoln gave his famous speech. The cemetery is a peaceful place, perfect for reflection.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

We had a great family trip to Gettysburg, and I know my seven-year-old learned from it because she often references something she learned.  I love visiting historic places, and Jeff is interested in anything that has to do with the Civil War.  Gettysburg was a great fit for us. I hope you will consider bringing your family here, too!

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  1. I remember visiting Gettysburg on an 8th grade field trip to Washington, DC. While I don’t remember a lot of particulars of what we saw that day, I remember the feelings I had. Those feelings helped shaped my schooling and contributed to obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in history. I’m glad you were able to take your daughter. I’m sure she will remember it for a long time, especially since she’s still referencing it!

    • Stacey Reply

      It’s amazing how things can affect us! A trip can change your life.

  2. We’ve never taken a ghost tour before but you do mention some good points about them! Will look up one on our next journey ?

  3. Gettysburg is an awesome place to visit! I was there last year for my brothers wedding so we did a bunch of tours. No ghosts but, a mouse tried to steal granola bars in our B&B. in the middle of the night. Nothing paranormal about a critter 🙂

    • Stacey Reply

      Oh my goodness! I probably would’ve screamed as if I’d seen a ghost!

  4. Wow that brings back memories. As a kid I used to do the summer program at a loyalist fort in Canada and got to be one of the ghosts in the background during the ghost tours sometimes. What did your daughter like most about the trip?

    • Stacey Reply

      I think she enjoys the animals the most. We saw a fox at Gettysburg, and later on our trip we saw two black bears in the Smoky Mountains. We also did the Columbus Zoo and the Aquarium of the Smokies on this trip.

  5. It’s great seeing your child have her time in such a place filled with history. It’s a gift you can give to her. An alternative kind of education. Wish to do the same for my children when i have mine someday.

    • Stacey Reply

      I agree that it is so important to take your kids to historic places. The fun thing is, they really don’t know they are learning. But they do absorb what you are doing.

  6. It seems like you had a blast over here. I have never been on a ghost tour, I would love to try it at leat once. The covered bridge looks interesting as well, I haven’t seen many covered during my travels. I am sure your daughter will remember this experience over the years. Thanks for sharing, will definitely add the ghost tour to my list.

    • Stacey Reply

      We really enjoy ghost tours, and we try to do one once per year!

  7. Stacey Reply

    It is a beautiful place. I don’t know about the ghosts, though. Our guide got some readings on the EVP meter, so who knows? I don’t have any ghostly images, though.

  8. Seems like you and the family had fun and learnt quite a bit as well. Gettysburg isn’t really high up on my list as an European but if I was in the area, I would consider visiting the site.

    • Stacey Reply

      It’s a great place to visit! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Wow I had no idea there was still so much to see about the war history in Gettysburg! Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  10. I never hears about Gettysburg but it seems like a lovely city! Looks like there is so much to do, and it has great hotels and restaurants! I love that ghost tour! Ive always try to avoid that kind of attractions but this one seems pretty interesting and not to scary! Thank you for sharing

  11. Kamie Berry Reply

    I’ve wanted to visit Gettysburg for a long time. Thanks for inspiring me to visit!

  12. Gettysburg is on our bucket list as a place to take our kids. I had never thought to include a ghost tour, but will definitely be putting that on the list. That hotel looks beautiful too!

    • Stacey Reply

      The hotel was really nice. We had a great stay. I think you’ll have a great time with your family!

  13. History fascinates me! I’ve always wanted to visit Gettysburg! This makes me want to even more now!

    • Stacey Reply

      It really is a great place to visit. I love history, too!

    • Stacey Reply

      Me too! I want to learn all the history of everything!

  14. This is great, we were so close but couldn’t stop this trip, it is on my list to go back for but this just made me more excited!!!

    • Stacey Reply

      I know what you mean. We are often near things I want to check out, but there just isn’t time to do it all!

  15. This was such a great post. I definitely want to take my 9-year-old there. Hopefully this year! It will be great as we start to really dig into history this year. Thanks!

    • Stacey Reply

      Thank you! I think you and your 9-year-old will have a great time!

  16. I haven’t been to Gettysburg before, but it is on our list. Thanks for all the details of your trip!

    • Stacey Reply

      I’m glad it’s on your list. You will have a great time!

  17. I feel like I’ve always heard about Gettysburg but never in this way! Looks fantastic and like there is a lot to do!

    • Stacey Reply

      We had a great time, and we saw plenty of families making memories together.

  18. This sounds like it was a trip rich in history. I’d love to visit one day.

    • Stacey Reply

      It really is a great place to visit if you are into Civil War history at all!

  19. I love a good educational field trip, and I am not opposed to a good ghost story, just for fun! Though maybe not with my 2.5 year old in tow. That might come back to haunt me!

    • Stacey Reply

      Yes, but when your toddler is a little older, it would be a great family experience!

  20. Looks like it was so much fun! There’s something similar here in NWA but haven’t had the chance to visit.

    • Stacey Reply

      If you are talking about Pea Ridge, it is also a great battlefield. We love to visit it in the fall.

  21. I love going to historic sites. It sounds like you guys had a great visit. I’m impressed that you guys went on the ghost tour. I can’t handle that stuff! Lol!

    • Stacey Reply

      It’s all just fun for us. I think Gettysburg is a great place for family fun!

  22. This is on our bucket list for when our kids get older. Looking forward to making memories.

  23. Funny! I live super close to here and have never been! I’m not a big history buff and have never had the desire to go but after seeing your pics and hearing what a great time you had I’m definitely more open to it!

    • Stacey Reply

      We had a great time. Even if you’re not into history, the battlefield is beautiful to explore.

  24. Wow! What a fun little trip- I’ve always wanted to go on a “ghost tour”. Great pics as well!

    • Stacey Reply

      Thank you! We are totally hooked on ghost tours and want to do one in every city!

  25. I want to go there right now! LOL It looks like a great place to visit. It’s on my list 🙂 Thanks for the great information!

  26. that sounds like such a fun trip – now I really wish we brought the kids there before we moved from the east coast to Colorado! (and now I’m totally hungry nachos at 10am!)

    • Stacey Reply

      Nachos are a wonderful thing! It was a great trip. We are lucky to be in the middle of the U.S., so we just point the car in one direction and explore.

  27. I’ve never considered visiting Gettysburg because I didn’t realize there was so much to do there! Now I want to go! I love your pictures too

    • Stacey Reply

      Thank you! There really is a lot to do! We had to work hard to get everything in that we wanted to do in four days!

  28. Thanks for the info about the ghost tour! My husband is a major weenie, but I love that stuff. It’s good to know that it isn’t too “scary” and maybe I could convince him to do it!

    • Stacey Reply

      It wasn’t too scary at all! My 7-year-old is generally skittish, but she was fine! Once you start doing ghost tours, you may find yourself looking for a good one in every city.

  29. I will literally make my husband turn the car around for a historical marker. This sounded like my kind of vacation. Until you said ghosts.

    • Stacey Reply

      Ha! Just for the record, we did not see any ghosts! At least I don’t think so.

  30. This is a place I definitely want to visit when we head out east. Thank you so much for the detailed review!

    • Stacey Reply

      We really enjoyed our trip. Keep it in mind when you head east!

  31. I think it is so important to visit historical sites, no matter how difficult the history may be as it is the only way we can learn. Gettysburg looks so awesome, it’s definitely somewhere I’d like to visit so thanks for highlighting it to me!

    • Stacey Reply

      We had a great time at Gettysburg. I think you’d have a great time!

  32. Gettysburg looks like such an educational place, your daughter must have learnt so much here. It will have been much more interesting and real than if she had learnt it from an iPad. It’s good the ghost tour wasn’t too scary for a seven year old, how about for adults?

    • Stacey Reply

      Ha! The ghost tour is good for anyone, I would say. It’s mostly stories. I agree that the best way for kids to learn is to let them experience it!

  33. Gettysburg definitely stands out as a one of a kind place. With so many rich historical experiences. Particularly the ghost town! I would love to visit here one day. I want to take that ghost tour for sure

  34. Great post! Looks super interesting! Gettysburg is not somewhere that was on my list of places to visit but it is now.

    • Stacey Reply

      That’s great! We had such a wonderful time; I hope you do, too!

  35. This is a trip my family would love. We’ve been to Philly but we didn’t get to Gettysburg since we were traveling by train.

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