Gettysburg is a town located in the scenic south central section of the US state of Pennsylvania near the state border with Maryland. It is a lovely town that is bustling with history, especially that related to the American Civil War and former US president Abraham Lincoln. If you are a history buff looking for a small town filled with charm, this is certainly for you. Here are the things to do in Gettysburg, PA.
Gettysburg National Military Park
The Gettysburg National Military Park is an expansive piece of land occupying the southern reaches of Gettysburg. The park is famous for being the site of the Battle of Gettysburg which took place during the first three days of July in 1863 in the midst of the four year long civil war. It was the largest and most important battle of the civil war.
It was the Confederate Army’s most ambitious effort to invade the country’s north. The effort was led by its general, Robert E. Lee. Even though the battle didn’t end the civil war, it was a major turning point in the war. That is because not only was the Confederate Army badly defeated there, but it also defeated any hopes of them ever winning the civil war.
In total, there were more than 165,000 soldiers battling it out in a town that, at the time, had a population of 2,400. It was also the civil war’s bloodiest battle, resulting in the death, injury, capture, or disappearance of over 51,000 soldiers. Within the park where the battle took place, you will want to stop at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.
This museum houses many of the 43,000 artifacts from the civil war. You will want to make sure to check out the big, beautiful oil painting within the museum called the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama. The oil painting is larger than a football field and as tall as a four-story structure.
It is presented through an overhead canopy and a three-dimensional diorama foreground featuring stone walls, broken fences, shattered trees, and a cannon. It is meant to heighten your sense of being in the midst of the Gettysburg battle. Entrance into the building is technically free, but there is a fee for entering the museum and the oil painting area.
The entrance fees are $15 for adults, $14 for seniors and veterans, and $10 for youth aged 6 to 12. Those who are active military members or aged under 6 will get free admission. There are also guided tours of the battlefield’s most notable sites, including Little Roundtop, Devils Den, Cemetery Hill, The Angle, and Copse of Trees. You can choose to do the guided tours via car, bus, or bicycle.
You can buy your passes for the guided tours for $35 for adults and $21 for those aged 6 to 12. The guided tours will start at the building housing the museum and visitor center. You will also want to head to the Gettysburg National Cemetery which is also located within the battlefield park.
This is where more than 3,500 Union soldiers from the civil war are buried. This is also the site where Abraham Lincoln delivered his iconic Gettysburg Address in which he looked ahead to unifying the war-torn nation.
There are numerous monuments, memorials, and markers dedicated to the Gettysburg battle throughout the cemetery. That includes the cemetery’s centerpiece, the Soldiers’ National Monument, which is a 60-foot tall granite monument. You can enter the cemetery free of charge. You can go here to buy your tickets for all the paid attractions within the battlefield park.
Eisenhower National Historic Site
Eisenhower National Historic Site is the beautiful farmhouse that was the home of Dwight D. Eisenhower who was the president of the United States from 1953 to 1961. Before he became president, he had a long career serving in the US Army. This included a stint as a five-star general during World War II.
Because he moved around a lot during his time in the US Army, he was never able to own a home until just three years before he became the US president. It was in 1950 when Dwight and his wife, Mamie, bought the 189-acre farmhouse for $40,000. During Dwight’s presidency, the house was used as a weekend retreat from the pressures of Washington, DC.
The farmhouse was known to host numerous high profile guests during Dwight’s presidency. That included former Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, whose country was the arch-rival of the US during the Cold War. With its scenic surroundings, including breathtaking views of the South Mountains, the farmhouse served as a backdrop for negotiations between the two leaders to cool down tensions between their countries.
After leaving the presidency, Dwight and his wife moved to live in the farmhouse on a full time basis. Today, you can enter the farmhouse and see it the way it was during the time that Dwight and his wife lived there. It contains gifts that were given to the couple by leaders of other countries who visited them there.
In addition to the farmhouse itself, you can check out the presidential putting green, acres of cropland, barns, and Angus-grazed pasture. The entrance fees are $9 for adults and $5 for those aged from 6 to 12. Free admission to the farmhouse is given to those aged under 6. You can head here to buy your tickets. The farmhouse is located on Eisenhower Farm Road southwest of Gettysburg.
Gettysburg has a charming downtown filled with Federal-style architecture. It is brimming with plenty of compelling restaurants and shops to check out. Also located downtown are three attractions that has something to do with Abraham Lincoln. The first one is the Lincoln Train Museum which is located on Steinwehr Avenue.
Abraham Lincoln played a key role in shaping the nation’s railroad system. As a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, he dealt with cases that concerned the railroad. As president of the US, he believed that the railroad was the best way to connect a broken nation. He had travelled on the railroad himself at least a couple times, including his historic trip to Gettysburg.
So, the Lincoln Train Museum is inspired in part by Abraham’s relationship with the railroad. One key feature of this museum is a life-sized model of a train car. You can enter the train car and making use of digital technology, you will be taken on a Lincoln-era train journey. You will even get to sit next to a version of Abraham being played by a local actor who will narrate his love of the country as you go along.
Another thing to check out at the museum is a gorgeous model of railroad tracks with trains on them. You can watch as the trains move around the model area inside the museum. The admission prices for the museum are $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for seniors, active military members, and children aged from 5 to 12. Those aged under 5 will get free admission.
The second downtown attraction is the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station, located on Carliste Street. It was a train station in the 19th century. It is notable because this was the train station that Abraham Lincoln arrived at on his Gettysburg trip. It is now a museum containing exhibits related to Abraham and the role that the railroad played in Gettysburg’s history. The admission to this museum is free to everyone.
The third attraction downtown is the David Wills House. This is where former US president Abraham Lincoln stayed the night and put in the finishing touches of his iconic Gettysburg Address. He stayed there in November of 1863, some months after the battle was over.
The home that Abraham stayed at, was owned by David Wills who was a local attorney and school superintendent at that time. You can tour the home, including the bedroom that Abraham stayed in. The exhibits focus on the events surrounding Abraham’s historic visit to Gettysburg. The tours are priced at $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and military personnel, and $4 for those aged from 6 to 12.
These are the things to do in Gettysburg, PA. Also, if you are looking for somewhere sweeter to go to, may I suggest the chocolate-loving town of Hershey? It is only an hour drive northeast of Gettysburg and I talked about it in my previous post.
Or would you rather have more Abraham Lincoln? If so, you may want to consider spending some time in Springfield, Illinois. The Illinois capital is renowned for its rich connection to the 16th US president. I have dived into the Lincoln-related attractions you can visit in Springfield here. So, you may want to check it out.
If you are looking for a hotel to stay at in Gettysburg, I am happy to help you out with that. Here are the two hotels I would suggest for you.
This Federal-style hotel is located on Presidential Circle just east of US Route 15 in Gettysburg. The hotel houses an onsite restaurant called 1863 Restaurant. Those of you who are carving for an alcoholic drink can head to Lobby Bar which is the hotel’s onsite bar. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel. The hotel also houses a fitness center for you to use.
All of the hotel’s rooms and suites have WiFi and coffee makers. The average rate for a standard room range from $81 to $246. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.
Best Western Gettysburg
This is Gettysburg’s newest hotel, having opened in May of 2017. This hotel is located right next to the Lincoln Train Museum on Steinwehr Avenue in Gettysburg’s downtown. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. Should you get hungry, a few nearby dining options include Dobbin House Tavern, Tommy’s Pizza, and Gettysburg Eddie’s.
The hotel houses an indoor heated swimming pool. A fitness center is also available at the hotel for your workout needs. All of the hotel rooms and suites have WiFi, microwaves, mini refrigerators, and coffee makers. The average rate for a standard room range from $98 to $204. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or view some photos.
What are your thoughts? Are you planning to visit Gettysburg? Feel free to leave a comment below.