Gettysburg is known as the turning point in the American Civil War. This small town, only 90 minutes from Washington DC, is a well-preserved site of great conflict and reconciliation. But besides being the site of one of the most important battles in American history, Gettysburg is a charming town with boutique hotels, live music, wineries and fine restaurants.
The Gettysburg Battlefield Visitor’s Center has a cafeteria, Civil-War era saloon, and expansive museum store. The museum ticket entitles you to examine artifacts from the battle, see an interesting film called New Birth of Freedom, and best of all, experience the Cyclorama. This 360 degree painting comes alive with stories and special effects that put you directly into the battle of PIckett’s Charge.
Visitors interested in following a detailed-progression of the three day battle, may purchase timed-tickets for a 2.5 hour bus tour, or hire a personal tour guide to drive their car. The National Park also sells a CD Auto Tour that directs drivers to key locations on the battlefield, and narrates the significant events that happened at each site. It’s better to have more than one person in the car if you’re following the Auto Tour, although I was able to do it. Be sure to get out and walk around some of the sites, climb to the top of the observation towers, and look over the ridges to view the battlefields below. The newest addition to the Gettysburg National Park’s story is Spangler Farm which opened this June. Spangler Farm was used as a hospital during the battlefield. Now there are living history actors describing what occurred here. It’s open Friday, Saturdays & Sundays, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m with special programs held Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings
If you’ve seen enough battlefield, consider visiting the Eisenhower Historic Site, an old-fashioned saloon, wax museum, or get your photo taken in Civil War uniforms. There’s also costumes for people who prefer period dress. Some of my favorite restaurants in downtown Gettysburg are the Lincoln Diner, Tommy’s Pizza, Dobbin House, Garyowen Irish Pub and Kilwin’s. Surrounded by Amish Country, visitors are treated to unique hospitality and fresh locally produced ingredients. There are also some interesting stops in town, like Tarbox Toy Soldiers, Lincoln Train Museum and the Shriver House Museum. These are especially fun for kids. It’s a place where learning and fun come together!