Gettysburg is, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful east coast destinations to visit anytime of the year. In fact, it’s precisely why this iconic Pennsylvania town has become the a favorite getaway for families, couples and solos alike. You and your family can explore, learn, shop, dine, relax and enjoy the grandeur of the countryside all in one place! And when it’s time to leave, you will have a much deeper appreciation for how our Country has changed for the better.
While many think the summer is the best time to visit this iconic historic town, the other seasons offer equally amazing experiences. Whether you travel by car, motorcycle or RV, Gettysburg is the perfect destination that offers everything you could wish for.
Each time we visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, we can’t help wanting to come back for more. Gettysburg holds a plethora of history dating back to even before the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg.
In our humble opinion, this hallowed Pennysylvania town is not a one and done or even couple-day vacation destination. In fact, this is one of those destinations you’ll want to plan several days to even a week or two. And even then, you’ll yearn to return to at different times of the year.
And, for those with families, this is a great east coast destination to allow younger generations to get a in-depth perspective of how the Battle of Gettysburg became a tipping point of the Civil War. Learn the history that reshaped our Nation to try to rid racism and segregation.
So with our many visits, familiarization and appreciation, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help plan your visit to Gettysburg.
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GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA – YEAR-ROUND VACATION DESTINATION TRAVEL GUIDE
We’ve divided this Gettysburg Visitor Travel Guide into sections highlighting our experiences with added suggestions:
When to visit
What to see
How we tour
Where we dine
Where we stay
WHEN TO VISIT GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
Springtime in Gettysburg
Springtime is an exceptional time to visit Gettysburg. April and early May are nice as the foliage is green and the temps are comfortably warming up. However, you may need to keep your umbrella, raincoat and light jacket handy as it is the rainy season and is seasonably cool.
However, don’t discount touring Gettysburg on rainy, dismal days as they present outstanding photography opportunities because of lighting and ambiance. Just a heads up though, if you plan to visit Gettysburg in the Spring, it’s prime time for school class field trips. So plan accordingly for large crowds of kids.
Summer in Gettysburg
If you have the patience for sharing your experience with more visitors, the summer is an incredible time to visit Gettysburg! If you’re lucky to be visiting during the annual Battle of Gettysburg Reenactment in the first week of July, you’ll be treated to an up close and personal experience of what happened there in 1863.
Now, If you want a little more space to enjoy and take in a much quieter experience, we recommend avoiding weekends, school vacation weeks and holidays. Also, big events such as the Gettysburg Reenactment as well as Gettysburg Bike Week. But, if you’re wanting to go there for those two big events, you’ll need to purchase tickets so we recommend visiting those websites noted above.
As far as the weather, Gettysburg can present some hot and humid days in the summer. So, pack a refillable water bottle in your daypack or your hydration backpack. Also, if you’re going to hike in the woods, we recommend you use insect repellent. Don’t forget a lightweight rain poncho for possible afternoon and evening thunderstorms.
Also, especially during those events and busier summer months, you’ll need to plan ahead and make reservations for lodging and camping well in advance (a year!). Later in this article, we’ll share where we stayed when we visited by RV and by motorcycle.
BLOGGER’S NOTE: We did not receive any compensation from any accommodations or tours listed in this article.
Autumn in Gettysburg
The Autumn months of September to mid October are, in our opinion, one of the best times to visit Gettysburg. The Fall foliage is magnificent with hues of yellows, oranges of reds. And, the cooler temperatures are the perfect invitation to enjoy a quiet tour of the battlefields. Be prepared to bring a light jacket and umbrella.
Also, the museums and attractions are less crowded because the kids are back in school. We’ve found that it’s easier to score a table at the restaurants without long waits too.
Also, camping at one of Gettysburg campgrounds simply can’t be beat. We’ll talk about those later in this guide.
Winter in Gettysburg
If you’re more of a cold weather tourist, then you’re in for an unusual and exceptional treat because that’s the least visited time of the year. You’ll need to prepare to bundle up for the cold wet stuff. Expect the mercury to dip into the 30’s and even 20’s and snow. But what better time than the winter to take in a holiday horse-drawn carriage ride through the town.
Decorated in holiday magic, the streets of Gettysburg come alive with the spirit of giving and holiday magic. The town square shop windows sparkle with lights, tinsel and glamour just waiting for your arrival to pick out that perfect gift.
But, all the commercial scene aside, winter in Gettysburg is a photographer’s dream. The snow-covered monuments, worm fences, breastworks with reverent silence, I can’t imagine a more solemn place to take in the peaceful solstice. And when your fingers and toes are telling you it’s time to head inside, you’ll want to check to see which lodging offers fireplaces and toddies to toast to.
As well, if you’re RV camping, call around to see which campgrounds listed further down will be open for winter camping.
As you see, anytime is the good time to visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. So, hop on board and let’s get on with your itinerary of what you should see and do, how to tour and where to dine and stay.
THINGS TO DO IN GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
These Gettysburg attractions and tours are in no particular order with the exception of us saving the Cemeteries for last as they are the finish of our tour recommendations. And the reason we’ve saved them for last, well, you’ll have to wait and see.
To prepare for your own Gettysburg experience in advance, you may want to get and familiarize yourself with the Gettysburg Story Battlefield Auto Tour.
Gettysburg Museum of History
We recommend starting your visit at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. If you have a National Park Passport, this is a good time to get it stamped at the Ranger information desk. There’s also a stamp at the gift shop as well. You can also ask the Rangers on duty about recommended hikes, bike trails, and everything you need to know about the layout of the battlefield.
This is also a great starting-point orientation to the battle of Gettysburg. Pickett’s Charge comes to life in the massive circular Cyclorama painting through a spectacular sound and light show. You and your family can experience the Gettysburg Film, Cyclorama and Museum: A New Birth of Freedom and learn about this important battle of the Civil War. Just a note though, while exploring the National Battlefield costs you nothing, there are some exhibits have applicable fees.
Then, step inside the amazing Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War that will bring the past to life with educational interactive exhibits, original artifacts, and short films.
Before heading out the door to begin your adventures, check out the visitor center gift shop. It has everything you can think of pertaining to the Battle of Gettysburg and more. However, there are several local gift shops downtown that have more souvenirs, t-shirts, books and memorabilia as well.
And there’s a great photography stop just outside the door. Set up your tripod and camera timer to get a great family shot at the sign and at next to the Abraham Lincoln sculpture sitting on the park bench.
Gettysburg National Military Park
After our orientation at the Gettysburg Museum of History, we put on our walking shoes and day packs to trek off to the Gettysburg National Military Park.
Now, because the Gettysburg National Military Park is so spacious, it may take you a few days to experience all of the monuments and grounds. Trying to cram it all in one or even two days may become overwhelming and confusing, so we recommend spreading your tour out.
We also encourage visitors to tour the grounds at different parts of the day to get a true feel of Battle of Gettysburg. If you’re lucky to wake up to a foggy morning, head out to get some amazing photo graphs of some of the monuments amidst the rolling terrain where the bloody battles amongst men took place. And, the view from the top of Little Round Top at sunset is amazing as you get a scenic view of Devil’s Den and the distant valley below.
Shriver House Museum
The Shriver House Museum is dedicated to the civilian experience. You’ll be able to tour one of the wealthiest families’ home and business in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During those fateful days of the bloody war, it was occupied by Confederate Soldiers in which two Soldiers were killed in the house.
During their 1996 restoration project, live civil war bullets were recovered. Also, you’ll be able to see the Period Garden and several embedded bullet holes.
Lincoln Train Museum
Within walking distance of the site of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Lincoln Train Museum presents an interactive exploration of American History for visitors of all ages. Through a tour of the Lincoln Train Museum, America’s story is retraced from the days of our Founding Fathers through September 11, 2001.
In the museum, you’ll be able to view America from all facets of life; from how the west was won, the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln and military war history and artifacts. You’ll even get to ride on a recreated box car and learn from the spirit of Lincoln himself as he shares the story of America.
Seminary Ridge Museum
The Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum features three areas of emphasis not focused anywhere else in Gettysburg. It includes the First Day Battle, July 1, 1863 on the exact site where the battle took place. Also, the Civil War field medicine hospital and the Faith and Freedom. You will want to plan about two hours for this exhibit.
Eisenhower National Historic Site
At the Eisenhower National Historic Site, you’ll be able to see where the meetings of world leaders took place and home and farm of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This National Park Service Historic Site was the President’s weekend retreat and relaxation area but also, where he led efforts to reduce Cold War tensions.
Jennie Wade House
Only twenty-years old, Jennie Wade was the only Gettysburg civilian resident killed during opposing crossfire while feeding Union Soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg. Notably, the Jennie Wade House was actually owned by her sister, Georgia McClellan. It was central ground of the entire Battle.
Gettysburg Heritage Center
Through the eyes of civilians, you’ll get to experience what life was like in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania before, during and after the battle. At the Gettysburg Heritage Center, you’ll learn about ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things during this massive upset. This self-guided tour shows artifacts, 3D programming and interactive exhibits along with a movie that lasts about an hour.
Gettysburg Battle Theater
At the Gettysburg Battle Theater, you’ll learn about how the Soldiers progressed from Fredericksburg, Virginia to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and the 3-day bloody Battle of Gettysburg in a 45-minute multi-media presentation.
Gettysburg History Center – Gettysburg Diorama
We highly encourage you to check out the fully-narrated Gettysburg Diorama presenting the Battle of Gettysburg. It’s the only place you will be able to get a complete visual overview of the 6000+ acre battlefield. The diorama alone, is a wonder in itself with it’s 20,000+ hand-painted soldiers, horses, buildings and cannons.
David Wills House
David Wills House, a part of the Gettysburg National Military Park, is located in downtown Gettysburg. It offers visitors an incredible museum experience. The home of Gettysburg attorney David Wills was not just the center of the battle of Gettysburg. It was one of the sites of the massive post-battle cleanup effort. It was the place where Abraham Lincoln put his final edits on the Gettysburg Address.
The Lincoln Cemetery is one of the least-visited sites in Gettysburg but we felt the need to put it on our list of must-sees and you should too. While just a map dot on the Gettysburg map, it will put a lump in your throat as it is the resting place for some of the African American United States Colored Troops.
The larger, prestigious Soldiers’ National Cemetery was established in 1863. Sadly, due to segregation of that era, only white Soldiers were allowed to be buried there. As a result, African American community leaders established the Sons of Goodwill Cemetery four years later in 1867.
Lincoln Cemetery is located in the heart of Gettysburg on Long Lane. It’s the final resting place of thirty African American soldiers of the United States Colored Troops who fought in the Civil War. Also, notable African-American citizens of the borough are buried there.
Unfortunately, we could not enter the gated and locked cemetery for closer views of the gravestones. But, you can walk the fence-line perimeter like we did to pay respects to the Fallen.
Street parking is available right across from the Lincoln Cemetery. Make sure you check out the Monumental Stories and placards also. It will put into perspective of the African American Soldiers of they endured during that era.
Gettysburg National Cemetery
After the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, tens of thousands of war-tattered bodies peppered Gettysburg’s farmlands. Burial work commenced quickly as disease from rot escalated. They hurriedly buried the dead in shallow graves on the battlefield, crudely identified on makeshift wooden grave markers. Erosion from rain and wind exposed the graves. Something needed to be done and quickly. Gettysburg’s citizens called for the creation of a soldiers’ cemetery for the proper burial of the Union Fallen.
Notably, only a few Confederates remain interred at Gettysburg National Cemetery. In the 1870s by Southern veterans’ societies eventually relocated 3,200 Confederate remains to cemeteries in Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
Between 1898 and 1968, sections were added to for Fallen Veterans from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The cemetery’s annex is located due north of the historic original 17-acre property. Today, more than 6,000 veterans lay at rest in the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
In our opinion, the Gettysburg National Cemetery is best visited at the end of the day before they close the gates. This is a self-guided walking tour only. No bicycles or motorized vehicles are permitted inside the cemetery. And lastly, please be reverent and quiet as you walk amongst the Fallen’s gravesites.
HOW TO TOUR GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
The several times we’ve visited Gettysburg, we’ve gotten different perspectives by touring and exploring via bicycle, Segway, hiking, horseback riding and bus tours. Check out our 10 fun ways to explore Gettysburg.
Segway Tours of Gettysburg
In our opinion, this is one of the best ways to tour the battlefields! After a 20 minute Segway lesson at Gettysburg Segway Tours, we ventured out to tour the Battlefields and historic Gettysburg with our tour leader (you don’t get to go out by yourself). We’re given headsets with audio narration that describes what we’re seeing and where it all happened.
Be it known though, the SegTour leader is not a Licensed Battlefield Guide. They are not permitted to answer history questions. But, you do have the option of taking a tour that includes a Licensed Battlefield Guide.
While the bus tours may be nice on rainy days, nothing compared to getting to ride our own Segway horses as described in our blog, Gods and Generals, Horses and Heroes. We started our tour with just the Eastern Tour but ended up enjoying ourselves to go on the Western Tour.
Oh, and guess what? We absolutely love the SegTours so much that we did it two different times in different years! We highly recommend this method of touring Gettysburg. Not only is it fun but mind-fulfilling as well.
Licensed Battlefield Guided Carriage Tour
Witness Gettysburg at the Speed of History! Horse Tours of Gettysburg has a great selection of historical tours and things to do in Gettysburg!! They offer regular historic attraction packages and custom itineraries are available. Licensed Battlefield Guided Tours, Evening Town Carriage Rides, Town Walking Tours and Special Event Carriage Tours; all from the comfort their horse-drawn carriages! You and your family can enjoy the timeless method of transportation that was key to the Civil War.
Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tour
Travel the historic fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania aboard the famous Double Decker Bus as the epic conflict plays out before you. Licensed Battlefield Guide bus tours offer the visitor a truly unique perspective into the struggles of the three days’ battle. The Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tours have been providing quality tours to Gettysburg visitors for over 40 years. Open year-round. Tickets are available at most of Gettysburg’s finest lodging establishments.
Our most recent visit to Gettysburg, we biked around the National Battlefield at our own pace. It was great exercise and gave us a completely different experience. If you’d like to explore using your own bicycle, check out the Bicycling Gettysburg Guide Book for road and trail information, monuments and the 23 mile loop.
Licensed Battlefield Guides
Licensed Battlefield Guides are available at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center on 1195 Baltimore Pike on a first-come, first-served basis. Packages are available that include a bus tour hosted by a Licensed Battlefield Guide. For the BEST experience hire your own personal licensed guide to go with you and your family in your own vehicle.
OTHER COMMERCIAL TOURS AND ENTERTAINMENT
WHERE TO EAT IN GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
Dobbins House Tavern
Each time we visit Gettysburg, we treat ourselves to dinner at the Dobbins House Tavern. Built in 1776, Dobbins House Tavern is the oldest building in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It overlooks site where President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address. The Dobbin House was also a stop on the Underground Railroad. It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dobbins House Tavern serves authentic period meals in rooms in the main house and downstairs in the cellar by candlelight. The serving staff dresses in period clothing and serves meals on dinnerware replicating the Civil War era. Be aware, you may need to make a reservation for the evening meals; especially on weekends or holidays.
They also have a cool gift shop before you exit the Dobbin House.
One Lincoln Food & Spirits
One Lincoln Food and Spirits is one of our favorite summertime lunch spots in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Located right on the Lincoln Square with inside modern seating, we enjoy outdoor dining that looks out to the hustle and bustle of the square. We love their lighter-side salads that are fit for the hungry but healthy.
It’s perfect for a breakfast on your way out to visit the battlefields, lunch in the middle of a day of downtown shopping, or dinner before a show next door at the Majestic Theater. They also have some beautiful wall art pieces on display inside, so make sure you stop to look at them on the way to their restrooms.
Blue and Gray Bar and Grill
The Blue and Gray Bar and Grill is our ultimate favorite go-to place every time we visit Gettysburg. On Wednesday nights, they serve a great pairing; Wings and Yuenglings. Be aware that it gets a bit crowded from the local crowd but well worth the wait. During the warm months, they offer outdoor seating however, because it’s located on the square, traffic noise is loud and distracting.
The Blue and Gray Pub is located on the square right next door to the One Lincoln (above). It’s just a short walk from our favorite Gaslight Inn Bed and Breakfast (listed below). So, if you’re looking for a modern bar atmosphere, this quaint pub is the place to unwind after a day of touring Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
OTHER DINING IN AND AROUND GETTYSBURG
For a more comprehensive listing of eating establishments in and around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, check out Destination Gettysburg of Adams County listing of places to eat.
WHERE TO STAY IN GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
Gaslight Inn Bed and Breakfast
Prior to RVing, we would find more personable and quaint lodging such as B&B’s (Bed and Breakfasts). The Gaslight Inn Bed and Breakfast fit us perfectly because we always sleep well, eat magnificent breakfasts and get a much more personal service. This was our go-to when we visited Gettysburg on our motorcycles.
Built in 1872, during the age of the industrialization and reform, the Gaslight Inn Bed and Breakfast was part of the great economic boom that followed the Civil War. The architecture and style of the Inn are reminiscent of the era.
With ample parking behind the house, we stayed in a beautifully decorated room on the second floor. The Violet Room, with a shared balcony has a queen bed, private bathroom with standard shower. The room is meticulous! Oh, and I can’t help sharing this little tidbit about the bathrooms! They provide a brownish-orange facecloth for the ladies to clean off makeup. This way, their white bath linens stay perfectly white!
Oh, let me tell you, their breakfast each morning was amazingly creative and fulfilling. While dining, the B&B owners shared some great tourism information as well.
If you’re lucky like we were, we enjoyed a porch coffee history lesson with a Licensed Battlefield Guide. Of course, anytime you have a Licensed Guide, we recommend tipping them handsomely.
BLOGGERS NOTE: The Gaslight Inn Bed and Breakfast offers all Active and Former Military 25% off their stay during the month of November. Military ID required. (VA card or DD214 most likely accepted if no Military ID).
OTHER LODGING IN GETTYSBURG
Artillery Ridge Campground and Horse Park
In 2015, we camped with our fifth wheel toy hauler at Artillery Ridge Campground and Horse Park due to its’ close proximity of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. But also, because they could accommodate our big rig RV size.
Gettysburg Farm RV Campground – Thousand Trails
OTHER CAMPGROUNDS IN GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
There are plenty of other campgrounds in and near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We use Campendium to find RV parks and Campgrounds that appeal to us.
That’s a Wrap!
So, as you see, there’s a ton of resources we’ve shared here. We hope this Gettysburg Visitor Travel Guide will help you plan your vacation or even weekend getaway in one of the most interesting and historic destinations in the United States. Coupled with learning about the Battle of Gettysburg and Civil War, we hope your experience will make a great memory that you’ll talk about for years to come. Lastly, don’t forget to bookmark this article for your upcoming trip planning Gettysburg destination!