Immerse yourself in the history, heritage, and charm of a town that helped shape the Civil War with these
3 Historical Must-Do's in Gettysburg...
This post was created in partnership with Destination Gettysburg. As always, all opinions & thoughts expressed below are 100% my own.
When you think of American cities steeped in the rich history of our country, a few probably make your short list- Boston, Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Savannah, and of course, Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Gettysburg was forever burned into the tapestry of American history during 3 fateful days in July of 1863. It was during those 3 days in the heat of summer that Union forces and Confederate troops would happen upon each other in what would be become the deadliest battle of the Civil War. The battle was fought in the fields and orchards surrounding Gettysburg, but much of the fighting happened right through the middle of the city as well. In fact, many of the buildings there still carry the scars of those battles- filled-in bullet holes and lodged artillery shells. Just about everywhere you look, walk, and venture in and around Gettysburg is a link to to the past, a relic and tribute to a hard fought battle that was considered a major turning point in the war...
Not only is Gettysburg famous for the battle fought there over 150 years ago, but it also earned it's place in history for another very important reason- it was the site of the Gettysburg Address delivered by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in November of 1863.
Though the entire city of Gettysburg is a living, breathing testament to the Battle of Gettysburg and to its role in the Civil War, I am going to be sharing with you all my top 3 historical must-do's in Gettysburg. If you are planning your first trip to the city, these would be my top recommendations for family friendly ways to get familiar with the area and it's history. :)
1. Gettysburg National Military Park & Visitor Center.
It happened to be unseasonably cold and rainy during our first full day in Gettysburg, so we decided to head over to the Gettysburg National Military Park & Visitor Center to stay dry and warm and to take part in a can't miss introduction to the history of the Battle of Gettysburg. If I could give you only one reason why you and your family should plan a visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park during your stay, it would be to view the The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama Painting. This 100 year old painting is a floor to ceiling, 360 degree depiction of Pickett's Charge during the battle. With dramatic lighting and coloring, the story of the battle is told in a way that I have never seen before. It was truly an amazing experience for people of all ages.
The military park is also home to thousands of Civil War and Battle of Gettysburg artifacts- full Union & Confederate uniforms, firearms used during the battle, recreations of the day to day life of the soldiers on both sides, actual journals and documents from the battle. It is truly the perfect way to introduce yourself and your family to the history of Gettysburg and to the battle that forever put the city on the historical map of the United States.
Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours was founded by Mark Nesbitt and based on his best-selling line of books, Ghosts of Gettysburg. My family and I had the pleasure of chatting with Mark a little before our Baltimore Street walking tour that evening. Mark actually started out as a National Park Service Ranger & historian, so his roots are in the history of the area and the Civil War. As Mark researched the area, he started to learn of the tales of the various ghostly sightings and paranormal happenings that people had experienced in and around Gettysburg and thus his book series was born.
The walking tour guides dress in attire of the time period. Our tour guide for the evening happened to be dressed as a Confederate solider. He serves as a living historian as well as conducting ghost tours, so I feel like we had a little added bonus with our tour guide for the evening. ;) During our walking tour we not only heard tales of the unexplained, but we also learned about those little tidbits of the history and aftermath of the battle that you would be hard pressed to find in an American history textbook.
We definitely found the tour to be family friendly, but some of the more graphic tales of the battle do get a little gruesome so if your younger ones are squeamish you may want to hold off on this tour until they are a little older. Also be prepared to walk and stand quite a bit (wear comfy shoes!) as the tour lasts over an hour.
A spirit named "Gus", aka Andrew, is said to occupy the current Gettysburg Municipal Building.
3. InSite Gettysburg Self-Guided iPad Tour of the Gettysburg National Battlefield.
This one is an obvious historical must-do in Gettysburg, but make sure a tour of the Gettysburg National Battlefield makes it on your agenda while visiting. And while they are many ways to tour the battlefield sites- horseback, bus tours, bike tours, hiring a living historian & guide-, I can't recommend the InSite Gettysburg Self-Guided iPad tour more. You simply head over to the Gettysburg Heritage Center (be sure to make time to go through their museum as it mainly focuses on the civilians & their experiences during and after the battle) to rent your iPad and get started on your tour.
The pre-programmed, GPS enabled InSite Gettysburg iPad takes you and your family on a 16 stop self-paced car tour of the battlefield. It was super simple to use and can actually sync with your car so you can play the audio through the stereo system. The iPad lets you know when stops are coming up, the history of each site, and even provides 7 different augmented reality scenes where the history that happened on that very landscape comes to life right before your eyes on the iPad screen! (CLICK HERE to see the InSite Gettysburg iPad tour in action.)
Over 200 Confederate soldiers lost their lives in this Railroad Cut during the Battle of Gettysburg. Many Confederate soldiers retreated from the Union forces to here only to discover that the walls of the cut were too deep to scale up essentially trapping them within its walls.
The Gettysburg National Battlefield is home to a number of Civil War era cannons that pay homage to the battles fought there and the lives forever lost. They were a favorite of both my preschooler and my high schooler.
Final resting place of the unknown soldiers at the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
View from Little Round Top, the Union forces' stronghold, during the Battle of Gettysburg. Below is what was deemed the Valley of Death. See a live video feed from Little Round Top by CLICKING HERE.
A cool little historical tidbit from the battle of Little Round Top- During the night of July 2, 1863, the Confederate soldiers could hear the sounds of stones being dropped until the early morning hours. The Union soldiers were using the large boulders strewn all about to create breastworks for the next day's battle.
Of course, these 3 historical must-do's are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Gettysburg. :) There are so many ways to immerse yourself and your family in the history and heritage of the area, but my family and I can personally vouch for and recommend the 3 detailed above.
Have you and your family visited Gettysburg before?
If so, did your historical must-do in Gettysburg make my list? :)
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