Best Things To Do in Gettysburg
If you're a history buff, chances are you'll enjoy visiting Gettysburg. In addition to featuring the awe-inspiring Gettysburg National Military Park – the site of a critical Civil War battle – the town boasts an array of early American buildings, including some that house can't-miss attractions like the Shriver House Museum and the Jennie Wade House. Visitors also recommend checking out other Civil War-focused sights, such as the Gettysburg Diorama & History Center and the Gettysburg Museum of History, as well as the Eisenhower National Historic Site. But if you don't want to spend your entire vacation soaking up the area's history, don't fret: You'll find a variety of boutiques, eateries and wineries in and just outside of town. Plus, winter sports enthusiasts can shred powder at the nearby Liberty Mountain Resort, and photographers can snap gorgeous shots of colorful fall foliage or Sachs Covered Bridge – one of the oldest covered bridges in Pennsylvania.
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Bordering the southern end of downtown Gettysburg, the roughly 6,000-acre Gettysburg National Military Park is a must for history buffs, especially those with an interest in the Civil War. It was here that Confederate troops clashed with Union soldiers for three days in July 1863, resulting in a decisive victory for the North. But this key win for the Union came at a cost: More than 51,000 soldiers on both sides died, were wounded, went missing or were captured, making this conflict the bloodiest battle of the war.
Today, Gettysburg National Military Park welcomes visitors keen on learning more about the Civil War through exhibits, ranger programs, guided tours and special events. Some of the park's most noteworthy sights are as follows:
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As its name implies, the Eisenhower National Historic Site once belonged to America's 34th president. Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower purchased the farm in 1950, using it for weekend retreats from the White House. After his presidency, Eisenhower moved to the property full time, where he and his wife lived until they died in 1969 and 1979, respectively.
On the 230-acre farm, visitors will find everything from Eisenhower's former home to a skeet shooting range to a garage with his limousine, golf carts and station wagon. There is also a Reception Center with exhibits about Eisenhower's life.
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Measuring 100 feet long, Sachs Covered Bridge (or Sauck's Bridge) is a popular place for a photo-op. Reportedly built by local architect David Stoner in 1852, this car-free bridge – which sits above Marsh Creek – is surrounded by lush trees and features a red exterior. It was frequently used by Union and Confederate troops during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
Although a few travelers warn that this bridge is a little challenging to find, many say seeing it is more than worth the effort. According to several visitors, the bridge's romantic atmosphere during the day makes it well-suited for couples. If you're more interested in paranormal activity, vacationers suggest visiting at night on your own or while on a ghost tour with a reputable company like Ghostly Images of Gettysburg or After Dark Investigations.
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Like the Jennie Wade House, the Shriver House Museum aims to portray what life was like for Gettysburg residents during the Civil War. Inside this restored 19th-century home, which belonged to the Shriver family, you'll find 10 Civil War bullets, medical supplies, furnishings and more. Plus, you'll learn more about the building's use as a home, a saloon, a two-lane bowling alley and a hospital for wounded soldiers. The property was even temporarily commandeered by Confederate troops during the Battle of Gettysburg. At least two soldiers are known to have died in the attic.
Previous visitors heaped praise on this historic property, citing its well-maintained rooms, excellent artifacts and friendly staff as highlights. Many were especially impressed with the informative guides, who wear period attire and provide interesting details about the Shriver family.
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History buffs with an interest in everything from ancient civilizations to the Civil War to world leaders will likely love perusing the exhibits at the Gettysburg Museum of History. Inside this intimate museum in central Gettysburg, you'll find more than 4,000 artifacts from various historical periods. Noteworthy items include a Confederate flag used at the First Battle of Bull Run, former President Abraham Lincoln's wallet, an Egyptian mummy head, a dining set that belonged to Saddam Hussein and a footstool owned by Adolf Hitler.
Previous museumgoers praised this small museum's knowledgeable curator and variety of artifacts, though some felt that a few of the items were not significant enough to keep in the collection. Others appreciated the property's lack of an entrance fee and highly recommend visiting the on-site shop, which sells authentic historical items, such as Civil War bullets, presidential campaign memorabilia and coins from ancient Rome.
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To better understand what life was like during the Civil War, visit the Jennie Wade House. This historic building is where Mary Virginia "Jennie" Wade (the only civilian casualty during the Battle of Gettysburg) died when struck by a Confederate bullet on July 3, 1863, the last day of the battle. Today, the structure looks much as it did in the 19th century, with period furnishings and artifacts from the day Jennie died.
Most travelers raved about the Jennie Wade House, especially its interesting and informative tour guides (who wear period-inspired attire). However, a few previous visitors cautioned that the property feels more like a tourist trap than an authentic Civil War attraction.
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For a bird's-eye view of Gettysburg National Military Park's battlefield, head to the Gettysburg Diorama & History Center. The star of this attraction is its large diorama, which is the largest military diorama in the U.S. It features more than 20,000 soldiers, buildings, horses and cannons. Travelers can also watch a 30-minute show of the Battle of Gettysburg that includes narration and light and sound effects.
According to previous visitors, the Gettysburg Diorama & History Center provides a terrific overview of Gettysburg's iconic battle. In fact, several said the facility's show is so informative that they recommend heading here before going to Gettysburg National Military Park. However, a few past travelers lamented the outdated technology used in the diorama, while others suggested skipping the "Spirits of Gettysburg" show downstairs.
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