Gettysburg National Military Park#1 in Best Things To Do in Gettysburg
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:
Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center: For an introduction into all that took place those three fateful days in 1863, travelers should head to the park's museum and visitor center, where they'll have access to general information about the park, restrooms, a book store and a cafe. The building is also home to several fee-based amenities, including the Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War, theaters that show a film narrated by Morgan Freeman and the expansive Battle of Gettysburg painting (also known as the Gettysburg Cyclorama) by French artist Paul Philippoteaux. All three experiences cost $10 to $15 per person to enjoy, while tickets for only the museum range from $7 to $9 per person; entrance fees are waived for children 5 and younger. Additional services, such as battlefield tours with licensed guides, admission to the David Wills House and transportation to the Eisenhower National Historic Site, can be arranged here for a fee as well. The building itself is free to visit and is open daily from 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., depending on the season.
David Wills House: If you're a fan of former President Abraham Lincoln or want to learn more about how Gettysburg recovered after the battle, save time for a visit to the David Wills House. Once the home of local attorney David Wills, this building is where Lincoln finalized his famous "Gettysburg Address." This room and the bedroom where the president stayed during his visit are just two of six galleries visitors can explore. Museum hours vary by month, but typically, the property is open daily in the summer from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with reduced hours from September to December and between February and April. Admission costs $4 to $7 per person, and kids 5 and younger get in for free.
Devil's Den: One of the most important sections of Gettysburg National Military Park's battlefield is its Devil's Den area. This large field features multiple large boulders that Union troops used as vantage points and cover while fighting Confederate soldiers. It's also where you'll find the popular Little Round Top outlook, which is home to a stone monument with an observation deck. Devil's Den and its monument are free to visit during park hours.
Soldiers' National Cemetery: More than 7,000 individuals – including 3,500-plus Union soldiers – are buried in Soldiers' National Cemetery. Designed by local leaders after the war, this cemetery was dedicated on Nov. 19, 1863 and is where former President Abraham Lincoln gave his iconic "Gettysburg Address." The property permits visitors daily between dawn and dusk; there is no entrance fee. A map showing key landmarks is available on the park's National Cemetery Virtual Tour page.
You can explore Gettysburg National Military Park's grounds for free every day from 6 a.m. to 7 or 10 p.m. Closing hours vary by season. The property sits within walking and biking distance of central Gettysburg and top attractions like the Shriver House Museum and the Gettysburg Diorama & History Center. You can also drive and park in one of several complimentary parking lots. Two-hour guided car and bus tours (which previous travelers highly recommend if you have time) can be arranged for a fee and are available on a first-come, first-served basis or by reservation made through the Gettysburg Foundation website. Learn more about Gettysburg National Military Park by visiting the National Park Service website.
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#2 Eisenhower National Historic Site
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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