Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The most important battle of the Civil War took place in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a tiny town about 75 miles from Washington, DC. The battlefields at Gettysburg are surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of monuments which help bring history to life for children and their parents. A must see are some of the unexploded ordinances lodged in buildings within Gettysburg. Each regiment that fought in Gettysburg has a marker at their base location; and it is a great treat to see where our ancestors fought. All of the Civil War’s greats have monuments here such as General Lee, President Abraham Lincoln, General Abner Doubleday (for the baseball fans), General Custard, and many more! Families can spend a few hours at this historical site, but several days could be spent learning about the intimate details of what really took place in our history.
Once at Gettysburg, you can tour yourself, get on a tour bus, or hire a private guide to drive your car and give you a personal tour of the battlefield. Before doing any of the above, the first stop needs to be the new visitor’s center. This is where you can pick up maps, hire the guides, get bus tickets, visit the museum, and just stretch your legs from the 90 minute drive. The self-guided tour is for those with an unlimited amount of time, but you’ll miss out on a lot of the little details that make Gettysburg worth the trip. The official tour bus is about $28 a person, and takes you on a specific route. You cannot skip stops, or stay longer in a place if you want; you are on the tour bus’ schedule. This is a good idea if you’re traveling solo and just want to get the Gettysburg experience quickly.
My recommendation is for the private tour guide. Make sure you hire an official guide from the visitors’ center ticket booth. It is $55 dollars for a two-hour-tour (if you are two or more, it is cost effective too). He will drive you to all of the important spots, so you don’t have to worry about one-way streets, oncoming traffic, as you are trying to see all of the sights. He drives while explaining the history of each location, and its importance during the battle. You can also have your guide look up where your family’s regiment fought, and he’ll take you to their markers (great for pictures). Even if your family didn’t fight, you can request that he take you to other famous individual locations, like Lee’s headquarters, Doubleday’s location, etc. Be sure that you take his advice and get out of the car every once in a while. The Virginia state monument is beautiful, as is the view from Little Round Top (possibly the most important site of the entire battle).
The tour ends where it began, at the visitor’s center. Use this time again to see the museum, watch the video, or just stretch your legs one more time before the drive home.

Website 2: http://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm
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  1. There is also a WONDERFUL childrens museum in Gettysburg - Explore and More www.exploreandmore.com - around the corner from the library in town. It was started by 2 former preschool teachers. Its in an old historic townhouse. Its small yet plenty of space for them to roam but no need to worry about losing anyone. Not only does it have wonderful activities inside but a big yard out back with lots to explore. We have been many times, and my kids have never tired of it. If you are planning a visit on the weekend, just call ahead and check if there will be any birthday parties. If not, then its generally not crowded.

  2. Living in Frederick,I am only an hour from this historic battlefield. I get up to Gettysburg at least once or twice each summer. Lots of great shops, tours and historic items for sale.
    ---James Speorl - Frederick, MD