"Think of the Battle of Gettysburg as being kinda like a football game," intoned our guide as our horses ambled along through the long grasses now growing at the center of the field of horror. Back at the stables, I could hardly contain myself in protesting to a fellow rider what I thought to be a nearly sacrilegious analogy. "Well," she said, "it would have been worse had he compared the fighting to an ice hockey match." And I had to agree, those long ranks on Yankee and Rebel sides did somewhat resemble the starting lines at an NFL bowl event. And for visitors who had never studied a war, much less its tactics, perhaps using a familiar sport to explain infantry positions was a valid way to go.
You needn't worry about the way to get to Gettysburg from Philadelphia or New York, for that matter, as you'll want to drive on US 30, the Lincoln Highway, America's first transcontinental road, dating back to the 1913-1925 period. Just keep pointing west, and you'll encounter some of the nation's loveliest hilly countryside, compete with bucolic farms and charming B&Bs, not tomention cheap eats all along the way.
I suggest heading directly for York and Gettysburg, saving quaint Lancaster County for a separate trip, as you'll want to see what America's first transcontinental highway has to offer in this part of Pennsylvania. Beyond the Dutch Country, you'll find plenty of wide-open farmland, with rolling hills and a desire of the planners to keep US 30 straight whenever they could.
Though you're aiming for Gettysburg and its plenitude of Civil War history, you might consider stopping over in York, a city which is looking for its identity as a center for more recent times, billing itself as "Factory Tour Capital of the World." Long an industrial city of the first rank, York still has many working factories going, but to supplement the income of both industry and city, has tried to make its manufacturing tours popular.
Fourteen factory tours are offered, including the Frito-Lay Plant and the York Newspaper Company. The majority of tours concern themselves with snacks, coffee, or wine, and there is one weaver (Family Heirloom, by appointment only, one hour, free, www.familyheirloomweavers.com). But unquestionably, the two stars are the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and the Pfaltzgraff Company, makers of pottery and chinaware. For the motorcycle plant, I suggest earplugs, though you then might not be able to hear the guide's voice through the headset provided. (The free one-hour tours are offered Monday-Friday at 9:30, 10:30, 12:30, and 1:30. Reservations required for groups of 15 or more. For general up-to-date tour information call 877/746-7937. Minimum age 12. Closed-toe shoes required.).
At Pfaltzgraff, goggles are provided, but I recommend bringing your own facemask to prevent breathing in the silica in the air. (Free 1-1/2 hour tours are available weekday. Reservations arerequired so call Judene Miller at 717/793-9877 at least 1 day in advance. Minimum age 6. Closed-toe shoes required.)
There are four factory-related museums in York, with an 18th-century water-powered gristmill (free, but reservations required, 717/840-7440), an Industrial and Agricultural Museum ($5, phone 717/848-1587), the Wolfgang Candy Company (free, daily except Sunday, phone 800/248-4273, www.wolfgangcandy.com) and the York Barbell Museum and Weightlifting Hall of Fame (800/358-9675, Web site www.yorkbarbell.com).
Literally thousands of books have been written on Gettysburg and the battle here in 1863 that changed the future, not only of the United States, but of the world. When you arrive, you will want to visit the National Cemetery and Battlefield inside Gettysburg National Military Park and breathe in the air that filled the lungs of some 48,000 men killed or wounded here in the Civil War's most decisive battle. (Call 717/334-1124 for visitor information or visit the Web site at www.nps.gov/gett.)
Surrounding the cemetery and battlefield, there's an entire industry of Civil War lore, entrepreneurs grasping for your tourist dollar with dozens of sites and attractions, a few of them genuinely moving, most of them too obvious by half.
Among the best sites and attractions are:
The Battlefield itself. The most personal way to experience this is to visit the National Park Service Center (on Taneytown Road), watch the Electric Map ($3 charge to view the map) to get an orientation, then walk through the cemetery certainly visiting the nearby site where Lincoln gave his most memorable speech. Just walk out behind the Visitor center and Cyclorama center and follow the High Water Mark Trail.
Another good way to see this is to drive through, with a guidebook or an audiotape, such as the one provided by Auto Tape Tours. The 90-minute cassette lets you set your own pace and comes with maps. The minimum driving time of the tour is about two hours. The cost is $12.95, purchase price (the rental price is $12!). You can find the tape at the National Civil War Wax Museum, Steinwehr Avenue and Culp Street, near the cemetery entrance. The Web site is www.autotapetours.com.
Organized bus tours will help you, otherwise, like those provided by the Gettysburg Tour Center, 778 Baltimore Street, phone 717/334-6296. They cover the 23 miles in two hours, also, charging a hefty $16.95 for the privilege. If you have the stamina and the bucks ($47), you can ride on horseback through the battlefield with a licensed guide and a headset speaker. The horses include some very tame, slow-walking mares and stallions, so beginners need not worry. Phone the National Riding Stable at Artillery Ridge, 610 Taneytown Road (Rte., 134), 717/334-1288.
The Soldiers National Museum, at the Gettysburg Tour Center, is comprehensive, since it covers all the major battles of the War, but the exhibits are rather amateurish. Admission is $5.95 per adult and $3.50 for children 6-11. Open daily, phone 717/334-4890. Also in the center is the Jennie Wade House, a memorial to the only civilian killed during the battle, its furnishing scarcely changed since that day. Phone 717/334-4100, open daily.
A 30-minute guided tour takes you through the Schriver House, dedicated to the civilian experience at Gettysburg. Confederate soldiers occupied the house, turning it into a sharpshooter's lair. Admission for adults is $5.25, seniors $4.75, children (12 and under) $3.75; groups of ten or more get a slightly discounted rate, but a reservation is required. The house is located at 309 Baltimore Street, phone 717/337-2800, Web site www.schriverhouse.com.
Those interested in General Robert E. Lee can visit his headquarters on historic Seminary Ridge. There's quite a collection of Civil War artifacts here, at 401 Buford Avenue, phone 717/334-3141. The Web site is www.civilwarheadquarters.com. Open daily.
On a quiet evening, you can gain inspiration if not just entertainment by going with a costumed storyteller along the streets of town with "American Stories," 439 Steinwehr Avenue, at the Regimental Quartermaster shop. There are five different tour offerings, costing $6 each, and they last about one hour, traveling between six and eight blocks.
Those interested in more recent history might like to visit the Eisenhower National Historic Site, the home and farm of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Get tickets at the National Nark Service Visitor Center, where you purchase shuttle bus tickets to the farm. Cost is $5.25 for adults, $3.25 ages 13-16, and $2.25 for those 12 and unde. The site is open daily except November through March, when it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Phone 717/338-9114, Web site www.nps.gov/eise. For spooks-to-be, the site this summer is offering children aged 7 to 12 the creepy chance to be a "Junior Secret Service Agent", at no extra charge. On September 15 and 16, 2001, the annual World War II Weekend will take place, including a living history encampment featuring Allied soldiers, tanks, and military vehicles.
Unless you have loads of time, you can easily stay away from "attractions" such as The Hallof Presidents (wax figures) and the National Civil War Wax Museum, the Lincoln Train Museum, or the Land of Little Horses Farm Park. "The Ghosts of Gettysburg" candlelight walking tours and the Farnsworth House Mourning Theater are, well, macabre, though the former is not expensive ($6).
The Children's Museum is not all that innovative, but it is a great place to drop off the kids while you tour the battlefield, or otherwise get some time off for yourselves. $10 an hour per child, 10% discount for additional siblings. Admission to the museum is $5.50 for kids 2-14, adults only $3.50. Contact them at Explore and More, 20 East High Street, phone 717/337-9151, Web site www.exploreandmore.com.
Lodgings in Gettysburg
Just about the cheapest, yet eminently decent, rooms can be had at the Blue Sky Motel, out on the road north from the town square. A standard double room in summer runs from $37 to $49 with shower, $42 to $54 with bath, as well as morning coffee, tea, or cocoa. (In winter, you will pay even less.) Each room has cable TV, too. Hotel facilities include a swimming pool, picnic area, and children's playground. Contact the motel at 2585 Biglerville Road, Route 34, phone 800/745-8194 or 717/677-7736, fax 717/677-6794.
At the attractive Keystone Inn, four of the five rooms rent for under $100 a night, the exact prices being $79, $89 and $99, for two persons, including a full country breakfast. Each room has a private bath, comfortable chairs with footstools, and a reading nook. The two-story brick house was constructed in 1913, with a wide front porch and wicker furniture to let you sit a spell. The inn is at 231 Hanover Street, just five blocks east of Lincoln Square, phone 717/337-3888.
You can stay right next door to the historic Dobbin House Tavern and across the street from the spot where Lincoln delivered his famous speech, by booking a room at the Gettystown Inn. Four of the five rooms here go for $85 or $95. Each has private bath and air-conditioning, and the price includes a full breakfast at the neighboring Dobbin House. 89 Steinwehr Avenue, phone 717/334-2100, e-mail email@example.com, Web site www.dobbinhouse.com.
Just three rooms (two with private bathrooms, one for exclusive use down the hall) grace A Quiet Knight Bed and Breakfast, just half a mile from Lincoln Square and the National Cemetery. In the 1836 house (with additions), Bill and Linda Knight have run this cozy place since 1999. Rates from now through December are $85 to $115, in winter $75 to $100 for a room sleeping two persons, with full breakfast on weekends, full continental breakfast on weekdays. No pets. Contact them at 267 Baltimore Street, phone 877/828-8828 or 717/337-3886, fax 717/337-5975, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Web site www.gettysburg.com/gcvb/aqknight.htm.
The Farnsworth House is pure Victorian, but seven of its nine rooms can be had for a modern price of $95 a night for two persons. Each room has a private bath and air conditioning and is decorated with 19th-century antiques. "Haunted rooms are available," they say. (From here, Confederate sharpshooters fired into the town, killing Jenny Wade, the only civilian to die in the battle.) They're at 401 Baltimore Street, phone 717/334-8838, e-mail email@example.com, Web site www.farnsworthhousedining.com.
Lodging in York
The Trout Run Bed and Breakfast has just two bedrooms, but staying in either makes you feel like part of the family. A restored historic farmhouse, the entire place is filled with antiques, art, and flowers. The junior bedroom fetches $65 a night for two persons, with private adjacent bath (shower and tub) and phone. The master bedroom goes for $85 a day for double occupancy, with a king-sized canopied bed, private bath with whirlpool for two, and a private balcony, plus phone. A country breakfast is part of the deal. In the great room on the first floor, there's a woodburning stove, too. Contact the B&B at 3640 Trout Run Road, York 17402, phone 717/757-1433.
Dining in Gettysburg
Among the cheapest places in town is part of a chain that deserves more attention than it ordinarily gets, the Perkins Family Restaurant. The emphasis here is on wholesome, and quantity is not far behind. Sandwiches go for as little as $3.95, and dinner "classics" from just $6.95 and up. There are special kids menus as well as senior menus, each discounted from the normal prices. The Gettysburg branch is on the Lincoln Highway, US 30, phone 717/337-1923.
You might enjoy Gettysbrew, a pub and brewery that serves light meals. You could have soup and a basket of breads for just $4.75 at lunchtime, but sandwiches such as barbecued chicken on folded focaccia bread, with salad on the side, start at $7.95. At dinnertime, you should try a traditional pot roast of beef (with beer sauce), served with roasted potatoes and a breadstick, for $10. The Monfort Farm, where this is located, was one of the largest Confederate field hospitals after the battle. They're at 248 Hunterstown Road (under 2 miles from the town square), phone 717/337-1001, Web site www.gettysbrew.com.
In the heart of Gettysburg, in the town's oldest house, in fact, is the Dobbin House Tavern, moderately priced. Part of an historic building that is also a B&B (see above), the Tavern features light meals, such as the $7.95 hamburger, while the upstairs Dining Rooms feature more refined stuff, such as a pork tenderloin dinner for $16.95, soup, salad and veggies included. The tavern is at 89 Steinwehr Avenue, phone 717/334-2100, Web site www.dobbinhouse.com.
At the Farnsworth House Inn, you can dine on Southern favorites such as peanut soup, sweet potato pudding and pumpkin fritters, not to mention spoon bread. Dinner starts at 5 PM all year round, with the average main course about $16, including soup or salad, potato and vegetable. The inn is at 401 Baltimore Street, phone 717/334-8838, Web site www.farnsworthhousedining.com.
Dining in York
This is a great town to have inexpensive meals in, coming as it does about two-thirds of the way from Philadelphia to Gettysburg.
You won't find a cheaper breakfast than at the Reliance in West York, where breakfast starts at $1.45 (two eggs, homefries, buttered toast and jelly) or an omelet from $2.50, ditto sides plus coffee. Sandwiches start at $1 (egg), to prove my point. 1413 W. market Street, phone 717/854-1871. Open daily from 6 to 11 AM.
The Central Family Restaurant sums up its best qualities in its name. Breakfast here runs from $3.25 for waffles, French toast or hot cakes; sandwiches at lunchtime from $2.50 (with fries). At dinner, you can have meatloaf, gravy and two vegetables for just $4.95, or fried chicken from $5.25. Homemade apple dumplings are a favorite treat here. Located at 400 N. George Street, phone 717/845-4478, open daily from early until late (5 AM to 11 PM).
For something completely different, try a Latino breakfast or lunch at Manuel's Latin Sandwich Shop, where an Egg Moyette (two scrambled eggs in a roll, with melted cheese sauce, served with home fries and coffee) goes for $2.75, and at lunchtime, a warm pork sandwich (sandwich caliente de lechon) goes for $3.75. It's marinated baked pork served in a roll with relish made of onions and served with chips. (A cold chicken sandwich goes for just $2.99.) The address is 381 W. Market Street (corner of North Penn St.), phone 717/852-3195.
If it's seafood you want, try Kelly's, where fried haddock goes for $8.95, crabcakes for a dollar more. You can get a basket of fried shrimp, fish, clam or chicken for $5.50, with cole slaw or French fries on the side. You'll find Kelly's at 1906 N. Sherman Street, phone 717/755-3896. Open lunch weekdays, dinner daily.