Antietam's quiet hills and limited number of monuments make it a stark and silent contrast to the massive memorials of Gettysburg. The park service offers an 8 1/2-mile self-guided auto tour that can also be walked or bicycled. Maps, as well as tours on audiotape and CD, are also available at the visitor center. Battlefield Guides (tel. 866/461-5180 or 301/432-4329; www.antietambattlefieldguides.com), similar to the guides at Gettysburg, take groups or families for a 2-hour tour of the battlefield; reservations are required. Park rangers offer free battlefield walks and talks, too. You can count on a walking tour at 1:30pm, though others are offered in summer. In addition, rangers give an orientation talk at the visitor center three times a day.
Burnside Bridge crosses Antietam Creek near the southern end of the battlefield. Georgia snipers stalled 4,000 Union soldiers for over 3 hours as the Union tried to secure this stone arch bridge. Another must-see stop is the observation tower over a sunken country lane near the center of the battlefield. This road, now known as Bloody Lane, was the scene of a 4-hour encounter that ended with no decisive winner and 4,000 casualties. And don't miss Dunker Church, which figures prominently in a number of Civil War photos. These three locations are among the most memorable, graceful, and harrowing of the battlefield.
The Pry House Field Hospital Museum (tel. 301/695-1864; www.civilwarmed.org), just a 5-minute drive off the battlefield, served as General George McClellan's headquarters during the battle. Several generals were treated here; the barn was also used as a field hospital. Admission to Pry House is $2. It's open daily 11am to 5pm Memorial Day to October 31 and in May and November, Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 5pm. It's closed December through April.
Every year on September 17, and on the weekend closest to the date, the anniversary of the battle is remembered with ranger-led hikes and special events. An Independence Day concert, featuring the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and fireworks, is held on the Saturday closest to the Fourth of July.
A Candlelight Remembrance -- On the first Saturday of December, Antietam National Battlefield is illuminated with 23,000 candles, one for each of those killed, wounded, or missing after the battle. People come from everywhere, willing to wait an hour or more, for the chance to drive past this sad but beautiful sight. Cars start moving through the park at about 6:30pm and continue until midnight or until all the cars have passed. The only entrance is on Route 34.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.