Seeing the Highlights
Admission to the Visitor Center is free, so be sure to stop here for a map, schedule of free ranger talks and tours, and to browse the well-stocked shop and bookstore. There's also a short film and display of Civil War artifacts, as well as a large food court. The Visitor Center is open daily 8am to 5pm, and until 6pm April through October.
The major exhibits here, however, come at a price. A ticket for a movie narrated by Morgan Freeman, the extensive collections of the Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War, and the Cyclorama is $11 for adults, $9.50 for seniors, and $6.50 for children.
The film is a good introduction to the Civil War and the museum displays a good collection of weaponry and uniforms from both sides. Look for the things the soldiers carried, including musical instruments, medical supplies, and personal effects.
But it's the newly restored Cyclorama, a 360-degree depiction of Pickett's Charge -- the climactic battle of the Gettysburg campaign -- that is worth the price of admission. Brilliantly colored with gripping scenes of battle, the 1884 painting by Paul Dominique Philippoteaux is enhanced by its display, the dramatic narration, and the accompanying light-and-sound show.
The battlefield and cemetery are the main reasons for a visit here. The Gettysburg National Cemetery gate is on Taneytown Road. Get a map at the visitor center, walk among the gravestones, and learn about the Union and Confederate soldiers now united in this place. The graves encircle the place where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and where the Soldiers' National Monument now stands.
The battlefield is so large, you must see it by car, bike, or bus. Along the ridges and valleys of the park are more than 100 monuments, dedicated by various states to their military units who fought here. The largest and most often visited is the granite-domed Pennsylvania Memorial. Constructed of nearly 3,000 tons of cut granite, raw stone, and cement, the monument consists of a dome supported by four arched columns, topped by a statue depicting the winged goddess of victory and peace. Other monuments recall the bravery of the troops on both sides of the battle. Of the Southern states, Virginia was the first to build a monument here. The Virginia State Memorial, dedicated in 1917, is topped by a brass sculpture of General Lee mounted on a horse. It's located where Pickett's Charge took place.
As you're visiting the monuments, look for the John Burns Portrait Statue. At over 70 years of age, this local constable and veteran of the War of 1812 asked Colonel Langhorn Wister for permission to fight with the Union troops. Although initially mocked, he earned the soldiers' respect, fighting alongside Union regiments at Gettysburg before being wounded and carried from the field.
Dress the Part -- A number of shops in town will help you find a stunning Civil War-style ball gown (or perhaps a more practical day or work dress). You'll need the dress, a corset, a four- or six-bone hoop, pantaloons, gloves and a bonnet. Those clothes can be suffocatingly hot, so be sure to find a lovely fan. At A Civil Affair on Baltimore Street (tel. 717/338-1565; www.acivilaffair.com), seamstresses will alter your dress right away. Such an outfit will set you back $300 to $700 (or more). Other shops specialize in men's clothes or hats.
The David Wills House, 8 Lincoln Sq. (tel. 866/486-5735; www.davidwillshouse.org) located on Gettysburg's town square, is now part of the Gettysburg National Military Park but it has its own separate admission. Its exhibits focus on the man who organized the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery and who invited the president to speak. Abraham Lincoln spent the night here before delivering the Gettysburg Address at the cemetery on November 19, 1863. The bed where Lincoln slept and some of his things are on display in the bedroom -- really the best reason to pay the hefty $6.50 admission ($5.50 seniors, $4 children 6-18). The house is open May to August daily 10am to 6pm; spring and fall Wednesday to Monday 10am to 5pm, and Thursday to Monday, 10am to 5pm in winter.
Eisenhower National Historic Site (www.nps.gov/eise), President Eisenhower's farm, overlooks the Gettysburg Battlefield. Eisenhower first came to Gettysburg as a West Point cadet, to study the battlefields. He and his wife Mamie bought their 189-acre farm south of town; as president, he entertained world leaders here. Today, visitors can catch a shuttle at the battlefield visitor center to tour the home and walk the grounds. Admission is $7.50 for adults, and $5 for children 6 to 12.
Gettysburg is dotted with small, privately owned museums filled with Civil War memorabilia. The best is the Shriver House Museum, 309 Baltimore St. (tel. 717/337-2800; www.shriverhouse.org), which relates the story of a civilian family caught up in the terror of the battle. Visitors can tour the home, including the attic where sharpshooters were holed up. (If you're in town for the reenactment, stop here on Sat evening for a compelling living history tour.) Admission is $7.50 for adults, $7.25 for seniors, and $5 for children 6 to 12. It's closed January and February.
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.