Walking the "hallowed ground" on which the nation's fate was decided during the Civil War
Gettysburg is the site of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. The three-day battle, fought July 1–3, 1863, is often referred to as the war's "turning point." Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both sides were casualties at Gettysburg. That November, President Abraham Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery to honor the fallen Union soldiers and redefine the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address.
Located in south central Pennsylvania just 78 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., the Gettysburg National Military Park is the most visited battlefield in the United States and provides an educational as well as breathtaking view of a pivotal point in U.S. history. Because action on each day of the battle was centered in a different area, the entire community takes on historic significance, even though less than half of the over 11,500 acres on the old Gettysburg battlefield have been preserved for posterity thus far.
The National Park Service Museum and Visitor Center is the place to begin your visit to Gettysburg National Military Park. Here, visitors will find information on how to visit the park and what to see around Gettysburg.
The Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War, with 22,000 square feet of exhibit space, features relics of the Battle of Gettysburg and personalities who served in the Civil War, interactive exhibits, and multimedia presentations that cover the conflict from beginning to end as well as describe the Battle of Gettysburg and its terrible aftermath.
The center also hosts the film, A New Birth of Freedom, narrated by award winning-actor Morgan Freeman and the restored Gettysburg Cyclorama, which depicts the final fury of Gettysburg—Pickett's Charge.
For visitors interested in looking for additional resources on individuals who served in the war or further information on the exhibits, the resource room at the end of the museum galleries offers a bank of computers to use for further research and to help answer questions about the soldiers who served at Gettysburg and elsewhere. The museum bookstore is filled with books and other items related to Gettysburg and the Refreshment Saloon offers drinks and sandwiches in the atmosphere of a Civil War soldier's rest.
The center is located at 1195 Baltimore Pike (GPS coordinates: 77.22 degrees West, 39.81 degrees North) and is open daily throughout the year but closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The center is owned and operated by the Gettysburg Foundation.
For additional information on the foundation, visit www.gettysburgfoundation.org.
For more information on the military park, visit www.nps.gov/gett.
Visiting the Battlefield
The park has more than 26 miles of paved roads open for touring by private vehicle. Visitors with special needs may tour the park on their own with the use of the official map and guide, which includes a map of the park and self-guiding auto tour, or with a licensed battlefield guide (recommended), both of which area available at the center.
The guide will present a two-hour tour in your own vehicle. Audio stations are located at various points in the park. All monuments and cannon are touchable and may tell interesting stories. It's a great way to learn about the different phases of the battle in the actual locations where fighting raged.
The free park map and guide available at the visitor center is keyed to the self-guiding tour signs along the park roads. Wayside exhibits with text and visual illustrations are also located throughout the park.
Other ways to visit the battlefield are available by bus, carriage, bicycle, horseback and Segway. Ten tours are available that explore ghost and the paranormal in and around Gettysburg.
Walking Trails in the Park
The two major self-guided walking tours are the Cemetery Ridge Trail Walking Tour and the National Cemetery Walking Tour. The guide for the National Cemetery Walking Tour is available at the park information desk. The booklet for the Cemetery Ridge Trail is available on site.
There are pedestrian trails at Big and Little Round Top, at Devil's Den and across the field of Pickett's Charge. These trails are over uneven earthen terrain with very limited paved areas. Approximately 50 percent of the Cemetery Ridge Trail is accessible over level paved ground. The National Cemetery has paved roads and may be toured by vehicle. Notify the park ranger at the visitor center information desk for approval to enter the cemetery by vehicle.
Getting Around Town
Freedom Transit provides public transportation for visitors from the museum and visitor center to points in downtown Gettysburg and all around town via three fixed routes. The transit stop on Carlisle Street is close to the David Wills House, the Majestic Theater and the Historic Gettysburg Train Station.
There are five house tours in Gettysburg that commemorate various aspects of the historic battle.
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was commemorated in 2013.
Not Just a Battlefield
Gettysburg offers more than just a battlefield. Summer festivals celebrate 19th-century baseball, Bike Week, Irish Heritage, apples and the arts and entertainment.
Gettysburg visitors will also enjoy theater productions, concerts, wineries and nature trails. Enjoy the community's orchards and charming nearby small towns. And be sure to pack the golf clubs, as golfers will be sure to enjoy the award-winning courses.
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