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10 Things You Need To Do In Gettysburg

Gettysburg was home to some of the most consequential events in our nation's history. It is a place of remembrance, starting anew, and understanding the sacrifices that have brought us to where we are today. While there are many things to do in the Gettysburg area, these are our ten favorite places to visit. These are the things that you absolutely cannot miss when visiting Gettysburg.

1) Getting a primer on the battle at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center
No matter how learned of a scholar you are on the Battle of Gettysburg and Civil War history, it is very important that you first visit the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. This place really ties the entire battlefield together with its in depth look at the strategy elements and human toll of this battle and war in general. The tour starts with a fantastic movie, narrated by Morgan Freeman and Sam Waterston, that gives you an overview of the battle.
The tour then moves to the 42 foot tall and 377 foot long Cyclorama, the largest painting in North America. This gives another amazing overview with a narrated light show demonstrating different points within the battle, and the sacrifice of those on the battlefield. The tour then moves on to a collection of thousands of pieces of artifacts from the battle and the Civil War at large.

We highly recommend that you visit this fantastic place first, so that you get the most out of your explorations around the battlefield, and the meaning of everything you will be seeing.

2) Exploring the Battlefield
Seeing the now idyllic countryside, speckled with spectacular monuments erected in honor of the young men who died in agony during this horrific battle, in addition to the Gettysburg National Cemetery, is nothing short of deeply emotional and moving. Words can't describe the rush of emotions that you feel when going around the battlefield. It is humbling knowing the sacrifices made on that battlefield for the cause of creating a unified and stronger union that lasts to this day.
According to the National Park Service there are approximately 1,328 different monuments throughout Gettysburg. These monuments were erected for people from every corner of this nation at that time. It is incredible seeing the monuments and reading about what occurred at many of them. These monuments have seemingly endless scrolls of names of the estimated 46,000 to 51,000 people that either died or were injured as a result of this battle, and the roughly 200,000 different young men that fought during that tumultuous campaign.
Climbing up the Pennsylvania and New York Monuments is almost overwhelming, along with being serene and comforting. The monuments are huge, with steps and observation areas at the top of them. The views over the battlefield are incredible. The fire tower style observation towers are also pretty cool to climb up. All of these towers offer views of the seemingly endless rolling grassy hills, only interrupted by monuments and split rail fences.
For those of you who love outdoor recreation, hiking up Big Round Top is something that should not be missed. This is a moderate hike with decent elevation change and vistas at the end of the hike. Throughout the hike you will see many monuments and places where this geologic feature was used strategically during the battle. There are other hiking trails, in addition to relatively flat walking, biking, and horseback riding trails throughout the area that help you to really get acquainted with the land.

3) and 4) Visiting the Shriver and Jenny Wade Houses
One of the most moving aspects of touring Gettysburg is going into town and visiting the Shriver and Jenny Wade Houses. These two places were civilian homes and really show the toll that all wars have upon the civilians that get caught in the middle of them. These individuals were people that simply wanted to live in the agricultural haven of Gettysburg and Adams County. They wanted nothing to do with the war and they ended up dying directly or indirectly, as a result of the Battle of Gettysburg and the overall Civil War. It is easy to say that the Battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3rd, 1863. It seems to always get glossed over that July 3rd "last day" of the battle between the armies was when the remaining civilians of Gettysburg were left with abandoned dead and wounded soldiers at the hottest point of the summer. The civilians were left to nurse wounded soldiers, many of which would die a slow death over the next few days, months, and years as a result of the battle. Soon, disease outbreaks did in many of the townspeople and wounded soldiers. The civilians were left with a scorched countryside where their crops and livelihoods were destroyed in the middle of the summer growing season, and they were left with land covered in blood, along with an estimated million bullets or so and whatever else was out there.  It would take decades for Gettysburg to return to a functional state again. It is unimaginable to even contemplate the suffering that took place in Gettysburg.
The Shriver and Jenny Wade Houses show the pain and suffering that Gettysburg's civilians dealt with and what the battle's surviving but severely injured soldiers dealt with following the battle. The stories of these places are so moving and we highly recommend visiting them in order to get an enriched understanding of the battle and all wars in general, from a perspective that is rarely covered in typical historical studies of war.

5) Sachs Covered Bridge
The Sachs Covered Bridge is one of the prettiest spans that I have ever laid my eyes upon. It is claimed to be the "most historical covered bridge in existence," and for good reason. It was used by both armies during the battle, with Confederates crossing it in their attempt to advance, and then it was used by them when they ran in retreat after the battle and Union forces crossed it in the wake of the Confederates leaving. There are a bunch of urban legends and ghost stories about this covered bridge as well. While those are not typically my cup of tea, there are a number of different ghost tours that you can take around the battlefield area that take a look at the "supernatural." Sachs Covered Bridge is said to be a hotspot for this. No matter what your interests are, this bridge is certainly worth a visit for it is absolutely stunning. The water underneath it is even an excellent and popular place for trout fishing.

6) and 7) David Wills House and Shopping in Lincoln Circle
The David Wills House is a beautiful house that is located right in the center of town at Lincoln Circle. This house turned into a center for the cleanup of Gettysburg after the battle. It was the homestead of David Wills, a prominent local attorney, and he hosted Abraham Lincoln the night before he delivered one of the most consequential speeches of all time, the Gettysburg Address. Additionally, around the house are a number of small shops, delicious eateries, and more that offer much more to visit in the town than just the battlefield.

7) Seeing Eisenhower's Homestead
Eisenhower is one of my favorite all time presidents, and seeing his homestead was really a highlight for me. He picked a magnificent place for his farm and homestead. After being a general in World War II and then living in a place like this, he was reminded on a daily basis of how much of a toll that war takes upon people. It is highly likely that living in the middle of this area helped shape his policy stances in us leaving the Korean War and his other foreign policy initiatives and achievements.

8) Mister Ed's Elephant Museum and Candy Shop and Antiquing
Any way that you head into Gettysburg, especially from the east or west, you are bound to hit dozens, if not hundreds, of different antique shops and dealers. You could plan a visit to Gettysburg and likely spend several days just going to all of the different antique stores and eclectic shops in and around town. At least forty five minutes east and west of the city on Route 30 or in classic terms, on the Lincoln Highway, you will run into many different antique shops. One of the most eclectic shops of any kind along the Lincoln Highway near Gettysburg is Mister Ed's Elephant Museum and Candy Shop.

10) Appreciating the agriculture, orchards, and small towns throughout the Gettysburg and Adams County countryside
Any direction that you head from Gettysburg, you will be certain to find a many different kinds of agriculture, especially orchards. The area is famous for its high quality orchards and you will be sure to find seemingly endless groves of apple and other fruit trees.

For more information on visiting the area, be sure to check out www.destinationgettysburg.com

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