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10 Must-Dos on Your First Visit to Gettysburg

So you’re planning your first trip to Gettysburg, where do you start? With the variety of experiences available in Adams County – from history, recreation, shopping and agritourism – it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. We’ve got your back – here’s a list of 10 things every first-timer should experience in the Gettysburg area.

Get acquainted at the Museum and Visitor Center

It’s a good idea to check out the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center to get a solid overview of the Battle of Gettysburg before venturing off to the battlefield. The Visitor Center features a variety of exhibits for visitors to orient themselves including a 12-gallery museum; “A New Birth of Freedom,” a 30-minute movie narrated by Morgan Freeman; and the Cyclorama, the largest painting in North America which brings to life Pickett’s Charge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Take a tour of the battlefield

Gettysburg National Military Park is one of the biggest draws to the area and there are many ways for visitors to experience it. There are a few self-guided options like the auto-tour where visitors follow road markers and a map as well as an interactive iPad tour. Visitors can also book a Licensed Battlefield Guide for an in-depth, intimate tour of the battlefield. Other options include bus tours, Segway tours, horseback tours and bicycle tours, many of which include guides. There’s no wrong way to see the battlefield but there are a lot of options so visitors can find the right way for them.

Visit historic buildings

The history doesn’t end on the battlefield, there are many historic buildings and sites throughout Gettysburg. Check out the David Wills House and see where Abraham Lincoln put the final touches on his Gettysburg Address, visit the Shriver House and learn about the civilian experience of the Battle of Gettysburg, go to the Seminary Ridge Museum and experience the first day of the battle or tour the Jennie Wade House and hear the story of the only civilian killed in the three-day battle at Gettysburg. Adams County is dedicated to preserving these pieces of history so their stories can continue to be told for years to come.

Stroll downtown

Gettysburg is about as rich in culture as it is in history. Visitors can find a variety of shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants lining the streets of downtown, leading right up to historic Lincoln Square. Whether you’re looking for clothing, fine arts, collectibles or home décor, you’ll find it in downtown Gettysburg. Once in the square, don’t pass up the opportunity to get a presidential selfie with the statue of Abraham Lincoln outside the David Wills House.

Indulge in culinary excellence

Gettysburg is becoming known as a foodie hotspot. On your first trip to Gettysburg, be sure to try out period dining. Establishments such as the Dobbin House and the Farnsworth House offer Civil War era dishes that will truly immerse visitors in the Gettysburg experience. If you’re looking for something else, Gettysburg has an array of casual, upscale and even farm-to-table dining options. If you don’t know where to start, try a food tour. Visitors can discover Gettysburg with their pallets and go on a tour foodies can only dream of.

Step into the craft beverage scene

The growing craft beverage industry in Gettysburg and Adams County is definitely something to experience during your first visit. There are a number of breweries, distilleries and wineries across Adams County that offer a variety of local brews and spirits. So stop in after a day on the battlefield, tour the facility and relax with a local brew, wine or cider.

Search for ghosts

To some people, Gettysburg and ghosts go hand-in-hand. Walk with the paranormal at one of the many ghost tours offered in Gettysburg nightly. Some are more involved than others, so if going out in the night with energy reading gear is your thing, there’s a tour for you. Visit the haunted spots through town and learn a history tidbit or two along the way. And who knows, you might spot a ghost!

Experience living history

While in Gettysburg for the first time, visitors should immerse themselves in the history, and there’s no better way to do that than living history presentations. Throughout the year, history comes to life in Gettysburg when living historians dressed in period wear host presentations and encampments. It can be fun to learn about the battle from a famous general or common civilian who was “actually there.”

Drive around the countryside

While there’s a lot to see and do in the town of Gettysburg, it’s just as important to venture out and see the surrounding Adams County countryside.  Drive past the orchards and vineyards, be immersed in the farmlands and the rolling hills. While out and about, be sure to see Sachs Bridge – one of several covered bridges in the county. There’s no better way to start, or end, the day than a sunrise/sunset out in the Adams County countryside.

Stop at a local farmers’ market

While out enjoying the scenery that Adams County has to offer, be sure to stop at one of the countryside farm markets. It’s one thing to see the orchards and the fields, but to be able to taste the literal fruits of the farmers’ labor is a fun and delicious experience. Markets offer many family friendly activities and when in season, pick your own fruit experiences.

38 thoughts on “10 Must-Dos on Your First Visit to Gettysburg”

  1. I just went on a great carriage tour today! So glad I found Victorian Carriage Company, great scenery on the route. How could you forget to mention them? Lol

  2. The Heritage Center was one of our first stops and armed us with knowledge to keep coming back for years! Also, pick up the Gettysburg Experience magazine at a local business. An amazing publication full of ideas.

  3. What I love most about Gettysburg? You can visit over and over and every visit can be a different experience! Try something new and keep going back to your favorites too!

    • David, there is some great road biking in the area. The battlefield is a great place to road cycle. You can pick a place to park on the battlefield and make your way around on the battlefield roads. Also, here is a link to some great on-road cue sheets from the Healthy Adams Bicycle Pedestrian Initiative: http://www.habpi.org/pages/onroad.php. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

    • Hi there! You can get German language audio tour maps at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center. We hope that’s helpful! Let us know if there is anything else we can do to assist you!

    • Yes, by Easter weekend, mostly everything should be open! Please let us know if we can provide any assistance in planning your trip! Have a great time! 🙂

  4. My husband and I would like to visit Gettysburg. Our ages are 70 and 73 so we would not be able to do much walking but tours would be ideal. We need to know what is the best time to come when not crowded and what motels are available. How can I recieve some information so we can begin our preparations.

    • Paulette,

      We would recommend giving our office a call! Give us a call at 1.800.337.5015 and let us know what questions you have! 🙂

  5. Im a huge history buff and Gettysburg PA has been in my bucket list since i was in High School. My worries are that i will not be able to visit the battlefield and other sites because im in a wheelchair. Do any of these sites rent electric scooters? Thanks in advance

    • Hi Matthew! We would be happy to send you some ADA accessible information in the mail. Send us an email at info@destinationgettysburg.com and include your name, mailing address and that you would like to request ADA accessible info. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  6. There is so much history to see in Gettysburg that a ghost tour wouldn’t even be in my top 100 things to do on my first visit. I realize this is a site to promote the things to do in town, but it is doing a disservice to those who fought here, and that’s a lot more important.

  7. we are only going to be in gettysburg for a day and a half what do you recommend us seeing in that time. i wish i would have had more notice but its an impromptu trip and were actually traveling now lol.

  8. Can you tour these places on your own or does it have to be guided? What is the average cost of these guided tours?

    • Valerie, the tours listed in this blog really vary. Some are guided, while others are self-guided. Each tour is linked in the blog post – we would recommend clicking each link for more detailed information!

  9. Considering stopping in Gettysburg for 1.5 days in March. Are all the exhibits open then? Would you recommend a summer trip instead? Thank you.

    • Hi Amanda! It depends on what all you are looking to do. Some attractions do have seasonal hours, while others have regular hours all throughout the year. Let us know if there are any specific attractions you definitely want to see!

  10. This is going to be our first time to Gettysburg we don’t know where to start our fun we have one week and want to make sure we see as much as possible if I can get any info sent to me it will be great

  11. Please send to me information regarding Gettysburg, Va. tours, restaurants, hotel accommodations, important places to attend, etc. We will be planning a trip in October for the first time. Any information you can send would be wonderful. Kim Flowers, 5003 Greenbrier Lane N., Wilson, N.C. 27896

  12. Heading to Gettysburg for the first time July 1, 2 and 3, 2020.
    Im reading that re-enactments are not happening this year?
    Staying at the Farnsworth.
    Whats the Best Ghost tour. Really want a Night tour on the battlefield.
    Any Thoughts?

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