Since it’s my hometown, lots of people ask me: “Is Gettysburg worth visiting?
For a little background, Gettysburg, Pa., is a small town of less than 8,000 residents that draws more than a million people each year.
Despite the influx of visitors, Gettysburg retains its small-town ambience with pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, as well as an array of boutique, antique and gift shops, wineries, distilleries and hand-scooped ice cream.
If you’re thinking about visiting this historic small town, here is some information to help you decide whether Gettysburg is worth visiting.
Six Reasons Why Gettysburg Is Worth Visiting
In Gettysburg, one cannot avoid history—it permeates the town and the surrounding battlefield. But this charming southcentral Pennsylvania community offers much more than just a history lesson.
In fact, this article focuses on those who are “along for the ride” to this historic small town in Pennsylvania. Maybe your spouse is a history buff or your kids are learning about the Battle of Gettysburg.
Keep reading, because no matter your interests, you’ll discover a variety of activities that make Gettysburg worth visiting.
What Is Gettysburg Known For?
For a quick history lesson, Gettysburg is known for being the site of a 3-day battle in 1863 that left more than 50,000 casualties.
The battle raged on July 1, 2 and 3 in the town itself and across the farms and fields surrounding the town.
The conflict impacted every citizen, since houses, barns, churches and every available building were used to treat the injured following the deadly battle.
The town also had to handle the influx of thousands of family members who came to the town looking for their loved one, as well as had to deal with burying the dead men and horses.
Many buildings in Gettysburg still show signs of the historic battle, with bullet-riddled walls and artillery shells still visible in the walls.
Is Gettysburg Worth Visiting?
Here are six reasons why Gettysburg is worth visiting.
Whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner, or with your entire family — this small town serves up a wide range of things to see, do and experience.
1. The Battlefield And Monuments For Nature And Art Lovers
You don’t have to be a student of history to enjoy the scenic Gettysburg National Military Park battlefield. No matter what route you choose, you’ll find winding roads through wooded landscapes and gently rolling hills.
Nature is bountiful, and so is the wildlife. Don’t be surprised if you see deer, squirrels, racoons, possums and maybe even an occasional fox.
There are 1,300 monuments located within the 6,000-acre Gettysburg National Park—and many of them are stunning works of art. You can drive through and see them while moving or get out of your car and take a look up close.
You won’t believe the detail on these monuments that make a drive through the Gettysburg battlefield worth every minute.
A few that you shouldn’t miss are the spectacular Virginia Monument on Confederate Avenue, the Eternal Peace Light Memorial on Mummasburg Road, and the Pennsylvania Monument, which is the largest on the battlefield and has an upper viewing area.
Pro Tip: If you’re a history buff, you can hire a licensed guide to ride along in your car. You can also tour the battlefield by bike, horseback, carriage and Segway. If you’d rather explore at your on pace, you can purchase a self-guided tour.
2. Agriculture: Crop Hop Farm and Market Trail
Most people don’t know that Adams County, where Gettysburg is the county seat, is the 4th largest apple producing county in the country. Visitors can enjoy the bountiful harvest at the National Apple Harvest Festival that takes place the first two weekends in October.
To add to the agricultural fun, the county has developed a Crop Hop passport that lists a wide variety of stops where you can get your passport stamped. Prizes are given for those who visit 3, 10 or 20 of the sites on the trail.
But the agricultural opportunities don’t end there. In the area surrounding Gettysburg you can try your hand at “goat yoga” or take your kids to the “Land of Little Horses.” There are also a multitude of other agricultural places to visit including butchers, greenhouses, country markets and even an herb farm.
In the spring and summer you can pick fresh fruit like strawberries and blueberries. In the fall, take a selfie in a pumpkin patch or try your hand at a corn maze or hay ride.
Don’t overlook these wonderful (and delicious) opportunities—and you will see why Gettysburg is worth visiting.
Local Tip: Visit The Historic Round Barn
If you want to mix history with your outing, check out the Gettysburg Round Barn, one of only a few such architectural works of art left in the entire country.
Built in 1914, the Round Barn has fresh fruit, vegetables, antiques, hanging baskets, aprons, cookbooks, honey, handmade crafts and specialty food items.
It is truly a destination all by itself!
BE SURE TO leave enough time to wander around (and around) the barn. There’s a lot to see! I bet you won’t leave empty-handed.
3. Adams County ‘Pour Tour’
Here’s another reason why Gettysburg is worth visiting.
Even if your main focus is Civil War history, you’re likely to get thirsty along the way.
Adams County has a wide variety of quality hand-crafted beverages like Mead, Spirits, Cider, Beer and Wine.
There are downtown tasting rooms that you can walk to or take a drive into the countryside and enjoy the serenity of the rural landscape.
If you really want to experiment, you should grab a passport so you can collect digital stamps from the places you visit along the trail. Prizes are awarded at the 5, 12 and 20 stamp level. Once 30 stamps are collected, you will be entered to win a getaway trip to Gettysburg.
What could be better than mixing history with a refreshing spirit or hand-crafted beer? You can be sure to do that at places like Battlefield Brew Works, a brewery located in a (haunted) barn that was used as a field hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg.
History is definitely on tap here—and so are the “spirits.”
There really is nowhere else in the world where you can experience so much history while enjoying good food and drink.
4. Is Gettysburg Worth Visiting For The Shopping?
Downtown Gettysburg is home to a wide variety of shops, from women’s boutiques to gift shops. You’ll also find antiques, candy, soaps, cigars, second-hand shops, art studios and comics.
One of my favorite places to shop in Gettysburg is the Antique Center at 30 Baltimore Street. It’s fun just to browse through their books and look at the numerous Civil War-related items.
Another local favorite is Lark, which is tucked into the northwest quadrant of Lincoln Square, as well as A & A Village Treasures at 53 Chambersburg Street. Both of these stores have extra special events on the “First Friday” of every month.
5. Dining In Gettysburg
Of course, after exploring Gettysburg all day, you’ll need a place to sit down and refuel. No matter what your preference, you should be able to find something in Gettysburg to suit your needs.
Just like any other town or city, there are plenty of pubs, restaurants, pizza shops and bars—but Gettysburg also offers one-of-a-kind dining experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.
For instance, you can eat at the beautiful Dobbin House Tavern which serves up plenty of history with dinner. Built in 1776, this beautiful stone structure is the oldest building in Gettysburg.
Owned by the Rev. Alexander Dobbin, it was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad as well as a field hospital during and after the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Dobbin House offers both fine dining and lighter fare at their Springhouse downstairs.
Another downtown Gettysburg restaurant that is one-of-a-kind is the Farnsworth House. It was also used as a Civil War hospital after the Battle of Gettysburg, and now serves as a restaurant, pub, B&B Inn — and the site of ghost tours.
Pro Tip: If you’re the type of person that enjoys sampling a variety of food from the places you visit, then don’t miss out on the Gettysburg Food Tour.
6. Ghost Hunting In Haunted Gettysburg
Speaking of “spirits,” some people come to Gettysburg for the paranormal activity that is so well documented that Gettysburg has been called the most haunted town in the United States.
On place that is a favorite “haunt” for local is the Sachs Covered Bridge, which is considered one of the most haunted bridges in America!
Another one of the spookiest places in Gettysburg is the Daniel Lady Farm. (It was used as a Civil War hospital and there are blood stains on the floor in the house… lots of them).
Frequently Asked Questions About Gettysburg
Is Gettysburg Open?
Yes, Gettysburg is a small town and most of its shops and restaurants stay open year-round, though hours may be shortened.
The Gettysburg Battlefield that surrounds the town is also open all year, unless roads are impassable due to weather.
Is Gettysburg A National Park?
Yes, the full name is the Gettysburg Battlefield National Military Park and it encompasses 6,000 acres around the town of Gettysburg.
Many people think the vast National Park makes Gettysburg worth visiting, but there are lots of other things to see and do.
Is Gettysburg National Park Free?
Yes, the Gettysburg National Park is free. It’s also massive, so make sure you do some research before your visit.
You can pick up maps of the park at the Gettysburg Visitor Center and decide what you’d most like to see during your visit. The Gettysburg visitor center has a large gift shop with thousands of books for sale, making it worth a visit.
Is Gettysburg Safe?
Gettysburg is a very walkable town, especially along the main routes.
The distance from the downtown shops to the more commercial tourist direct on Steinwher Avenue is about a mile with museums, gift shops and restaurants along the way.
Crime can happen anywhere, so it is best to be aware of your surroundings.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself walking beside someone dressed as a Civil War soldier. (It’s probably a re-enactor…but you never know).
Can you walk the Gettysburg Battlefield?
Yes, you can walk and explore just about everywhere on the Gettysburg Battlefield, including walking across the field where Pickett’s Charge once took place.
This is an awesome experience that you can do on your own, or you can do it on its anniversary on July 3, when thousands of others join in.
Located in southcentral Pennsylvania, the famous town is only three and a half hours from New York City, two hours from Philadelphia and about an hour and a half from Baltimore and Washington, DC.
This close proximity to major cities on the East Coast makes Gettysburg a perfect weekend getaway. The best part is, you don’t have to be a history geek to enjoy this charming rural community.
Is One Day Enough To Spend At Gettysburg?
Even if your interest is very general and you just want to “see the battlefield,” one day probably isn’t enough to do much more than hit the highlights.
The Battle of Gettysburg took place over a three-day period (July 1, 2 and 3 in 1863), and many visitors only go to the locations of the second and third day of fighting, which is Little Round Top and Pickett’s Charge.
There are also lost of museums, shopping, dining, ghost hunting and other activities that you will miss by only spending one day.
How Many Days Do You Need To See Gettysburg?
Deciding how many days you need to see Gettysburg depends on your interests and how deeply you want to delve into the surrounding history.
Of course, those who have an interest in the Battle of Gettysburg will want to spend more time. Many people don’t realize however, that the fighting also took place in the town of Gettysburg itself, so there are lots of interesting museums and tours that feature how the civilians were affected by the battle.
Keep in mind, they suffered severe loss in property damage, as well as having to feed and treat those who were wounded and bury thousands of dead.
In addition to the more famous places, don’t forget to check out the historic sites that no one ever sees in Gettysburg.
Why Visit Gettysburg?
If you enjoy history, nature, ghost hunting, shopping, hiking, exploring, learning new things and eating, then you have lots of answers to the question, Why visit Gettysburg?
What Is The Closest City To Gettysburg?
Gettysburg is located in southcentral Pennsylvania, just 10 miles from the Maryland line.
However, Gettysburg is in close proximity to New York City (less than 4 hours); Philadelphia (less than 3 hours); Baltimore (90 minutes); and Washington D.C. (90 minutes), all of which have major airports.
Wrap-Up Of Is Gettysburg Worth Visiting?
As you can see, there is a lot more to Gettysburg than just its Civil War history. The six activities above did not even include the Battlefield itself or the many Museums in Gettysburg that are fun for young and old alike.
Whether you want to spend a Romantic Weekend in the town at a local Bed and Breakfast, explore the surrounding countryside, or take in some museums, you will find plenty of activities to make your trip to Gettysburg worthwhile.