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Visiting Gettysburg

Updated on September 7, 2013
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Bill Watson has authored 3 books and many articles online and for print publications such as Sports Afield, Income Opportunties and more.

Visiting Gettysburg ... Why?

Visiting Gettysburg? Here's ALL the information you need to have a GREAT time, whether you're about to visit Gettysburg for the first time or have visited before and are returning.

Many people visit Gettysburg. Very few leave this small, quaint town believing one visit, no matter the length, was enough. They come for various reasons: the recommend of a friend perhaps, or because they believe it's time for their children to enjoy a living history lesson or maybe they've read about the battle and want to actually see what they can now only imagine. Logical reasons all.

But they come back because they're compelled to. They come back because envisioning what the brave men who fought here did, stirred their soul. They come back because here, standing on this hallowed ground, at some point they "got it" as they were moved in a way they've never felt before.

And they want to feel it again.

Gettysburg, PA is forever linked to the famous Battle of Gettysburg that took place in and near here in 1863 during the American Civil War. It was the war's bloodiest battle and a case could easily be made that few engagements in world history were more important.

It was here, in a battle lasting three full days, that thousands of soldiers clashed, on ground named during the battle, that their deeds forever seared into the national consciousness: The Wheatfield, Little Round Top, Culp's Hill, Devil's Den and Cemetary Ridge to name a few.

It was here that the great Southern general Robert E. Lee watched as his troops came within a few hundred yards of a Southern victory that might have ended the war with the Confederates prevailing. It was here that Abraham Lincoln gave a short speech that was "little noted" then but with repercussions that have shaped the world ever since. Most historians are unified in the belief that few, if any, speeches ever given on this planet are its equal.

Gettysburg is not the same kind of fun as a mindless, forgettable week spent at the beach. But swimming and wave riding can wait for another time. No, this go-round set your GPS destination to a place where some 165,000 men collided in epoch, ferocious, "hold your ground at all costs" combat that helped forge the lives we live today. Fear not, you will be well rewarded for your seaside sacrifice.

Just be careful, it can be addictive : )

Planning Your Trip To Gettysburg

Most people have GPS or use Google Maps. If so, simply type in the Gettysburg zip code which is 17325. That will get you there. As you near you'll start seeing signs for the vistor's center and battlefield. Gettysburg is a very small town in a rural area, you aren't going to miss it. And here's an amazing fact: You can drive to Gettysburg from any road in the continental United States so there's no excuse not to ; )

Flying in: The closest major airport is Harrisburg International in Harrisburg, PA, 47 miles away. A smaller airport, Hagerstown Regional, is 41 miles from the center of Gettysburg.

Best time to go: Keep an eye on the weather as much of your enjoyment will depend on having at least one full day of warm, dry weather to see the battlefield sites which are spread over several miles. As long as it's sunny, there's no wind and you dress for it, 45 degrees is plenty warm to enjoy a full day outside.

To fully enjoy the auto-stop tour you'll want to get out of the vehicle and walk around exploring most of the stops which will use up most of a day. If you choose to bicycle or hike it will require multiple days. Bad weather days can be spent at the numerous shops in town or at the Visitor's center & museum, seeing the Gettysburg Diorama, and more.

Hotel or motel reservations are highly recommended. Most likely you'll find a room in the off season, no reservation required, but there are times when conventions and such compete with tourists for space and you may be forced to stay many miles from the destination.

It can be extremely warm, humid and packed with tourists in mid-summer. Early spring and late fall, not so much. Winter can be bitter cold yet most years there are brief weather windows of opportunity when it's possible take advantage of extremely low room rates and less tourists. There are also special events to consider, such as battle reenactments, that can make the trip even more intersting.

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The Ghosts Of Gettysburg

Is Gettysburg Haunted?

When the battle was over and the surviving troops pulled out they left behind 50,000 dead and dying men as well as about 5,000 dead horses. Some vistors claim to hear the cries of dying soldiers. Some have photographed the ghost of Robert E. Lee himself haunting the battlefield. In both the Cashtown Inn and the Gettysburg Hotel, guests have heard strange noises; observed lights turning themselves on and off; and witnessed doors unlocking without human intervention.

Paranormal investigators have spent considerable time in Gettysburg Hotel and some say that, at minimum, the hotel is haunted by the ghost of Union soldier James Culbertson of Company K, Pennsylvania Reserves.

You might also catch General Isaac Ewell along with 10,000 of his troops hanging out at the Daniel Lady Farm which was a Confederate field hospital during the battle.

Did you come to Gettysburg expecting to return home with tales featuring bravery and courage? Then book a stay at the Baladerry Inn where you can proudly draw on both those traits because Confederate troops buried underneath the tennis court reportedly haunt the rooms on a regular basis. Pictures of guest's encounters with them that supposedly prove it are on display.

There are also numerous ghost tours you can take to help decide for yourself if ghosts do walk these grounds or if it's just the result of overactive imaginations....

Now you know darn well there are no such things as ghosts. So why not reserve a room for at least one night at any one of the above places? Go ahead, I dare you!

What? You'll pass this time? I kind of thought you might....

... BOO!

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An Overzealous Local Resident Out For A Ride?

A Gettysburg ghost from the past?

You never know what you'll see as you explore the battlefield. What's this guy doing riding around the battlefield, randomly appearing out of nowhere, in full battle dress? And look, two more soldiers behind him! Maybe the war ISN'T over!

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Man That Gun!

We might be facing the entire Federal Army!

Where To Stay In Gettysburg

To underscore the fact that reservations are important, especially in the summer, I inquired in early January about booking a room at Lightner Farm House for a possible stay in early July. Six months in advance and already all rooms were already completely sold out, no reservations being accepted.

In addition to the places mentioned in the "Ghosts of Gettysburg" module above, there are many great inns; bed and breakfasts; hotels and motels in and near the town. Some are privately owned and some are familiar franchised chains such as Motel 6 and Days Inn. Here are a few you'll find delightful:

The Gettysburg Hotel is one of the more famous places you can choose to park your bags with a history dating to the 1700's and the coolest address: 1 Lincoln Square. Service is exceptional and you can't get much better or any more "right in the heart of Gettysburg" than this. Call 717-337-2000

Eisenhhower Hotel & Conference Center down on Emmitsburg Roadis is a large facility with integral dining options, an indoor heated pool, business facilities, a workout facility, gift shop and more. The Eisenhower reminds me of a stay in Seven Springs Ski Resort or similar where there's little need to leave for everything you need or could want. If you like big, beautiful and busy this may be your place. Call 717-334-8121.

Days Inn on York Road. My experience with Days Inns in general has been a mixed bag from fantastic to just passable to not the greatest. This one was my second choice last go-round. Newly built, great service and quality throughout at a great price... I'd rate it extremely good, an excellent value. Call 717-334-0030.

Where To Eat In Gettysburg - Gettysburg Restaurant Guide

Mexican? Seafood? A quick hamburger from McDonald's? A great steak? How about some ice cream?

Whatever your fancy there are dozens of restaurants in Gettysburg featuring all types of fare.

Highly Recommended places to eat in Gettysburg:

The Dobbins House

General Pickett's Buffet

Gettysburg Family Restaurant

Blue & Gray Bar & Grill

1863 Restaurant

Cannonball Malt Shop

Montezuma

Devil's Den Deli

Ride On Brave Soldier

Ride On Brave Soldier
Ride On Brave Soldier

Just for the record, although the way I decided to write this Lens may sound like it, I do not own a business in Gettysburg and have no vested interest in whether you go there or not. I just think everyone should see it at least once.

Just once, I'm sure that's all it will be : )

If you've been to Gettysburg, please chime in here! - Advice to help others? Know great places to eat? Or just give us your thoughts on Gettysburg!

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    • profile image

      golftiptrip 

      5 years ago

      You have officially convinced me to visit Gettysburg

    • Writingmystory1 profile image

      Writingmystory1 

      5 years ago

      Gettysburg is a great place...can hardly wait for my next visit! Although I don't know if I want to see a ghost, much less a General and 10,000 of his troops! Thanks for all the great information.

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