During our whirlwind mid-Atlantic trip we made our way as far north as Pennsylvania before heading back home to North Carolina. We made a lot of stops and saw some really neat places. We all enjoyed the trip but everyone had their own favorites. For my husband and twelve year old son, Gettysburg National Battlefield Park was certainly one of the highlights. This was a ‘bucket list’ item that we were all grateful to have the chance to visit.
Due to our schedule we only had about half a day to visit Gettysburg. If you are interested in history you could easily spend two days at the park in order to get the full experience. To make the most of our time we chose to purchase the guided tour on CD. We wanted the benefit of the guided information but the flexibility of being in our own vehicle on our own schedule. With a four year old and a baby we sometimes need to stop more frequently than a regular tour would allow. Having the tour CD also gave us the opportunity to listen to parts of the story later even if we did not have time to see the entire park that morning.
The CDs told the story of the Battle of Gettysburg as well as the Gettysburg Address. They gave us directions to follow and told the story of each location as we drove. There were various stops along the way to get a closer view of some of the monuments and other important locations. There were three different tour options depending on the amount of time you had for your tour. The stories and the sound effects were riveting and well done. It made it easy to imagine that you were there watching the battle those many years ago.
For those that prefer an actual guide to the CDs they offer both bus tours and guided tours where you pay a tour guide to ride in your personal vehicle as you tour through the park.
On the day we were there it was unseasonably cool but sunny. We had the opportunity to talk with a reenacting group that had set up a camp near one of the monuments. This allows for the children to see what they would have been wearing, eating, and even the sleeping conditions. They also offer various walking tours and demonstrations throughout the park at different times and dates. You can check the calendar prior to arriving or check at the ranger desk inside the visitors center for that day’s schedule.
Since we decided to spend the afternoon at the Eisenhower National Historic Site we did not get a chance to watch the movie or tour the museum that are inside of the visitors center. You can enter the visitors center for free (this is where you will get your National Park Passport stamp if you participate in that program) to enjoy the restaurants, gift shop, restrooms, and information desks. However, admission to the museum and movie areas are ticketed. If your children wish to participate in the Junior Ranger program you will also want to stop here when you first arrive to get the free Junior Ranger booklet for them to work on as you complete your tour.
If we are able to make it back in the future I look forward to visiting the museum. You can find more information about the museum portion of Gettysburg on the Gettysburg Foundation website.
We felt that this was a wonderful field trip. There is so much to see and learn at Gettysburg and it has an important place in American History. I truly recommend it to anyone that can make the trip. If you cannot make an actual trip to Gettysburg, there are many videos and pictures on the website. They even have a virtual tour of the National Cemetery.
Where: 1195 Baltimore Pike Gettysburg, PA 17325
Hours of Operation:
Park Grounds and Roads
April 1 – October 31: The park is open daily from 6 am – 10 pm
November 1 – March 31: The park is open daily from 6 am – 7pm
Museum and Visitor Center
April 1 – October 31: 8 am – 6 pm
November 1 – March 31: 9 am – 5 pm
Costs: Visitors Center and Grounds are Free. The museum and other features have varying ticket prices. There are also paid tours available.
Homeschool Discount: There are group rates available for the museum and film.
There is a restaurant and snack bar back at the Gettysburg Visitors Center. There are also places for picnics.
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