One of the top things to do in Adams County, PA is to visit Gettysburg – the historic town at its center. Named the best small town in America, it’s renowned for being the location of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Hence, many of the top tourist attractions in downtown Gettysburg, including the Heritage Center and the Gettysburg Museum of History, have Civil War displays.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of things to do in Gettysburg with kids as well. This includes visiting the Gettysburg Diorama and climbing the boulders at Devil’s Den. Here are even more fun and informative things to do in Gettysburg.
1. Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg National Military Park is where the Battle of Gettysburg occurred in 1863. It was the largest and bloodiest battle during the American Civil War. Start your visit at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. It has over 40,000 American Civil War artifacts on display, as well as a gift shop and a small theater. You can also visit the park’s important landmarks with a licensed Battlefield Guide, including the National Cemetery.
2. Jennie Wade House
The Jennie Wade House is dedicated to its former resident, Jennie Wade. She was 20 years old when she was innocently killed by a stray bullet in the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. She was the battle’s only direct civilian casualty. The house is fitted with 19th century furnishings and artifacts, and guides in period costumes will regale you with stories about Jennie and her family. There’s a gift shop next door as well, with unique Jennie souvenirs and collectibles.
3. Gettysburg National Cemetery
The Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 3500 Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Located within Gettysburg National Military Park, there are several monuments in the cemetery as well, which honor the Union and Confederate troops who fought in the battle. At the cemetery’s dedication on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what is now infamously known as the Gettysburg Address. The speech was only 271 words long.
4. David Wills House
The David Wills House is the former home of attorney, David Wills. It’s where President Abraham Lincoln wrote the final words of his Gettysburg Address. The David Wills House opened on February 12, 2009 – President Lincoln’s 200th birthday. The museum has seven interactive galleries, including two rooms that reflect what it would have looked like in 1863. It focuses on life before, during and after the Battle of Gettysburg, as Wills was in charge of planning the National Cemetery.
5. Gettysburg Heritage Center
Another one of the top things to do in Gettysburg is to visit the Gettysburg Heritage Center. Located next door to the National Military Park, the heritage center focuses on the battle from two perspectives – the soldiers on the battlefield and the civilians living in the town. Their stories are told through interactive displays and artifacts. Don’t miss seeing the award-winning movie, Gettysburg: An Animated Map, either. The heritage center is also home to one of the town’s largest and best gift shops.
6. Mark Nesbitt’s Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight
Mark Nesbitt is the author of the Ghosts of Gettysburg series, which discuss strange sightings that have been seen across the town since the aforementioned battle. He’s now the organizer of the Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours. Guides dressed in period clothing walk visitors through the town’s darkened streets toward the old Pennsylvania College campus, telling spooky stories from the books. You can also pick up ghost-themed apparel and other paranormal books at their gift shop.
7. Eisenhower National Historic Site
The Eisenhower National Historic Site is the former home and farm of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He used it as both a weekend retreat and a place to meet elite leaders from around the world. Visitors can tour the home or go on a self-guided tour of the farm grounds, which include a putting green, skeet range, manicured gardens and a teahouse.There are shuttles to the site available from the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.
8. Gettysburg Museum of History
The Gettysburg Museum of History is just another one of the many historical things to do in Gettysburg. It calls itself a ‘museum like no other,’ as its eclectic collection includes 4000 varied artifacts. The museum has displays on the American Civil War, Major Dick Winters, World War I and II, President John F. Kennedy, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and even an Egyptian mummy head. Plus, here’s a fun fact: it’s been featured on both American Pickers and Pawn Stars.
9. The Gettysburg Diorama
The Gettysburg Diorama is located at the History Center. It’s a great place to start before visiting the actual battlefield, as you can see the entire 6000-acre battlefield in one place. It features over 20,000 hand-painted soldiers, horses, cannons and buildings. The diorama helps you learn more and visualize the battle, as it involves a narrated 30-minute light and sound show describing the three-day battle – from the first shot fired to the last moments.
10. Evergreen Cemetery
Formerly known as the Citizen’s Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery is surrounded by the National Military Park and National Cemetery. Established in 1854, it was a strategic location during the infamous 1863 battle, so it unfortunately saw live action. It’s the final resting place for several Union soldiers, and is still a fully-functioning cemetery today. Anyone can visit to pay their respects to the local citizens who died during the American Civil War.
11. Savor Gettysburg Food Tours
One of the most fun things to do in Gettysburg is to join a local food or wine tour. Savor Gettysburg Food Tours offers several different food and wine tours, including the Historic Downtown Food Tour, the Farmers Market Tour and Cooking Class, and the Grape Escape Walking Wine Tour. The tours are a unique way to sample some of the town’s best cuisine, while learning more about civilian life during the American Civil War.
12. Devils Den
Devil’s Den was a strategic defensive (and protective) landmark used during the battle. Sharpshooters were positioned amongst the ridge’s many boulders on the battle’s second day. Apparently the name comes from reports that a large snake (a.k.a ‘the devil’) lived in the boulders in the 19th century. Today, it’s one of the town’s most popular tourist attractions. Visitors can climb up to Devil’s Den, and can even cross a bridge connecting two boulders.
13. Shriver House Museum
The Shriver House Museum is an interesting museum to visit as it explores the civilian experience of the famous battles that played out within this small town so long ago. This home has been lovingly restored to its original 1860 appearances complete with period toys, shoes, and tools, and much more giving you a true historical representation of a civilians household from long ago. The Shriver House Museum offers tours and the tour guides even dress up in period attire for this intimate guided tour of all the rooms of the house, and even into the cellar that houses the secret family Saloon.
14. Sachs Covered Bridge
Sachs Covered Bridge is infamously known as America’s most haunted bridge. Located over Marsh Creek, the bridge was built in the 1850s. The haunted part comes from the fact that Sachs Covered Bridge was used by both Union and Confederate troops in the American Civil War. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, today people can walk across the 100-ft town truss covered bridge. But perhaps don’t visit Sachs Covered Bridge after dark!