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Historic Things to Do in Gettysburg

If you've got any knowledge at all of the American Civil War, you've at least heard of Gettysburg. The Pennsylvania town's claim to fame was the site of Abraham Lincoln's historic Gettysburg Address. As you might expect, it's one of the best places to learn about one of the most turbulent periods in American history. But Gettysburg isn't only about the Civil War; it's located in southern Pennsylvania and filled with beautiful sites, great foodie spots, and shopping. Check out a few things you should do on your next visit!


01 Visit the battlefield's monuments

Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Monument in Gettysburg, PA CaptLensCap / Getty Images

If you've never been to Gettysburg, this is absolutely where you should plan to head first. With more than 1,400 statues on the battlefield, it's one of the largest outdoor sculptures in the world and serves as a monument to one of the most trying times in American history. Seeing the monuments of individual soldiers and their regiments for yourself can really make this period of the past come alive, making it a do-not-miss for anyone who wants to better understand the American story.


02 Tour the battlefield

Battle of Gettysburg, battlefield monument and Civil War cannon Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Without question, the best way to get a true sense of Gettysburg's past is by taking a tour with an experienced guide. A guided tour can be done either by car, bus or on foot and going with a guide means that you'll be sure to see the important spots of the battle and be able to ask questions about the significant parts of one of the most significant battles in American history. Plan on taking four to five hours, but it's worth it.


03 Stand on Little Round Top

Statue of General Warren at Little Round Top genekrebs / Getty Images

If you're looking for one of the most iconic views of the battlefield, this is the place you want to visit. Little Round Top gives visitors a full view of much of where the fighting took place, allowing them to picture the battle for themselves. It's also one of the most beautiful natural parts of the battlefield, so be sure to get a picture both from Little Round Top and of the rock formation itself.


04 Take a food tour

Because of the battle, Gettysburg gained the distinction as the most famous small town in America (only about 7,700 people call it home), and the city intends to take full advantage of that. Gettysburg has far more high-quality restaurants than most small towns its size, mainly to cater to the number of tourists that want to see American history for themselves. One of the best ways to experience several at once is with a food tour, which can give you a first-hand look at some of the best farm-to-table cuisine in southern Pennsylvania.


05 Visit the Eisenhower homestead

Did you know that Dwight Eisenhower only owned one house in his life, and it was his retirement home in Gettysburg? After his second term as president ended in 1961, Eisenhower relocated to Gettysburg in 1950. When he wanted a quiet place to get away, this is where he'd come, sometimes with other world leaders in tow. Among those who visited Eisenhower in Gettysburg were French leader Charles De Gaulle, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, British prime minister Winston Churchill and 40th president Ronald Reagan. Today, you can see it for yourself, and transportation is easy because shuttles operate between the homestead and the battlefield.


06 Visit the Jennie Wade House

Jennie Wade House George Sheldon / Shutterstock

While Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, the lives lost were almost entirely limited to the battlefields. Almost entirely, Jennie Wade was the one civilian killed during the battle. As the story goes, she was baking bread at her sister's house when a stray bullet from a sharpshooter misfired, came through the door of the home, and struck her, ending her life instantly. The house is now a monument to what life was like for civilians in Gettysburg in 1863... and some believe the home is haunted by Jennie Wade herself.


07 Explore the Sachs Covered Bridge

Sachs Covered Red Bridge csfotoimages / Getty Images

When people come to Gettysburg, this is the other iconic site they have in mind. The covered bridge is easily one of the most famous landmarks in the area, and as with most things, it has a history related to the battle. Both Union and Confederate soldiers used the bridge to get across Marsh Creek, with the Confederates using it to retreat after their defeat was confirmed. The bridge is only open to pedestrians, so feel free to spend time here and get the perfect shot.


08 Find fresh produce

Being in southern Pennsylvania means that you're near plenty of farms, and that means you'll have access to some of the freshest produce that you could hope to find anywhere. The Round Barn is one of the best places to find all the veg you could want in one spot, or you can look for roadside farms and purchase directly from them.


09 Go shopping

Whether you're shopping at one of the small stores in downtown Gettysburg or looking for a deal at the outlet malls just south of the town, you'll have plenty of shopping options here. If it's a nice day, you'll be able to window shop to your heart's content in Gettysburg, where plenty of locally-owned shops dot the streets. No matter what you're looking for, you're likely to find it here.


10 Wet your whistle

Gettysburg's tourist destination status means it's also a haven for wine and craft beer enthusiasts. The Adams County Pour Tour offers visitors a map to craft breweries and wineries in and around Gettysburg, with prizes given for going to a certain number of locations on the map. If you've got a taste for fine wine or great brews, why not try to complete the entire tour on your visit to Pennsylvania?


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