What to Know Before You Visit Gettysburg

Updated July 21, 2020.

Where are my Civil War history buffs?! This trip is like a life goal for history lovers like myself, and on my dad’s trip to D.C. to visit me last fall, I got to take him up to Gettysburg for a day trip.

Me and Daddy with out fellow Tennesseans!

My dad’s 10 years of Civil War re-enacting is one of the reasons I got interested in history when I was little. In fact, our family joke is that he fought the Civil War longer than the Civil War was fought! He has been interested in the Civil War since he was little. Here’s a cute photo from that time we found his childhood Johnny Reb cannon:

Can’t you see 5 year old little Mikey?

And here we are at Thanksgiving one year with my dad’s grown-up cannon. Yes, my dad owns a cannon, and we shoot it off on special occasions!


So now that we know why a trip to Gettysburg was a long-overdue must for my dad, we can get into what to know before you go!

1. It’s Mighty Big

As in, you will need to drive from site to site instead of just walk across a field! But no worries, there’s a wonderful Auto Tour that’s well-marked, and you can pick up a map at the Visitor Center. You could also download the Gettysburg Auto Tour app if you prefer. You can take as much or as little time as you like at each site, as the tour is self-guided.

Just a portion of the battlefield!

2. You Can Visit President Eisenhower’s House

It’s true! The General wasn’t born here, but he loved war history so much that he bought a home right in the middle of the battlefield! It’s one of the best things to do, in my opinion, and well worth the $9 per person. You must take the shuttle to get there, as there is no public parking onsite. You’ll learn all about Eisenhower’s influence and how he liked to take foreign dignitaries on tours of the battlefield!

Eisenhower’s Home
More like this: Presidents’ Homes within a Day’s Drive of D.C.

3. You Can Stay at Some Incredible Historic Properties

If you like seeing history, you will love experiencing it! On my first trip to Gettysburg, my friend and I stayed at the Fairfield Inn Bed & Breakfast, which has been around since 1757! It has witnessed the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Civil War, and in fact it was used as a Confederate hospital! Not only that, there was another battle out back! It’s just outside of Gettysburg itself, but it’s a quick dtive to the battlefield and sites in town. We stayed in the Patrick Henry Room!

The Fairfield Inn, Fairfield, PA

4. And You Can Eat at Some, Too!

If you’re seeing the history and sleeping in the history, you might as well eat it, too! There are plenty of historic restaurants in town, so skip the cafeteria and cafe in the Gettysburg Visitor Center and look for something a bit more regional and authentic in town.

Pennsylvania Shoo-fly Pie from Farnsworth Tavern!
Dobbin House Tavern, one of Gettysburg’s most haunted buildings! Also a great place for lunch, but you’ll want to make reservations for supper!

5. Make Time for a Ghost Tour

There is quite a variety of ghost stories in and around Gettysburg, and not just about Civil War soldiers! Some stories are scary, some are kind of funny, and probably all of them will leave you a little creeped out! They say when the wind blows just right, you can still smell the stench of death and rotting flesh. Take the tour and see if it’s true!

What?! Another cannon?!

6. There are Tons of Monuments

Literally tons. Many are granite or marble. Some are to individual regiments, some are for whole states, and others are to generals and other individuals themselves. If you want to find one in particular, stop by the Visitor Center for a map to make sure you don’t miss it!

One of many monuments around the battlefield.

7. It’s More than Just the Battlefield

Come for the battlefield, stay for everything else! There are plenty of history museums, house museums, hikes, and more to enjoy around Gettysburg, so stay a while and don’t miss a thing!

I hope you will love your trip to Gettysburg, PA! It will be well worth the visit. Find everything you need and more on my United States Page!

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