We spent several hours last weekend in Gettysburg. It’s one of my favorite places, so much so that I set my novel Stay With Me there. As many times as we’ve visited, I know I haven’t scratched the surface of the many things to see and do there. A quaint town, steeped in history and tragedy, it’s blanketed in a palpable gravitas that is hard to describe. And yet, it’s also fun. Here are seven of my favorite places to go, things to do if you visit Gettysburg – and I recommend that you do.
Aside from the many monuments scattered across the battlefield boundaries, the terrain itself is interesting. Our favorite spots are Devil’s Den, Little Roundtop, and Big Roundtop. The boulders, the view. Its natural beauty stands in stark contrast to the human carnage that these hills and rocks witnessed. The new visitor center at the National Military Park is also fun and informative.
Dobbin House Tavern
My husband and I have shared many enjoyable meals at The Dobbin House. I love dining in the cellar of this historic tavern, established in 1776. The building also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and you can view a small space that was used to hide escaped slaves.
Downtown Shopping District
A walking tour of the downtown area is a great way to peruse the local shops and orient yourself to the town’s role in the battle. Enjoy good food, alcoholic beverages, quaint shops, tourist traps, and more along the main streets of Gettysburg. You may want to stop at Reid’s Orchard and Winery Tasting Room and sample a flight of hard ciders in the rear of the building under a patio umbrella.
Field Hospital Sites
Many, many buildings in town were converted to field hospitals to house the casualties following the epic American battle. One of my favorites is St. Francix Xavier Church, where St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Sisters of Charity tended to wounded soldiers from both sides of the confrontation.
When my husband and I began visiting Gettysburg in the late 1990s, ghost tours were a novelty. Now they are a veritable cottage industry in Gettysburg. We avoid the séances and tours with occult overtones, favoring the tales and tours directed by historian and former battlefield guide Mark Nesbitt. We’ve experienced a couple of odd, perhaps paranormal,experiences on the battlefield and in town, but the local lore is fun and fascinating.
Horseback is a wonderful way to view the battlefield. For many years, we camped at Artillery Ridge Campground, where the National Riding Stables are located. It’s there I had my one and (thus far) only horseback experience. Despite the fact that my gentle mare suffered from a bladder infection, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure.
Nearly every one of our visits to Gettysburg is topped with a decadent, cold treat, and none compare to the homemade ice cream offered at Mr. G’s Ice Cream. It’s delicious! Just go.
Have you visited Gettysburg? What local attractions would you recommend?
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