For our family trip to Philly and Washington DC, we just knew we had to make a stop over at Gettysburg National Military Park. After our visit to Philadelphia, we drove through Intercourse, PA, on our way to my brother’s house in York. After a night with my brother’s family, we decided to pass through Gettysburg on our way to DC. Unfortunately we had so much we wanted to see and do during our week-long vacation, so we had limited time in Gettysburg. After chatting with someone at the Visitor Center, we came up with the perfect plan for visiting Gettysburg when you’re short on time.
We began at the visitor center, where we got tickets for the Film and Cyclorama, plus museum. The Film and Cyclorama are an absolute must! I had no idea what to expect with the Cyclorama, as I thought it was just large mural, but it’s so much more than that. The Cyclorama spans the entire round room, and the lights go dim. Visitors are taken through the three-day battle, with narration and flashing lights and explosions within the mural.
The Cyclorama a great way to start your visit because you’ll get a little education before you head out to the battlefield. The kids were all thoroughly engaged and entertained as well.
I would hold off on the museum and only walk through if you still have time after you’ve visited the battlefields. We opted to visit the grounds via our own vehicle, and without a guide. You have the option to tour the battlefield with a Licensed Battlefield Guide, via your own car or by motor coach. You can also purchase an audio cd, to guide you in your own car. Lastly, you can take things at your own pace, completely on your own, by foot, car or bicycle.
Per the recommendation of the visitor center information booth, we were directed to set off in our car, heading the opposite direction of the tour guide maps. You can get a Gettysburg National Military Park map for free inside. We only had a couple of hours so we took his recommendation, to see what he thought our kids would enjoy the most. First let me just say the weather was perfect and the grounds were magnificent. We really felt like we were on hallowed ground. There are tons of memorials placed throughout the battlefield, so you could spend a lot of time stopping and reading about each and every one.
We drove South on 134, bypassing some of the regular path, until we met up with Wheatfield Road. Then we connected with the red path, and circled around Little Round Top. At the bottom of Little Round Top is Devil’s Den, which is so awesome. This area is covered in huge boulders the kids just love to climb. This was clearly a hot spot to stop for families. From Devil’s Den, you can look up and see Little Round Top, and envision what it would have been like for the soldiers to be coming through the trees and over this hill, into battle.
Little Round Top also has a tower the kids can climb up and get a view down over the valley.
Continue following the red path, now heading in the correct direction, to take you up to The Wheatfield, The Peach Orchard, Plum Run and Pennsylvania Memorial. If you’re looking at the visitor’s map, you should hit numbers 8-12. If you have limited time like we did, then this is a perfect path to take. You’ll see where the second day of battles began, and the kids will also be able to get out and do some climbing. I highly recommended staying longer if you are able, as we didn’t have nearly enough time to enjoy all there was to see. After your drive, head back to the visitor center and check out the museum! The Gettysburg Foundation does a lot of work to support the National Park Service, and the ticket costs help them to be able to continue to do that.