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A visit to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is an opportune time to walk through a town rich with historical American culture. Gettysburg, located in the southern region of Pennsylvania and just miles away from neighboring Maryland, is the site of the deadliest battle in the Civil War.
With the Civil War standing as a monumental turning point in the history of the United States, visiting Gettysburg is often considered a deeply moving experience in understanding where the country has been to get to where it is today.
One of the most popular destinations when traveling to Gettysburg is the Gettysburg National Park Museum and Visitor Center. For any first time tourist or returning traveler, making this Visitor Center a first stop priority is key in getting a detailed scope of the historical town.
Within the Visitor Center is a museum full of relics originating from the Civil War. Both the Confederate and Union are equally represented in the museum and a walk through the space is an educational opportunity to get immersed in American history. From one display to the next, visitors are able to get a vivid picture of how life was during the war through what the soldiers wore as uniforms, what kind of items they carried with them, the types of weapons they used, and even how they slept in small tents.
“A New Birth of Freedom,” is an important short film to watch at the Visitor Center, narrated by Morgan Freeman. With historical accounts of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s monumental Gettysburg Address, this movie is a great way for visitors to continue understanding why the small town of Gettysburg is such an important part of American history.
Along with the museum and film, the Gettysburg National Park Museum and Visitor Center also has a famed Cyclorama. Created by artist Paul Philippoteaux in the 1880’s, the Cyclorama is an expansive 377 foot long oil painting that depicts in detail the Battle of Gettysburg.
The painting stands at an astonishing 42 feet high and visitors can bask in its sheer size as they listen to a recorded narration of the chain of events during the battle. The lighting and special effects in the large room that houses the Cyclorama makes the experience much more interactive and is recommended for anyone who comes to Gettysburg.
A visit to Gettysburg wouldn’t be complete without taking a battlefield tour. There are plenty of tours running from Gettysburg National Park Museum and Visitor Center, along with other independent tour companies throughout town. Visitors can embark on a guided tour bus that drives around the 6,000 acre Gettysburg Battlefield, where the historical events took place.
Audio tours are also available, giving tourists the chance to drive around in their own car while listening to detailed facts of the battlefield. A battlefield tour takes two hours to complete and is a truly one of a kind experience. The streets of downtown Gettysburg are also full of historical buildings and locations where the Civil War unfolded.
The David Wills House now stands as a museum, and its importance is unlike any place else. During the war, President Abraham Lincoln stayed at the house of David Wills, an attorney in Gettysburg. It was there that Lincoln penned the end of his Gettysburg Address. Walking through the David Wills House is like stepping back in time, where people can still see the room the Gettysburg Address was written in, along with the bed Lincoln slept in.
Baltimore Street is a main thoroughfare in Gettysburg. A nice walk along this street is a perfect way for visitors to see more local attractions. Along this road is the Soldier’s National Cemetery and the neighboring spot where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.
Baltimore Street also hosts a variety of museums, including the Hall of Presidents and Confederate States Museum. Ghost tours are popular in Gettysburg and many starting points are on Baltimore Street. Nearby Steinwehr Street is another great place to take in museums and buy souvenirs depicting the Civil War.
Finally, downtown’s Lincoln Square is a hub for local cuisine and small shops that can satisfy many shoppers’ tastes. With a history so strongly weighed by shifts in American culture, Gettysburg is a place not to be missed. Visiting Gettysburg is a humbling educational and travel experience that shines light on how thousands of soldiers sacrificed their lives for the greater good of the United States of America.
For more information on planning a trip to Gettysburg, visit gettysburgfoundation.org