Three Days in Gettysburg

Of the many Civil War sites located across the country, one consistently stands out as most popular: Gettysburg. The site of the epic three-day battle between Union and Confederate forces in July 1863, this small Pennsylvania town is inundated with visitors every year, approximately 1 million of whom come to walk some part of Gettysburg’s roughly 6,000-acre national battlefield park that’s dotted with more than 1,400 monuments and memorials. And while iconic battlefield sites like Little Round Top and Devil’s Den are (rightfully) must-sees for many visitors, there’s much more to discover in and around Gettysburg than the battlefield. We called on Gettysburg resident and licensed battlefield guide Larry Korczyk to help us put together an itinerary for an efficient three-day visit to America’s Civil War Mecca.

Day 1

Morning: Take the Historic Downtown Food Tour conducted by Savor Gettysburg Food Tours (savorgettysburgfoodtours.com or 717-688-9584; individual tours require a minimum of two people and max out at 12). You need to eat during your three-day stay, and this three-hour guided walking tour is a great way to discover some of the fine eating establishments the town offers. You’ll visit six or seven of Gettysburg’s best, sample their signature dishes, and hear your guide’s stories about the civilian experience during the battle. It’s a relaxing, informative, and delicious way to begin your visit.

Afternoon: Now that you are fueled, it’s time for a visit to the Beyond the Battle Museum at the Adams County Historical Society (achs-pa.org or 717-334-4723), located about a mile north of town on Biglerville Road. The newly opened museum tells the story of Adams County from its earliest history to the present day, and its premier exhibit, “Caught in the Crossfire,” is an immersive experience that uses cutting-edge technology to place visitors inside a reconstructed farmhouse room to see, hear, and feel what it was like to be a civilian trapped behind enemy lines during the battle. It’s a remarkable experience that will stick with you long after you’ve left Gettysburg.

Night: You’ll be ready for dinner after a busy day. Try the Garryowen Irish Pub (garryowenirishpub.net or 717-337-2719) on Chambersburg Street—probably among the places you sampled earlier. Enjoy traditional Irish fare, be entertained by live music, and, if so inclined, sip one of the 200-plus Irish whiskies kept in stock.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to check in to your accommodations. While the area offers several good options, modern and historical, two stand out: the beautiful Best Western Gettysburg (gettysburgbestwestern.com or 717-334-1188) on Steinwehr Avenue and the Brafferton Inn (brafferton.com or 717-337-3423) on York Street, one of the finest bed-and-breakfasts in town and operating in the oldest deeded house in downtown Gettysburg.

Day 2

Morning: If you don’t breakfast where you spent the night, try the Cottage Creperie (cottagecreperie.com or 717-318-8465), located on Steinwehr Avenue (about a half-mile from either the Best Western or the Brafferton). You can choose from a selection of sweet and savory crepes along with specialty coffees in a beautiful French bistro setting.

Next, visit the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center (gettysburgfoundation.org or 877-874-2478), located a short drive south of town on Baltimore Pike. It’s an incredible museum, packed with artifacts related to the battle and the soldiers who fought in it. You can view a 20-minute film on the battle narrated by Morgan Freeman and take in the famous cyclorama—a 377-foot painting in the round, four stories tall, and accompanied by a light and sound show highlighting the final Confederate attack on July 3 known as Pickett’s Charge. Your visit will provide a good foundation for your afternoon excursion to the battlefield.

Afternoon: After maybe a quick snack at the museum’s Refreshment Saloon and Battlegrounds Café & Grille, meet your licensed battlefield guide (gettysburgtourguides.org or 717-337-1709) in the lobby of the visitor center to begin a standard two-hour, or enhanced three-hour, battlefield tour. While it is not mandatory to hire a guide to tour the vast battlefield park (the National Park Service provides free maps for self-guided tours), it is highly recommended. Let an expert (who, with your permission, will operate your vehicle to take you over the battlefield) introduce you to the critical sites of the three-day fight—or craft a customized tour that fits your specific interests—and answer your questions along the way. (Note that licensed battlefield guide tours can also be arranged at the visitor center or the Gettysburg Heritage Center [gettysburgmuseum.com or 717-334-6245)]; from May through August, tour requests must be made a minimum of five days before the date of requested tours.)

Evening: After your battlefield tour, relax over dinner at the town’s premier restaurant, the Dobbin House Tavern (dobbinhouse.com or 717-334-2100; reservations strongly recommended). Built in 1776, this colonial-era tavern offers candlelight elegance, superior food, and gracious service. Ask for their famous Baked King’s Onion Soup.

Day 3

Morning: Whether or not you’re staying there, you must try breakfast at the Brafferton Inn. It’s served on a terraced deck that overlooks a beautifully manicured garden. Afterward, hit the Seminary Ridge Museum (seminaryridgemuseum.org or 717-339-1300), situated on the grounds of the Lutheran Theological Seminary on the west side of town. The museum, located in a historically preserved building, features the story of the first day’s battle, when the fighting at one time swirled over the seminary campus grounds before the building was used as a field hospital to treat hundreds of wounded soldiers.

Afternoon & exit: After taking a break for lunch at Food 101 (food101gettysburg.com or 717-334-6080), an American bistro on Chambersburg Street that offers a variety of delicious items—including gourmet pizza, creamy crab soup, sweet corn salad, and braised New Zealand lamb—it’s time to properly finish off your Gettysburg visit with a walking tour of the Soldiers National Cemetery. Located on Taneytown Road, the cemetery is the final resting place of 3,512 Union soldiers who died as a result of the battle. It’s a beautiful and reflective site—the semicircles of Union graves are arranged in state plots with the Soldiers National Monument at the center—that somberly presents the terrible cost of the battle. You can also see the spot where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his immortal Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, during the cemetery’s dedication ceremony. No visit to Gettysburg is complete without a stop here.

Leave a Reply

PATCHAN: The Last Battle of Winchester (2013)

The Last Battle of Winchester: Phil Sheridan, Jubal Early, and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, August 7 – September 19, 1864 by Scott Patchan. Savas Beatie, 2013. Cloth, ISBN: 1932714987. $34.95. It…