In The Midst Of Battlefields And Burial Grounds, Gettysburg, Offers Light-hearted Pursuits

There's so much to see and do in Gettysburg, your dilemma won't be what to put on your schedule but rather how to fit it all in. A good place to start and get your bearings is the Historic Train Station - it doubles as both an attraction and the Official Visitor Center of the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. They'll help you with your trip planning and leave no stone unturned if that's what you desire. If you'd rather go at a more leisurely pace and put an itinerary together yourself, we've come up with a list of best attractions in Gettysburg for you as well.

One of the most visited National military parks in the country is also Gettysburg's main attraction. Visitors can tour the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Battlefield by car on their own or with a registered guide via bike, Segway, foot, or horseback. (We loved the Segway.)

Most of the town's attractions center around the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War but there are also plenty of things to do that don't involve a look back into history.  If you're traveling with kids in tow, be sure to break up the history lesson for them and go on the Gettysburg Scenic Railroad. They'll enjoy riding an 1884 Vintage rail coach through nearby towns. The Explore and More Children's Museum gives kids a chance to explore, play and build.


Lincoln Train Museum

The Lincoln Train museum is part multimedia experience, part museum, part miniature train display room. Outside the museum is a replica of a train car, similar to one from which President Lincoln would have probably greeted the town of Gettysburg. Once inside, you're greeted by a gift shop before heading in to the museum. Admission gets you a token that you have to put through a turnstile. Once you're in the train chamber, the Spirit of Lincoln will greet you on a monitor and from there on out, walk you through the history of the United States from the days of the founding fathers through to present day. The museum presents President Lincoln's funeral route from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois with an audio visual presentation.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This museum has more than a thousand toy trains displayed.

Tawanna's expert tip: There's a giant train set where kids can touch and interact with different items on the track.

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The Biglerville Historical and Preservation Society opened this museum in 1990 as a tribute to the founders of the area's apple industry. Housed in a restored pre-Civil War bank barn, the museum showcases exhibits on the history and artifacts pertaining to the Apple and Tree Fruit Industry's history in Adams County. Here you will find exhibits on early apple picking, shipping, packing, life-size replicas of a horse and farmer, widow-maker ladders, machinery, and an 1880's kitchen. You'll also see displays of early deeds and warrants that were created on sheepskin. Delicious apple treats are served. If you or your child are a fan of apples, this would make a tasty stop on your Gettysburg tour.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Children will have an opportunity to see late 19th century farm tools like an apple press and orchard tools.

Tawanna's expert tip: The museum ha a list of nearby local fruit growers farm markets you can visit while you're in town.

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Mulligan MacDuffer Adventure Golf and Ice Cream Parlour
Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith

This golf course is a fun family friendly activity away from history lessons. Open April through October, Mulligan MacDuffer Adventure Golf is the ultimate in adventure golf, a challenge for everyone in the family. Test your putting skills on two 18-hole miniature fold courses in a fun-filled setting of natural wonders and lavish landscaping overlooking the Gettysburg Battlefield. There's a clubhouse ice cream parlor with indoor and outdoor seating perfect for taking a break and enjoying an ice cream treat. Mulligan's was voted number one course in the region by the York Dispatch. There's also a game room on premises for the whole family to enjoy.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Mulligan's is a break away from Civil War related activities that the family can enjoy together.

Tawanna's expert tip: The golf course isn't in the main part of town but rather close to the National Park Service Visitor center's entrance.

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At this museum made just for them, children will enjoy playing in an 1860's vintage house and shopping in a 19th century general store. Activities are fun and developmentally appropriate for children ages 3 to 8. There are five play rooms in the museum: the 1860s room, the art room, the construction zone, the nature area and the exploration zone. In the Art Room, children can create works of art, and, in the Construction Room, kids are able to work on an assembly line and in a hard-hat area. In the Nature Room, they will be able to explore the fascinating world of an ant colony, while in the Exploration Room kids can stand inside a bubble, experiment with magnets, and watch colors explode.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The museum is one of the few places in town appropriate for the really young travelers in your group.

Tawanna's expert tip: Instead of paying for those period photographs you see around town, dress your kids up in clothes from the 1860s room and click away.

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Airport - Gty
Hall of Presidents

The Hall of Presidents allows visitors to view life-sized wax figures of each American President and to listen to taped segments of some of their speeches. The Hall is conveniently located right across the street from the Battlefield and the bus tours center. The museum is a unique perspective on the culture and heritage of the Presidency through U.S. history. A special exhibit pays tribute to Dwight D. Eisenhower, one of Gettysburg's most famous residents. You also can see small-scale replicas of the first ladies dressed in reproduction gowns with their hair styled as it was during their husbands' inaugural ceremonies.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Hall of Presidents wax museums are meticulously detailed and tell the story of America from the President's perspective.

Tawanna's expert tip: Don't put off checking out the Hall of Presidents - you can easily get wrapped up in the other larger attractions and bypass this one.

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Soldier's National Cemetery was designed by William Saunders, the same architect of Washington, D.C. - it's arch like design being his signature. Local attorney David Willis was commissioned to find land in Gettysburg in the aftermath of the Battle, to find and buy land to be used for a proper burial ground for Union dead. Within four months of the battle, bodies were reinterred on the 17 acres that became the National Cemetery. Dedicated on November 19, 1863, it was this ceremony that brought Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg to give his now famous Gettysburg address. The cemetery wasn't completed in time for the dedication but within a few years over 3500 Union soldiers who had been killed in the battle were reinterred to this final resting place.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is one of the most picturesque and beautifully manicured military cemeteries in the United States.

Tawanna's expert tip: You can catch a shuttle bus from the park visitor center to the National Cemetery.

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Enjoy regional history aboard this 1884 vintage rail coach or double-decker open car. This nostalgic and relaxing train ride will first pass through the famous railroad cut and then pass through the First Day Battlefield of the Gettysburg National Military Park. The Biglerville Express travels back and forth between Gettysburg and Biglerville, while the South Mountain Limited does the same from Gettysburg to Aspers. You'll go on a scenic ride through the Adams County countryside under the guise of a murder mystery train, ghost story train, or history train. The Gettysburg Scenic Railroad also has special events that include the Civil War Train, the Fire Hall Dinner Train, and the Sunset Special.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Gettysburg Scenic Railroad gives you a unique glimpse of the battlefield landscape.

Tawanna's expert tip: Check to see about special discounts on family tickets.

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Gettysburg Cyclorama
Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith

Before the age of motion pictures and television, people went to cycloramas to bring images to life. Located across from the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Gettysburg Cyclorama is a large-scale circular mural that measures nearly 50 feet high and 400 feet long and puts you right in the middle of the battle. It is one of only five in the world. You are literally surrounded by the Battlefield landscape when you walk into the cyclorama space. Lighting effects and narrated script heighten the experience and transport you to July 1863. Painted in the early 1880's by French master artist Paul Philippoteaux, 1884, it was one of five masterpieces painted by his studio.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Cycloramas are very rare mediums today and the preservation of the Gettysburg Cyclorama was the largest painting conservation project ever undertaken in North America.

Tawanna's expert tip: Be sure to take your time and read the display and exhibit once you exit the Cyclorama to get more background on the relevance of this masterpiece.

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The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most definitive of the Civil War, and this massive park serves as a memorial to the battle's significance in American history. The park surrounds the town, encompassing almost 6,000 acres and 35 miles of roads. Hundreds of monuments, markers, and memorials, along with three observation towers, are located on the battlefield. The Gettysburg National Military Park has one of the largest collections of outdoor monuments in the world. Observe the sites on your own, join a guided interpretive walk, or enjoy an auto tape tour of the park. Guided tours of the park grounds are available for up to six people.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Gettysburg National Military Park has one of the largest collections of outdoor monuments in the world.

Tawanna's expert tip: Go through the park on a guided tour with a certified Battlefield guide on a Segway or via horseback. It's like no other history lesson you'll experience.

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Meet Tawanna Browne Smith

Tawanna has had a wanderlust spirit since she was 13. A dozen or so addresses later, she now resides in Maryland with her husband and two sons.

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