Every Pennsylvania town and city has a story uniquely its own, but perhaps none is more widely known than that of Gettysburg. Home to one of the most widely chronicled and analyzed battles of the Civil War, history comes to life when you see firsthand the fields and forestland trod by the thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers in 1863. Plan your trip to the past with our Gettysburg travel guide featuring our recommended places to see, dine, and stay.
Top Historical Things to Do in Gettysburg
The Civil War changed the course of our nation, but it was the Battle of Gettysburg that changed the trajectory of the war itself. The three-day Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest single battle of the war. With the Union’s victory, the Confederacy’s momentum was crushed, ultimately leading to their defeat. If you’re a history buff, you have to visit these iconic destinations in Gettysburg.
Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center: Start your journey through history at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center. The 12-gallery museum provides a great orientation with loads of information about the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and the numerous historical stories surrounding the battle and its aftermath. The museum houses one the largest paintings in North America, the famed 1884 Cyclorama that depicts the fury of Pickett’s Charge. Book one of their tours of the battlefield or Gettysburg with one of their expert guides.
Gettysburg National Military Park: One of this nation’s most hallowed grounds and historical landmarks is Gettysburg National Military Park. Here you can see where 170,000 soldiers waged the largest battle on the continent, with 51,000 killed, wounded, or missing over the three days of battle. Tour the battlefield with expert guides or take a self-guided tour across parts of the 6,000 acres of preserved battleground where 1,300 monuments and markers pay tribute to those who fought here.
Beyond the Battle Museum: Explore one of Gettysburg’s newest attractions, the Adams County Historical Society’s Beyond the Battle Museum. Opened in April 2023, the museum provides a unique and new perspective of the town and the epic battle fought there, with exhibits that focus on the stories of actual townspeople who were caught in the crossfire. While greatly respecting the sacrifices, hardships, and tragedy of the Civil War, this 12-gallery museum also celebrates the heroics of the civilians who rebuilt the town. Reserve your tickets online.
Seminary Ridge Museum: Although Gettysburg has many captivating vistas, there is one view like no other – Seminary Ridge. It was here Union General John Buford awaited the approach of Confederate Army on July 1, 1863 and plotted his lines of defense. Located on the campus of the United Lutheran Seminary, the aptly named Seminary Ridge Museum celebrates faith during the Civil War, along with providing insight into the Civil War medical practices when the seminary was turned into a hospital. Book your self-guided tour on their website.
Gettysburg Heritage Center: Located just steps from the Gettysburg battlefield is the Gettysburg Heritage Center, a kid-friendly museum that helps visitors understand what it was like to be in town during the 1863 battle with a visual and interactive orientation . Attend shows and lectures at their theater and be sure to purchase a souvenir in their very popular gift shop. Purchase your tickets at the museum.
Eisenhower National Historic Site: Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, fell so deeply in love with the quaint town of Gettysburg that they picked up and moved there years before he became the 34th President of the United States. While in office, he used his Gettysburg home as a retreat from the White House. Today, his farm is now open to the public as the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Learn more about the variety of tours being offered on their website.
Gettysburg National Cemetery: Walk the grounds of the Gettysburg National Cemetery where more than 3,500 Union soldiers who lost their lives during the battle of Gettysburg and thousands of other U.S. soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in later wars have been laid to rest. It is here that President Abraham Lincoln delivered a two-minute speech at the site’s dedication on Nov. 19, 1863. Composed of 272 words, Lincoln believed no one would remember his brief remarks, but those remarks, known as the Gettysburg Address, continue to resonate and are remembered throughout the world. The cemetery is open daily and free to the public.
Best Places to Eat in Gettysburg
Dine within the walls of some of Gettysburg’s most historic buildings.
Dobbin House Tavern: There’s perhaps no establishment more historic in Gettysburg than the Dobbin House Tavern. Dating back to 1776, it was first the home of the Reverend Alexander Dobbin and his family. In the mid-1800s, it served as a secret "station" for runaway slaves traveling the Underground Railroad, and then was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers following the Battle of Gettysburg. Today, the tavern is one of Gettysburg’s most revered restaurants where visitors can dine on tavern classics, such as their Baked King’s Onion soup and homemade desserts. Tour the tavern before or after your meal.
Food 101: Located near Gettysburg College, Food 101 is turning heads in this historic town with unique dishes and eclectic lunch and dinner menus. Townspeople and visitors from around the world enjoy a variety of delicious salads, sandwiches, and artisan pizzas.
Blue and Gray Bar & Grill: Make your way through downtown Gettysburg and Lincoln Square, where you’ll find the Blue and Gray Bar & Grill. Boasting a great selection of indoor and outdoor seating, this restaurant specializes in American cuisine with their amazing Battlefield Burgers, wings, and a full bar.
Sweney’s Tavern at the Farnsworth House Inn: Well known to locals and visitors alike, Sweney’s Tavern at the Farnsworth House Inn is one of downtown Gettysburg’s most popular restaurants. In a building riddled with more than 100 bullet holes from the 1863 battle, this local inn and tavern is as historic as it gets. They serve up classic fare such as bangers and mash and PA Dutch chicken pot pie.
Places to Stay in Gettysburg
After a day of learning and touring the sites of Gettysburg, rest and recharge at one of these top places to stay near downtown Gettysburg.
Gettysburg Hotel: Standing tall in downtown’s historic Lincoln Square, the circa 1797 Gettysburg Hotel is a signature spot for history buffs, tourists, and the local populace. Conveniently located near popular restaurants, taverns, shopping, and sites that surround the charming crossroads, the upscale hotel features an on-site restaurant and coffee shop, and is mere steps away from where President Abraham Lincoln stayed before delivering his immortal Gettysburg Address.
Federal Pointe Inn: A late-18th-century schoolhouse has been transformed into an upscale, boutique hotel just blocks from Gettysburg’s quaint downtown and a half-mile from the historic battlefields. At Federal Pointe Inn, you’ll find classrooms painstakingly transformed into lovely rooms and suites throughout the four-story building. The inn also includes an on-site restaurant and bar and is adjacent to the Federal Pointe Grill.
Baladerry Inn Bed & Breakfast: Find pieces of history around every corner at the Baladerry Inn Bed & Breakfast. A former farmstead-turned-Union-hospital during the battle, staying at this B&B is a great way to immersive yourself in the rich history of Gettysburg, all while relaxing in the comfort of its charms.
Best Western Gettysburg: Located just steps from the hallowed ground of the Gettysburg Battlefield, the Best Western Gettysburg delivers travelers everything they’re looking for — from stunning views to modern hotel conveniences with restaurants and shopping nearby.
Looking for historical hotspots throughout the Keystone State? Check out the visitPA website. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on even more great ideas and places to visit around our state. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter so you never miss an update!