Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is known for its proximity to the historic Gettysburg Battlefield, as well as for its institutions of higher learning including Gettysburg College and Lutheran Theological Seminary. With its rich history and cultural landmarks, Gettysburg attracts countless visitors every year.
But we didn’t realize that it’s also a bargain family getaway destination, filled with educational opportunities and lots of family fun. The Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau has come up with a list of sightseeing adventures sure to please curious tourists — all free of charge. We suggest you put Gettysburg on your summer road trip itinerary or take advantage of a long weekend to pay a visit.
Famous Gettysburg Landmarks are Free
Known by most as simply “the battlefield,” the Gettysburg National Military Park is the country’s largest history classroom. It remains one of the few free national historic sites in the United States and draws 2 million visitors annually. With 6,000 acres of preserved battle ground, the park is a place where visitors come to honor and pay their respects to the fallen soldiers, reflect on a nation torn by war or learn about the most documented battle in U.S. history.
When President Abraham Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg to deliver what would become known as the Gettysburg Address, this small Pennsylvania town was in the midst of a massive cleanup effort after the battle just four months earlier. Gettysburg Train Station – Lincoln’s first stop in Gettysburg – explains that story and demonstrates the world the 16th president would have seen when he stepped off that train on Nov. 18, 1863.
Before Arlington National Cemetery, there was Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ National Cemetery. It featured the most recognized dedication ceremony the country has ever seen. President Lincoln was asked to share “a few appropriate remarks,” and of course, those 10 sentences – a mere 273 words – would become on of the most famous speeches of all time. The cemetery’s gates are now open for the world to enjoy; it’s not only a place to honor soldiers killed in Gettysburg but to appreciate the magnitude of what our 16th president said here.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
To help your family enjoy the visit, here are the words of that two-minute-long Gettysburg Address delivered November 19, 1863, as written on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC:
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate… we cannot consecrate… we cannot hallow… this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us… that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Gettysburg’s Family Favorite Attractions
The Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau wants to give guests the opportunity to experience outdoor recreation, agriculture, and other fun local entertainment without breaking the bank. Here are some of their top attractions for families who want to see more than just the battlefield.
In addition to the American history landmarks … for many visitors to Gettysburg, Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum is as much of a must-stop attraction as the battlefield itself. Yes, the candy comes with a cost, but to see one of the largest collections of elephant figurines in the world won’t cost you a cent. What started out as a simple wedding gift has turned into a nationally known museum with more than 10,000 elephants.
The Historic Roundbarn was probably the most ingenious and expensive barn design of its time, and only a handful of them remain today – including the one outside Gettysburg in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Fruit Belt. Built in 1914, this Roundbarn now houses one of the best Farmer’s Markets in the region. This rare structure has become one of Adams County’s most popular landmarks.
There are many ways to enjoy Gettysburg’s countryside, but Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve‘s 600-acre property – plus a new adjoining 2,500-acre plot of preserved forest – is not just a hike in the woods. It’s an experience that will put visitors face-to-face with nature.
Willow Pond Farm, a 1760s vintage stone farmhouse is best known as the centerpiece of the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival, but outside those three days in June, it is a great place to enjoy a warm spring or summer morning, strolling through gardens of herbs. Varieties include culinary herbs, edible flowers, mint, scented geraniums, medicinal herbs and, of course, lavender. A great treat for your youngest ones.
Self Guided Area Tours enable families who can stay longer to explore on their own, at their own pace, with short and easy road trips. The Scenic Driving Tour and the Historic Conewago Valley Tour head out of town and into the countryside of Adams County. Along the way, you’ll find orchards, farmer’s markets, antique malls and plenty of picturesque stops.
A Special Family Hotel
There’s another historic attraction that is unexpected but equally intersting. Families can stop by the Camp David Museum not far from Gettysburg, down U.S. Route 15 in Thurmont, Maryland. It’s pretty unique; it’s a restaurant called Cozy Village, it’s an inn called The Cozy Country Inn, but it also houses a museum you won’t find anywhere else, dedicated to the famous presidential retreat just a couple miles away. Inside, you’ll learn about the handful of presidents and international dignitaries who’ve stayed at Camp David, and you’ll see that the Cozy itself — opened in 1919 — has played an important role in the vacation spot.
This is a very unsual and fun place to stay, and a bargain. The Cozy Country Inn (301/271-4301) is located at 103 Frederick Road, Thurmont, MD 21788. Room rates for a family of four begin at just $60 per night, including a continental breakfast. If you stay, you’ll be resting your head in Frederick County, Maryland, which celebrates its 250th Anniversary in 2010.
If you choose to spend the night, you will certainly make more family history.
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