Gettysburg is home to the most famous battlefield in the United States. Gettysburg battlefield is also the site of one of the most famous speeches in US history (“Four score and seven years ago…“).
Over one million visitors tour Gettysburg battlefield every year. Destination Gettysburg set us up with a private tour guide (licensed through Gettysburg Foundation) and we also discovered many other ways to tour Gettysburg battlefield.
8 Great Ways to Tour Gettysburg Battlefield
1. Self-Guided Tour Gettysburg Battlefield
You can certainly opt to tour Gettysburg battlefield on your own, by a combination of driving and walking. In fact, walking Pickett’s Charge is a powerful way to experience the battlefield scenario and conditions. There is no fee to tour Gettysburg battlefield. The outstanding visitor center—with an amazing museum, vivid film (narrated by Morgan Freeman), and powerful cyclorama exhibit—is operated by the Gettysburg Foundation and charges admission.
McCool Travel tip: purchase Gettysburg tickets online before your visit and avoid the lines.
2. Tour Gettysburg Battlefield by Bus
There are several options to tour Gettysburg battlefield by bus, including through the Gettysburg Foundation and History Nerds. My favorite might be this super cool, 1936 Yellowstone bus operated by Historic Tour Company. How can you not love this vintage cutey?
Hungry? Here are some fantastic places to eat in Gettsyburg.
3. See Gettysburg Battlefield by Horseback
While on our guided tour, I saw a few groups on horses and thought that that would be a fun way to tour Gettysburg battlefield. Two companies operating horseback tours of Gettysburg battlefield are Cornerstone Farm and Confederate Trails.
4. Bike the Gettysburg Battlefield
Riding a bicycle to tour Gettysburg battlefield on a mild clear day would be ideal. You will feel closer to the battlefield than from a vehicle and cover more ground than by walking. Bicycling options include bringing your own (remember, no fee to tour Gettysburg battlefield), renting from Gettysburg Bicycle, or guided touring with Gettysbike.
5. Ride Around Gettysburg Battlefield in Style
Victorian Carriage Company offers one and two hour horse-drawn carriage tours of the Gettysburg battlefield. Their two hour tours are often sold out weeks in advance so definitely check their website for availability.
6. Gettysburg Battlefield by Segway
Tour Gettysburg battlefield with a Segway. You are either thrilled or appalled, I bet. Definitely not for everyone but tons of fun for those interested. Remember to bring your fanny pack!
7. Gettysburg Battlefield by Scooter
GettyPeds rents scooters, scootcoupes (cool contraptions with three wheels and two side by side seats), and electric bicycles.
8. Ghost Tours of Gettysburg
Oooooooo, spooky. Gettysburg Ghost Tours operates several walking tours and a bus tour of Gettysburg. Most of the focus is on the town, rather than the Gettysburg battlefield, but, heck, what a fun way to complement any of the above traditional tours.
No matter how you tour Gettysburg battlefield, here are some highlights you will want to see.
Gettysburg Battlefield Stops to Explore
The Virginia Memorial was the first Confederate state monument at Gettysburg, and it marks the starting point of Pickett’s Charge. Virginia contributed 19,000 men to the Army of Northern Virginia, and almost 5,000 of them were casualties at Gettysburg. Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveler, tops the Virginia Memorial. If time allows, you can hike a path from here to the High Water Mark, where the Confederate charge was repelled.
At Devil’s Den and Little Round Top, you’ll see terrain much like soldiers did during the critical second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle at Little Round Top is a central plot-line in Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer prize winning historical novel The Killer Angels, which was made into the movie Gettysburg, with Jeff Daniels as Chamberlain. Chamberlain and his 20th Maine regiment held the extreme left position of the Union Army of the Potomac, fighting off repeated Confederate attacks. Older kids will enjoy climbing the rocky terrain at Devil’s Den—but should be reminded that this is hallowed ground and they should be respectful as they explore.
The dome-topped Pennsylvania Memorial is the largest on the battlefield, and visitors can climb an interior stairwell to an open roof below the dome for excellent views across the battlefield. Bronze tablets at the base of the monument list the names of 34,000 Pennsylvanians who participated honorably in the battle.
McCool Travel tip: Look closely and you’ll see that some names have been scratched away, removed by visiting Pennsylvania soldiers when they found names of men who either weren’t at the battle or had not fought honorably.
The High Water Mark and The Angle mark the site of “Pickett’s Charge,” the final Confederate assault of the battle. The Confederate forces were decimated as they attempted a 12,000 man assault on the Union center across open fields. The failed charge ended the Confederate incursion in the north, and the next day Lee’s forces began retreating.
After three days of battle, 25,000 Union and 28,000 Confederate soldiers were dead, wounded, or missing. While the Civil War continued for another two years, no future battle would cost more American lives during the conflict.
For more tips on what to do in Gettysburg beyond the battlefield, please see: A Gettysburg Getaway Immersed in Civil War History. And more Civil War history at American Civil War In My Backyard.
While in Gettysburg, stop in Seminary Ridge Museum but note that the third floor has particularly gruesome displays.
Which “way” would or did you prefer to tour Gettysburg battlefield?