Friday, September 9, 2016

A Trip To Gettysburg

Shockingly, Fred and I ended up with an overnight to ourselves, so he surprised me with a getaway! First we went to celebrate my mom's birthday with her at my brother's house. We all had an amazing time, but I could tell Fred was getting antsy to get on the road. I had no clue where we were going. Sadly, my mother-in-law had accidentally mentioned where we were going as we we're heading to my brother's but I was reading something and completely missed it!

As we headed to our "destination unknown" I tried reading my book because I didn't even want to guess where we were going, and I didn't want a street sign to accidentally give it away. What I loved about this weekend was we didn't have to be anywhere by a specific time. We saw a farmer's market as we drove, and then came across an antique market. There were so many little spots along the way, but unfortunately it was late in the day and everything was closing. Fred and I have already decided we have to go back to enjoy all of the little stops.

Thankfully I made it all the way to "destination unknown" without me figuring it out! I love surprises so much, I was thrilled to make it there without it being blown! I was excited to find out Gettysburg was where we were headed. I'd never been there! We settled into our hotel room, watched the sun sent, grabbed dinner, and relaxed until we fell asleep.

Our first stop was at the Visitor's Center. We grabbed a self guided tour CD/Booklet. There are a few different options you can choose from when doing the tour on your own. You can do the one we chose, which was the $30 tour which lasts the longest, has several CDs, and comes with a great booklet. The other options are about $22 and vary in length. Now there are several things I'd like to address about the car tour and doing it on your own.

First, if you get the booklet that we had, there's a sticker that comes with the book that you're encouraged to use so that way people know why you're going slow or stopping frequently. Unfortunately, we didn't see that note until we were leaving because it's on the very last page of the book. It should be on the front page or the page with the CDs. I just though it was a special sticker that came with the book. lol I'd even suggest getting this the night before you do the full visit just to go through and read some of the history.

Second, read the inside of the tour book before you go anywhere. The cashier told Fred to start the book when we got in the car, but we didn't realize that we were supposed to listen to 2 tracks before we headed anywhere. lol We listened as we drove, but we finally just jumped forward to Stop 1 so we could match where we were stopping.

Third, expect this to last a LOT longer than 3 hours if you do anything OTHER than the book. If you stop, get out, walk around, take pictures, read plaques, interact with period characters, etc this could literally take ALL day long. Bring along a picnic and eat along the trail. There are like 1500 memorials, and you'll never have time to look at even 1/8 of them on a weekend.

Fourth, there's a QR code that if you scan it when you see it, you'll get digital content along the way. I didn't download it or experience it because there was just so much to take in with what was around us, the CD, and the book. I have no doubt the digital content would've been great, too.

Now, on to our experience...

There was and is a lot I don't know about the Battle of Gettysburg. I'm not a Civil War buff, but listening to it and learning about it as an adult is pretty fascinating. I didn't realize so many people died in such a short period of time. I also didn't realize there were so many regiments. Markers big and small represent them as you drive along.

The map in our book shows the landmarks that match along with the narration of the CD. There are 16 stops, 3 of them unmarked. At a few stops there are observation towers. Those are pretty cool to give visitors a sense of what the entire scenery and battlefield, in land, must've looked like.

Speaking of observation towers, we went up the first one at Stop 3 Oak Ridge. That's a pretty spectacular view. You can see 360 degrees and that's when I realized how many memorials there are, one right after the other! And that was just the start of our tour.

There are a lot people, especially on a holiday weekend, so just go with patience knowing people will be driving very slowly, stopping at random times in the middle of the road to take a picture, and pulling over/out at various locations. That may or may have not been us during our day.

As we were about halfway done with our tour, Fred pointed out that there are a variety of ways to take a tour:

Through the foundation:

  • guided bus tour
  • guided car tour
  • personal car tour unguided

Private companies:

  • bikes (single & tandem)
  • scooter - that would be SO fun
  • horse carriage
  • horse back - this seems heavenly

We actually saw a group on horseback, 1 horse drawn carriage, and two people on scooters. Tons of people were on bikes. Not only are you doing a winding tour of historical significance, it's absolutely beautiful countryside to drive through.

One thing I'd say was missing is a place to eat along the way. I mean, no they're not going to drop a McDonald's in the middle of this historic site, but a period restaurant in one of the houses with people dressed in period clothing, serving period food would be awesome. That way tourists wouldn't need to leave the battlefield. There is a B & B that Fred looked into, but they were booked solid.

When we got to Stop 12, Pennsylvania Memorial (right next to the 1st Minnesota Monument) they were in the process of shooting off a cannon! Wow, the power of it shooting off next to us was incredible! It was exciting to get there in time for that!

By the time we were done visiting the top of the Memorial, both of us were hungry, it was nearing 2pm, and we still had 4 official Stops left to make on the tour. We decided to head down the road before finishing, but also decided that we'd have to head back sooner than later and take the boys with us. There was just so much to do and see. I mean, we didn't even walk any of the historical area IN Gettysburg. I also wanted to go to Soldiers' National Cemetery, which is the last stop, and I believe where you hear the Gettysburg Address.

The other thing I'd like to fit into our next visit are the Free Ranger Programs. I think they change throughout the seasons, so be sure to look at the board or check out the guide before you leave to see what they have in store. There's an intense hike that would cover the 3 days of battle that you would walk in about an hour and a half. The one I was interested in was the Battlefield in a Box. It's an interactive program to get a better understanding of the battlefield.

We had an amazing time there. Definitely plan to go back. I know the boys would enjoy it immensely. We're just going to have to make an all out plan the next time we head in that direction. A full weekend is what we'll have in store!

What historic locations have you visited before?


Jeannette said...

I have visited many historic places, I have yet to get to Gettysburg though. My niece is a Civil War expert and has visited many times. It's one of her favorite places to be and she's hoping one day to get a job there.

Jaredamy said...

I have never visited this area before but it looks really great! I have visited historic Colonial Williamsburg before and it was amazing!!!

Pam said...

My husband wants to visit Gettysburg. He is a history buff. We just visited Vicksburg in Mississippi for the history.

Melissa Chapman said...

My son would be over the moon about getting to visit all the attractions you featured in your post! This trip is definitely on our bucket list; for history buffs like my kid this is better than an amusement park! Thanks for the itinerary

Becca Wilson said...

I have always wanted to visit Gettysburg! So much history there that I would love to explore.

Lisa said...

Those statues and monuments look so interesting! Definitely a place that I would visit.

Jenn said...

I want tob takebthe kids there. It would make a great field trip

Ann B said...

Gettysburg would be such an interesting place to explore. I would love to learn more about the history there.

Lisa B said...

My Dad would love to go to Gettysburg and look at all the historic places. This would be a great road trip for us.

Johnsons said...

Omg this looks amazing! We love history, and want to travel around to see/study more!

Gingermommy said...

I have visited many throughout Canada, USA and Mexico. But not this one. This looks like a great place to visit

Once Upon a College Girl said...

I love visiting historic places like this! I haven't visited Gettysburg before but it's on my to-do list!

Unknown said...

What a great place to visit that is full of history. Thanks for sharing with us!

Amanda said...

I would love to take my kids to Gettysburg. What a great place to see in person

Janis Brett Elspas said...

Your visit to Gettysburg brings back fond memories of when I took my kids there on a road trip. I am a real history buff, too, as I'm the Great Great Granddaughter of a Civil War soldier from the North.

Ckrusch said...

We passed Gettysburg a month ago on our road trip. I did not know they had so much to see and do!

Liz Mays said...

I totally appreciate your advice on the self-guided tour. That is rock solid helpful, girlie!

Sherry said...

Oh wow. There is so much to see in Gettsburg. My husband would love to take a tour considering he is in the military.

Unknown said...

this is amazing. so much history.

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