While this history is certainly what draws most people to Gettysburg, the town is also an excellent spot for dining and recreation.
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most important battles of the Civil War, often considered a turning point for the Union and key to its victory. That victory, won over three days between July 1 and July 3, 1863, did not come without a cost. Roughly 50,000 men from both sides lost their lives at Gettysburg.
Today, the town of Gettysburg serves as a reminder of that past, with various museums documenting Civil War history and Gettysburg National Military Park allowing visitors to explore the battlefield itself.
Yet Gettysburg is much more than the battle that happened there 159 years ago. While this history is certainly what draws most people to Gettysburg, the town is also an excellent spot for dining and recreation.
Whether you’re looking to visit for learning or leisure, Gettysburg has something for you. We’ve put together a suggested itinerary for a weekend in Gettysburg, assuming you’ll arrive Friday afternoon and depart Sunday afternoon.
When you first get into Gettysburg, you might be overwhelmed by your options. Which of the many museums should you go see first? Should you go to the battlefield straightaway? Or maybe you should forget all that and go apple picking—but what if you miss the Abraham Lincoln impersonator?!
Sometimes the best place to begin is where you can get an overview of all of your options—and an overview of the importance of the town. Start your Gettysburg visit at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center. Here, you’ll be able to learn all about the activities you can do in Gettysburg and get a good introduction into the war in which Gettysburg played a central role. You can talk to Park Rangers about your interests and what they recommend. You can also watch a 20-minute film, A New Birth of Freedom, that quickly and succinctly documents the Battle of Gettysburg’s place in the war as well as Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. The center is also home to a huge, 360-degree painting—a cyclorama—of Pickett’s Charge, the unsuccessful Confederate assault on the last day of the battle that ultimately helped end their campaign. One ticket covers your entrance to the film, the cyclorama, and the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War, which has interactive exhibits and historical artifacts to help you learn about this important part of American history. Note that the museum and visitor center typically closes at 5pm each day—in the winter it closes at 4pm.
After you’ve filled your head to the brim with historical knowledge, it’s time to go witness Gettysburg up close. We recommend you spend your evening on a Gettysburg walking tour so that you can orient yourself to the town. You could join a historic walking tour—a classic choice—to learn about important sites in the town, and then get dinner at the Dobbin House Tavern, a fantastic, colonial restaurant that also happens to be the oldest building in Gettysburg.
But you could also grab dinner at the tavern first, and then join a ghost tour when the sun goes down. After all, there have been sightings suggesting that some of the tens of thousands dead still walk the battlefields in ghostly form—perhaps you’ll experience a sighting too.
Your first full day in Gettysburg will start with the National Military Park. Having visited the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center, you are well oriented to the battlefield park, and hopefully you have an idea not only what you’d most like to see, but how you’d like to see it—because you have several options for your journey around the park.
You can do a self-guided tour of the park simply by driving your car to different stops. The printed map available at the park illustrates a recommended auto tour (though detours are currently in effect, likely until early 2024; check out the detour map).
However, you can also hire a licensed guide to take you on a tour. Licensed Battlefield Guides offer private tours by car or group tours by bus while providing fascinating details to deepen your experience of the battlefield. But you can book other tours as well, such as a bike tour of the battlefield through Gettysbike Tours. Whatever tour you embark on, you’ll visit key places like Seminary Ridge, where the Confederates were stationed (and where a museum is currently stationed), as well as Devil’s Den, a ridge covered with boulders where sharpshooters positioned themselves during the battle.
After your tour, head back to the visitor center, where you can get a meal at the Refreshment Saloon and Battlegrounds Café and Grille, which serves lunch food like sandwiches, salad, and soups. You can then digest by wandering around the museum bookstore and looking for books or other souvenirs to take home.
In the afternoon, you could continue the history route when choosing activities—you are, after all, in Gettysburg. There are numerous sites, museums, and exhibits to discover, such as Children of Gettysburg 1863 (a children’s museum), the Jennie Wade House (home of the only civilian killed in the Battle of Gettysburg), or Gettysburg National Cemetery, where more than 3,500 Union soldiers are buried.
If you’d like a break from the horror of war, get in the car and head to the countryside surrounding Gettysburg. There are many farms and wineries in the area where you can indulge after a long day of touring. For instance, you may choose to pick apples or lounge with an apple cider donut milkshake at Hollabaugh Bros. in nearby Biglerville. Or perhaps you’ll want to follow the Adams County Pour Tour: stops in Downtown Gettysburg and in the countryside around the town offer guests beer, wine, cider, spirits, or mead. If you collect stamps from participating businesses on a digital passport, you can win prizes!
Whether you’re following the Pour Tour or not, you might want to grab dinner at one of the stops on the tour. Appalachian Brewing Company – Battlefield is right next to the Military Park, so you could enjoy classic pub food and then visit the monument dedicated to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Reid’s Winery and Cider House is also downtown, and serves wine, cider, and food, alongside live music.
For your final morning in Gettysburg, you could just grab a delicious breakfast and head home, as you’ve experienced a full weekend. If that’s the case, you could eat at the Lincoln Diner, beloved by both tourists and locals.
But if you’d rather squeeze as much as you can out of your short weekend in Gettysburg, you could also eat a late breakfast/early lunch during a Savor Gettysburg Food Tour, which combines a historical walking tour with the best bites in Gettysburg. These tours start at 10:30am and allow you to visit six or seven favorite Gettysburg eateries where you’ll sample and savor foods that showcase the history and culture of Gettysburg.
Stuffing yourself with a delicious meal is an American tradition, and thus a satisfactory end to a weekend in the American town of Gettysburg.