Outside of the major cities, there might be no better-known destination in Pennsylvania than Gettysburg.
Located in the south-central portion of the state, Gettysburg is a fantastic destination for the whole family. In addition to the well-known battlefield, there are a ton of other fun things to do in Gettysburg, PA.
I’ve visited Gettysburg many times over the years, starting when I was just a young kid, and I’ve always enjoyed coming back over the years and now bringing my family with me. And while there are a ton of battlefield-related sites to see here, in my experience, there are just as many spots off the battlefield that are worth checking out, as well.
Anyway, with all that said, here are some of my personal favorite places to visit in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Known officially as the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Gettysburg Battlefield is an absolute must-visit attraction in Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1-3, 1863, and was the battle that changed the tide of the Civil War as it stopped the Confederate Army’s advancement into the North.
Today, visitors can take free self-guided tours of this 9,000-acre battlefield or opt to take one of many different guided tours.
In my opinion, the best option is a private guided tour with a licensed battlefield guide. These private tours cost less than the price of three tickets on the big bus tours and offer the chance to have a personalized tour of the battlefield.
Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War
The Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War is the museum at the Gettysburg National Battlefield. While touring the grounds is free, the museum itself has an admission cost. However, if you are going to see one Civil War museum in Gettysburg, this is definitely the one to check out.
The main attraction of the museum is the 42-foot-high Cyclorama. This painting encircles the room and a presentation is done that highlights this famous painting. Despite its age, this show really does a great job of bringing the battle to life.
The portion of the museum with signage and artifacts tells the story of the entire Civil War, which provides a great overview of the importance and the impact of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Savor Gettysburg Food Tours
Explore beyond the battlefield with one of my favorite things to do in Gettysburg: a Savor Gettysburg Food Tour.
These tours run through downtown Gettysburg and offer a chance to experience some of the best places to eat in this historic area. Guides offer a bit of Civil War history along the way, but most of the tour is focused on the food and drinks and the story behind them.
Whether you are visiting for a few days or have lived in the area your whole life, a Savor Gettysburg Food Tour is a great way to experience several restaurants in just a few hours.
Civil War Tails
If there is a more quirky museum in Pennsylvania than Civil War Tails, I haven’t been to it. However, for all of its oddness, Civil War Tails is a really fun spot to visit and a great way to learn more about the Battle of Gettysburg.
At Civil War Tails, you’ll be able to see handcrafted dioramas of various battles from the Civil War that have been meticulously reconstructed with amazing attention to detail.
However, there is one thing that’s slightly out of place about all the dioramas: the soldiers are all miniature cat figurines.
If you’ve ever thought the Civil War would be easier to learn about if all the soldiers looked like cats, this is the place for you.
Did you know that President Dwight Eisenhower spent his retirement in Gettysburg?
Located adjacent to the battlefield, the Eisenhower Homestead was the home of this former president and his wife. When they died, they left all their furnishings in the home, allowing visitors the chance to step inside the Eisenhowers’ residence as it looked when they lived there.
Sunset at Little Roundtop
There are many great spots to watch the sunset in Gettysburg, but none are better than from the top of Little Roundtop.
This important spot in the battle offers fantastic views over the landscape below and points west towards the setting sun. Even better, the many statues along the hillside make for interesting photo subjects or simply something to enjoy looking at while waiting for the sun to set.
Visit a winery, brewery, cidery, and distillery
If you love adult beverages, you’re in luck as the Gettysburg area is home to some fantastic wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries.
In the heart of downtown Gettysburg, you’ll find tasting rooms for Adams County Winery, Battlefield Brew Works, Reid’s Winery and Cider House, Mason Dixon Distillery, and Knob Hill Winery, all within walking distance of each other.
Further afield, there are many great wineries spread throughout the countryside of Adams County, PA.
Jennie Wade House
Despite an estimated 50,000 casualties, there was only one civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg: Jennie Wade.
A visit to the Jennie Wade House on the outskirts of downtown Gettysburg offers the chance to learn more about Wade, her life, and her death. Amazingly, you can even see the home’s original door which still contains the bullet hole from the shot that killed her.
Seminary Ridge Museum
The Seminary Ridge Museum is located west of town in the area that was a central point of the first day’s battle. Visitors to the museum can learn about the history of the community and more about this impactful battle.
Through artifacts, signage, and some incredible dioramas, the museum really does a great job telling the story of the battle’s first day, what life was like in Gettysburg before July 1863, and the immediate aftermath of the battle.
Located in the community of New Oxford, the Christmas Haus is the perfect stop for anyone looking for some holiday season decorations.
The Christmas Haus is easily one of my favorite holiday stores in PA and features thousands of items all imported from Germany. If you are looking for a unique or hard-to-find decoration, or simply enjoy browsing through handcrafted items, this store is a worthwhile drive out into the countryside surrounding Gettysburg.
Sach’s Covered Bridge
There are more than 200 historic covered bridges in Pennsylvania, but none have a story like Sach’s Covered Bridge.
One of four still-standing covered bridges in Adams County, Sach’s Covered Bridge was crossed several times throughout early July by both Confederate and Union soldiers. While the area wasn’t the site of fighting, it was a vital link during the escape of Lee’s troops on July 4, 1863.
Today, the bridge sits in a beautiful corner of the battlefield and is easily one of my favorite spots to visit in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Liberty Mountain Resort
Gettysburg isn’t just a warm-weather destination. If you find yourself visiting in the winter, spend some time at the area’s ski resort: Liberty Mountain Resort (also known as Ski Liberty).
Located southwest of Gettysburg, Liberty Mountain is a fun way to spend a winter day. While it might not offer the super challenging hills of other ski resorts, there are still a wide variety of trails here that are sure to entertain every level of skier or snowboarder.
They also have a fun snow tubing hill for those looking for something a bit easier.
Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum
Without a doubt, Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum is one the quirkiest places in all of Pennsylvania.
This spot is half free museum and half candy store, which makes it a lot of fun to visit.
The elephant museum portion of the building is home to more than 12,000 items that feature elephants. This includes figurines, toys, political items, and much more. It’s a lot of fun to explore this museum and see some of the unusual elephant items on display.
The other half of the shop is a candy emporium that features freshly made fudge and roasted peanuts. There is also a large selection (more than 700 different items) of your favorite old-time candy.
There are many places in Gettysburg that focus on the battle’s toll on the soldiers and the war, but the Shriver House offers a glimpse into how the battle affected the community of Gettysburg.
Tours of the home are given by guides in period costumes who tell the story of the Shriver family and the events that occurred in this home. Visitors get to see where snipers hid and died during the battle and where surgeons worked after the battle, as well as learning how the Shriver family coped with the tragedy.
This town is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in America, so it should come as no surprise that one of the best things to do in Gettysburg is a ghost tour.
These tours range from easy walking tours that cover both the history of the town and a few of its ghosts to full-on ghost hunting adventures with electronic detectors. No matter how involved you want to get, there’s a ghost tour in Gettysburg for you to check out.
Did you know that the area around Gettysburg is the largest apple-growing region in Pennsylvania?
If you happen to be visiting in the fall, one of my favorite things to do in the area is to go apple picking. There are many orchards throughout Adams County that offer this fun activity, especially around Biglerville a short distance north of Gettysburg.
If picking apples isn’t your thing, there are also many farm stores that feature a variety of produce and fresh baked goods.
Dobbin House Tavern
The Dobbin House Tavern is one of the most historic buildings in all of Gettysburg. Built in 1776, the building is currently home to a tavern, a bed and breakfast, and a store. Visitors can take free tours of the building, enjoy eating in the basement tavern, or stay the night (See reviews here).
If you want to learn and experience the history of Gettysburg, this is a stop that shouldn’t be missed.
Antique Shopping in New Oxford
New Oxford, which is located a few miles east of Gettysburg, is the self-dubbed “Antiques Capital of South Central Pennsylvania.”
Around the community, you’ll find several great antique stores, including some that are quite large. Inside, you’ll find all manner of antiques and other historic pieces to browse. Who knows, you might even find the perfect souvenir to take home with you.
Gettysburg Heritage Center
The Gettysburg Heritage Center is another spot where you can learn about the battle’s effect on the citizens of Gettysburg.
The museum uses many interactive elements to tell the story of the battle, including a simulated cellar where you can experience what it was like to have the battle raging outside your house. There are also many artifacts, dioramas, and more.
Note that portions of this museum may be a bit disturbing for some children, but those areas are mostly avoidable.
Jacks Mountain Covered Bridge
Jacks Mountain Covered Bridge is located south of downtown Gettysburg and is the only historic covered bridge in Adams County that you can still drive across.
Built in 1890, this covered bridge is unique because it has a traffic light at either end that controls traffic through the bridge. Having visited more than 200 covered bridges in PA, I can safely say that this is the only one in the state with that feature.
David Wills House
The David Will House is located on Lincoln Square in Gettysburg and is where President Abraham Lincoln stayed while giving the Gettysburg Address in November 1863.
Opened to the public in 2009 by the National Park Service, the home features displays about the community, the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and Lincoln’s visit. Two rooms have been restored to how they may have looked in late 1863, including the bedroom in which Lincoln slept and put the finishing touches on his speech.
Every year in early July, over the anniversary of the battle, the Gettysburg Reenactment is held at the Daniel Lady Farm.
During this event, visitors can experience a Civil War camp, see skirmishes fought by hundreds of reenactors, and learn about what life was like in the mid-1800s.
While this is something that you can only experience a few days a year, it’s worth planning a trip around if you want to better understand the battle.
Where to Stay in Gettysburg
There are many historic places to stay in Gettysburg, but I have two personal favorites.
The Gettysburg Hotel (Check current prices here) is located in the heart of the downtown area and was witness to much of the fighting during the battle. Over the years, it has gone through several names and even more renovations but is now one of the top places to stay in the area.
Plus, some even claim that this hotel is haunted!
Within walking distance of downtown is the Federal Pointe Inn (Check current prices here). This historic property was built after the war and served as a school for many years. Today, it has been incredibly well restored and is a perfect place to stay while experiencing the many great things to do in Gettysburg, PA.
Do you have a favorite thing to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below.