The Best Things to do in Gettysburg, PA

The 15 Best Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

On July 1, 1863, Gettysburg would change forever. As the Confederate soldiers invaded the city, the Union Army stood strong. And although the Union Army prevailed, there were more than 50,000 estimated casualties. Though only one civilian was killed in the battle, the residents of Gettysburg found that their lives would never be the same.

In November of the same year, President Abraham Lincoln gave what would be one of the most impactful speeches of all time: the Gettysburg Address. The city will always be remembered as a symbol of the strength of the American people and their willingness to fight for freedom for all.

Today, Gettysburg has many historic locations that provide visitors with detailed accounts of what the battle meant for the city. Visiting Gettysburg is a way to step into the past and see it with new eyes, but there’s also a great deal of things to do in Gettysburg beyond the history lessons.

I’ve compiled a list of my absolute must-do things in Gettysburg. Add these activities and attractions to your Gettysburg bucket list, and you’re bound to have an incredible time exploring this historic Pennsylvania city.

The Top 15 Things to do in Gettysburg, PA

1. Explore the Gettysburg National Military Park

Cool Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Gettysburg National Military Park

The Battle of Gettysburg was the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. But it was also a turning point in the war and a major source of inspiration for the American people. And there are very few speeches in American history that were as influential and inspirational as President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

The Gettysburg National Military Park is a must-do for any visitor to this historic land. Here you’ll find the Gettysburg Battlefield, which you can explore and immerse yourself in the history. On select days, you’ll be able to watch historians reenact life on the battlefield and get in-depth information about the tools, tactics, and more used in battle.

You’ll also find the visitor center and museum. Inside the museum is an extensive collection of exhibits and interactive experiences. And in the visitor center, there’s even more to learn with an art gallery complete with the beloved Gettysburg Cyclorama, two theaters showing the New Birth of Freedom film, a library, and a saloon. 


2. Take a Tour in a Horse-Drawn Carriage

Fun Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Horse Drawn Carriage

There are a lot of unique tours in Gettysburg, and taking these tours is a great way to learn from licensed guides who can give you even more in-depth information than you might get just by visiting historic sites yourself. One of the best ways to do some Gettysburg sightseeing is by traveling the way they did way back in the 1800s: by horses.

The Victorian Carriage Company offers a one-of-a-kind tour in which you’ll ride in a horse-drawn carriage while a licensed guide takes you through the South Central Battlefield. The ride comes with a recorded one-hour narrative complete with music and sound effects to really immerse yourself in your surroundings. This tour is considered to be highly engaging and great for kids.

The battle is, of course, long over, and the land that it took place on is now beautiful, peaceful farmland. While you learn about the history of the land, you’ll also take in the gorgeous setting. 


3. Take a Horseback Ride through a Historic Area

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Bucket List: Horseback

Riding in a horse-drawn carriage is one great option for seeing the best sights in Gettysburg, but another way to get around is by hopping on a horse yourself! Hickory Hollow Farm is a family-run horseback trail riding company that’s been offering unique tours of Gettysburg for over 30 years. Climb aboard one of their beloved horses and go on one of several tour options.

Choose between a 90-minute or two-hour guided tour where you’ll ride on horseback with a licensed battlefield guide from the Confederate Line into Union territory. Your guide will tell you all about the three days of battle at Gettysburg and show you landmarks like the Virginia Monument, the Spangler Farm, and Picketts’ Charge. Along the way, you’ll enjoy a scenic journey that’s both peaceful and educational.

If you’d rather just enjoy the gorgeous sights without the history lesson, you can book the 90-minute scenic trail ride, where a trail guide will take you to similar landmarks and take your picture in the middle of the battlefield.


4. Tour Haunted Sites

Must do things in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Tour Haunted Sites and Meet Gettysburg's Ghostly Residents

Being in such a historical place, it’s probably no surprise that visitors often experience some otherworldly presences. Taking a ghost tour is one of the most unique things to do in Gettysburg if you’d like a historical tour with a bit of a paranormal twist!

It’s not uncommon for ghost tours to take on somewhat of a playful tone that sometimes betrays the severity of the situations they’re describing. Civil War Ghosts, one of the best-rated ghost tours in Gettysburg, strives to be respectful of the people whose stories they’re telling. Aiming to be thrilling for visitors and accurate to the legends of the ghostly residents of Gettysburg, Civil War Ghosts takes you on a walking tour through the city, where you’ll learn about regular people who did extraordinary things during the Civil War. 

What to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Tour Haunted Sites and Meet Gettysburg's Ghostly Residents

You’ll head to landmarks like the Farnsworth House, once a sniper’s nest for Confederate soldiers, and the Jennie Wade House, which was caught in a crossfire while she and her family made bread for the soldiers. This tour is as much a way to explore the supernatural as it is a way to tell the stories of those who are no longer around to tell the stories themselves.


5. See the House President Lincoln Stayed in the Night Before the Gettysburg Address

Best Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: David Wills' House

In 1863, the Civil War came to David Wills’ house. The attorney had made a home for himself and his wife and children in what is now Lincoln Square. When Confederate soldiers occupied Gettysburg and the Union soldiers prevailed, Wills’ home became a place for wounded and dying soldiers to get treatment. 

Wills would go on to plan Soldiers’ National Cemetery. And when President Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg, he was escorted to the Wills’ home, where he put the finishing touches on what would be the Gettysburg Address.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Things to do: David Wills House

Today, the David Wills House is a museum of the history of the Battle of Gettysburg and one of the best things to do in Gettysburg. The museum features six galleries, including two rooms that have been restored to how they looked in 1863. See Wills’ office, where he planned the cemetery after the battle came to an end, and the bedroom where President Lincoln stayed as he prepared the Gettysburg Address.


6. Take a Food Tour

Gettysburg is a great place to visit if you like dining your way around a city. Although Gettysburg is known for its historical landmarks, food is a big part of the culture here, which is why going on a food tour belongs on your Gettysburg bucket list!

Savor Gettysburg offers walking tours that combine a one-of-a-kind tasting experience with in-depth history lessons. You’ll traverse the streets of Gettysburg as your guide provides you with tales of civilian life during the Battle of Gettysburg and leads you to some of the best cuisine Gettysburg has to offer.

Throughout the year, you can book the three-hour Historic Downtown Food Tour, which takes you through Gettysburg’s neighborhoods as you dine your way around the city. For more hands-on learning, you can schedule a Farmer’s Market Tour & Cooking Class, where you’ll collect and prepare local fare alongside one of the city’s professional chefs.

If you’re visiting Gettysburg in the winter, you can hop on the Christmas Tastes & Traditions Food Tour, where you’ll stroll through the decorated streets as you delight in the best and most festive food in Gettysburg.


7. Visit the Shriver House Museum

Cool Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Shriver House Museum
Images courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

The Shriver House Museum shows a side of the Civil War that is little discussed: the impact it had on civilians. Though George Washington Shriver volunteered to stand with the Union army, his family remained in their home in Gettysburg right up until the Battle of Gettysburg arrived at their doorstep.

George’s wife, Hettie, took their children and fled to her family’s farm, unknowingly making her way closer to where the bloodiest fighting took place. Hettie took in the dying and wounded at the farm and did all she could to help. 

When the Shriver family returned to their Gettysburg home, they found it had been taken over as a hospital. Hettie was informed that Confederate soldiers had ransacked her home, and their sharpshooters had taken over her attic. Though the Union prevailed, and the Shriver home was once again theirs, the house and the family would never be the same.

When you visit this incredible museum (one of the best Gettysburg activities to help you truly understand the impact of the battle), you’ll be led through the restored home by a knowledgeable guide dressed in period attire. You’ll learn about each member of the Shriver family and move from room to room as you travel through time to understand what life was like for them before, during, and after the Civil War.


8. Visit the Land of Little Horses Performing Animal Theme Park

Must do things in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Land of Little Horses Performing Animal Theme Park
Images courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

History is a huge part of the city, but there are other fun things to do in Gettysburg. The Land of Little Horses Performing Animal Theme Park is one of the most fun Gettysburg attractions if you’re visiting Gettysburg with kids. This park offers a full day of play for the animal lover in your group.

The park is home to nearly 50 horses, ranging from full-size to miniature. But there are also plenty more unique animals to meet, including llamas, emus, and tortoises. And you can pet and feed some farm friends over at the Petting Zoo.

If your little one is a huge fan of horses and over the age of five, they’re also welcome to go horseback riding or take a lesson. And adults are welcome to get in on the fun, too!

There are also many shows to enjoy throughout the day, including the horse-focused Mane Event, the Pig Races, and Exploring Everything Equine, which will show you all about how the park takes care of its horses. And over in Western Town, you can go for a pony ride, mine for gems, or explore the many Old West buildings, from the saloon to the blacksmith shop. 


9. Go on the Pour Tour

Best Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Pour Tour
Images courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

Gettysburg may be a food town, but it’s also a great place to get your drink on. Taking part in the Adams County Pour Tour is one of the best ways to do some Gettysburg sightseeing as you visit historic watering holes and taste the many different types of drinks the city has to offer.

The Pour Tour is self-guided, so it’s up to you to decide where to go and when. You’ll grab your “passport” and collect stamps as you enjoy wines, ciders, meads, craft beers, and much more. 

Gettysburg is filled with tasting rooms, which you’ll explore as you take in the Adams County countryside. The Pour Tour also provides you with an interactive trail map, so you’ll have no problem finding each destination.

As you collect stamps, you’ll be eligible to win a number of prizes, including a getaway to return to Gettysburg for another trip. You can build your own itinerary of places for your Pour Tour, but some tour itineraries are also already built out to help you just drink and enjoy.


10. Journey into the Past at the Eisenhower National Historic Site

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Bucket List: Eisenhower National Historic Site

President Lincoln may be the president most associated with Gettysburg, but one of the best Gettysburg attractions was actually owned by another president. The Eisenhower National Historic Site preserves the home and farm of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who lived just outside of Gettysburg.

Step inside Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower’s farmhouse and see where world leaders once congregated. Then, stroll through the farm, which features breathtaking views of South Mountain. 

When you take a self-guided tour of these grounds, you’ll see plenty of historical and beautiful sights, like the rose gardens, the Eisenhower show barn, President Eisenhower’s beloved skeet range, and even the presidential limousine. If you’d rather take a guided tour, they’re available on select days throughout the spring and summer.

Just like you can see living history reenactments of the Civil War at Gettysburg National Military Park, you can also see WWII living history camps and reenactments at Eisenhower National Historic Site on a specially-selected weekend. 

Each year’s theme is a little different, but they all strive to teach about the effects of the war on the home front and pay tribute to those who fought, many of whom are buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery. If you’d like to get involved, you can also sign up to be a participant. 


11. Pay Your Respects at Gettysburg National Cemetery

Best Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Soldiers' National Monument
Image courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

Visiting the Gettysburg National Cemetery may be a somber event, but it’s a wonderful way to pay tribute to the people who fought for the idea of a nation where everyone could be free. The cemetery is the final resting place for over 6,000 US soldiers and veterans, 3,500 of which died at the Battle of Gettysburg. President Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg Address at the cemetery’s dedication ceremony.

Inside the cemetery, you’ll find beautiful grounds with much to explore. Over in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery area, you’ll see the graves of those who gave their lives during the Civil War. The Soldiers’ National Monument is its focal point. It features figures representing war, history, plenty, and peace at its base. At the top, there’s a figure representing liberty high atop a pedestal, an eternal symbol of what these soldiers fought for. 

Also inside the cemetery is the First Massachusetts Battery Monument. The artillery placed here marks the specific location of the US artillery and infantry during the Battle of Gettysburg and also represents the significance of Cemetery Hill during the three-day-long battle.

You’ll also find the Lincoln Address Memorial in the cemetery. The bronze bust of President Lincoln greets you here, as well as the Gettysburg Address inscribed in bronze alongside the letter he received asking him to speak at Gettysburg.


12. Get a View of the Battle of Gettysburg at the Gettysburg Diorama & History Center

Best Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Gettysburg Diorama and History Center
Images courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

You can visit the Gettysburg Battlefield, and you can even see historical reenactments. But there’s only one place where you can get a bird’s-eye view of all 6,000 acres. The Gettysburg Diorama & History Center features a one-of-a-kind diorama that features over 20,000 hand-painted soldiers, horses, cannons, and buildings. The diorama is one of the top things to see in Gettysburg.

When you visit here, you’ll be able to watch all three days of the battle play out before you in a 30-minute light and sound show featuring historical narration that will tell you in-depth details about the battle you’ve never heard before. 

You learn about how the battle progressed and meet historical figures who helped change the tides of the war. Alongside the diorama, you’ll also find displays of tons of historical items and Civil War paintings.

Visiting with kids? Well, there’s another diorama you might want to check out, as well. The Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum offers dioramas of the most critical moments of the Civil War. 

Except instead of human soldiers, they’ve been replaced by cats! It’s one of the most unique things to do in Gettysburg and a great way to teach your children about Civil War history with a more lighthearted, family-friendly touch.


13. Take in a Show at the Majestic Theater

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Things to do: Majestic Theater
Images courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

A trip to Gettysburg would not be complete without seeing a show at the Majestic Theater. Stopping by this historic theater is one of the best things to do in Gettysburg for a night on the town. 

The Majestic opened its doors back in 1925, becoming the largest vaudeville and silent movie theater in south-central Pennsylvania. This stunning, ornate theater entered the national eye in the 1950s when the Eisenhowers regularly brought world leaders to performances. The ballroom became commonly used for White House news conferences.

Today, the Majestic welcomes audiences to a litany of different types of entertainment, from symphony concerts to live stage productions to screenings of classic films. You could attend a show here each night of your trip and always enjoy something different.


14. Pick Up Some Treats at Hollabaugh Bros

Must do things in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Hollabaugh Bros
Images courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

Since 1955, the Hollabaugh brothers, Donald and Harold, have been a staple of their community. The Hollabaugh Bros farm and market is located in nearby Biglerville and offers one of the most unique things to do in Gettysburg. 

When you visit this farm, you’ll be able to head to their famous Bin Porch, where you can fill up your bags filled with fresh fruits that change with the seasons. You can also pick up gourmet food items, from apple butter made with apples grown on the farm to locally-produced honey. For a quick and easy meal, you can grab yourself a freshly-made dinner featuring everything from BBQ pork to chicken pot pies. 

Or if you want to cook yourself, the farm also sells locally-raised meats. And for a sweet treat, Hollabaugh Bros. serves locally-made ice cream. Don’t forget to ask about the seasonal milkshake flavor!

This special farm and market is also focused on education of all kinds. Check out the Bee Room, which will teach you all about these life-giving pollinators. From spring to fall, you can even watch the honeybees hard at work in the observation beehive. The farm also hosts events throughout the year, including classes to teach you how to make nutritious and delicious recipes.


15. Have Fun at the National Apple Harvest Festival

Unique Things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: National Apple Harvest Festival
Images courtesy of Destination Gettysburg

Over in Biglerville, you’ll find one of the best festivals in the Gettysburg area. The National Apple Harvest Festival is a family-friendly event and one of the most fun things to do in Gettysburg.

This event, which has been going on for over 50 years, takes place during the first two weekends in October. You’ll be right in the heart of Apple Country as you celebrate the harvest season with tons of fun for both adults and kids alike. 

Dine on apple-filled treats from local food vendors, enjoy gorgeous artwork created by local artisans, see antique equipment that the area’s ancestors once used, learn to make apple syrup, do some axe throwing, hop on a pony or hay ride, and so much more. Live entertainment happens throughout the festival during both weekends, featuring everything from ballet to chainsaw carving.

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Gettysburg. What’s your favorite?


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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