Gettysburg National Park
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., September-May; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. June, July, August
Location: Gettysburg, Penn.
Activities: Auto touring, biking, hiking, interpretive programs.
Contact: 97 Taneytown Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325-2804, 717-334-1124
Web site: http://www.nps.gov/gett/
National parks in Pennsylvania tend to be somber places that commemorate death, tragedy and destruction – from the Johnstown Flood National Memorial to the newest national park, the Flight 93 National Memorial. But when it comes to sheer casualty numbers, no Pennsylvania park comes close to topping Gettysburg National Park.
The parks service recommends you block off at least four hours for your visit and, preferably, a full day. And they’re right: you’ll want to linger on the battle fields where 48,000 casualties fell between July 1 and 3, 1863. You can also visit the cemetery and stand on the spot where Lincoln made his famed Gettysburg Address a few months later. You can do all this and more and still be in Baltimore – just 50 miles to the south – in time for dinner.
Summers can be extremely hot and humid, with occasional severe thunderstorms. Fall and spring are pleasant with cool temperatures and brisk winds, so visitors should dress accordingly. Winter weather occasionally forces the closure of some park roads and buildings depending on severity.
Begin your visit at the Visitor’s Center and National Cyclorama one mile south of Gettysburg center.In addition to the stunning, 360-degree painting depicting the battle in the cyclorama room, you can see how the battle played out on an electric map and spend hours looking at the glass encased artifcacts recovered from the battlefield in the George Rosensteel Collection, which also includes original uniforms and weapons of the Civil War. The Eastern National Park and Monument book store is also located here.
Note that the Cyclorama will close in November 2005 for restoration and repainting and not reopen until 2007-2008.
Self-guided, audio auto tours are available in the gift shop, but if the weather is nice, you may want to look into bike rentals – you’ll pick up on a lot more detail than you would in an air-conditioned car but still have plenty of time to cover all of the major points which are accessible from the 26 miles of roads which snake through the park.
Most of the organized activity is in the summer – particularly on the battle anniversary days leading up to July 4. Ranger conducted programs, evening campfire programs, and “battle walks” are held through the summer months usually from mid-June to mid-August with special battle walks scheduled for the battle anniversary days, July 1-3.