Baltimore Sun, September 10, 2006
Gettysburg. The word alone can send chills up your spine, as you close your eyes and visualize the three-day battle that resulted in over 50,000 casualties. Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, and it was here that more men fought – and died – than in any other battle before or since on American soil. This three-day bloody battle is one of the major reasons that the Gettysburg National Military Park is one of America’s most frequently visited sites; however, there is more to Gettysburg than the battlefield.
Gettysburg is located in Adams County, Pa., and the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.gettysburgcvb.org) offers two free driving tours that allow you to explore the beautiful countryside. Stop by the Gettysburg Visitor Information Center (31 Carlisle St.) to pick up a brochure and then hit the road with the “Scenic Valley Tour,” which will take you through the county’s array of historic interests, including the Sachs Bridge and historic Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church (circa 1790). Clearly marked “Scenic Valley Tour” signs will help guide you along the way. Another option is the “Historic Conewago Tour,” offering historic sites, antique dealers and working farms on quiet, secondary roads that wind through the countryside. Tour signs complement the brochure on this route, too. Rather, if you are in the mood to stretch your legs and take part in a walking – instead of driving – tour, downtown Gettysburg is the place to be. Following a tour brochure, you can walk the streets where soldiers fought and where President Abraham made his way in 1863 to the National Cemetery for his famed “Gettysburg Address.” And just in time for Halloween next month, a variety of companies offer nightly ghost walking tours based on documented events.
Still looking for a littler more history? Well, then head to the Eisenhower National Historic Site, home to our 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although he was born in Texas and raised in Kansas, Eisenhower and his wife Mamie looked to Gettysburg in 1950 for a place to retire and purchased a small dairy farm. Eisenhower served two terms as president (1953-1961) and often entertained foreign heads of state at his Gettysburg farm, which produced corn, wheat and award-winning Angus cattle. Visitors today can tour the farm and the home’s gorgeous furnishings and mementos, and children ages 7 to 12 can become “Junior Secret Service Agents” by completing the activities in the Junior Secret Service Training Manual provided at the site. Plus, next weekend – Sept. 16-17 – is Eisenhower World War II Weekend at the Eisenhower National Historic Site, featuring a living history encampment with Allied soldiers, tanks and military vehicles.
Speaking of history, the Majestic Theatre, built in 1925 in the heart of downtown Gettysburg, has recently undergone a $16 million renovation to restore this gem to its former glory. The Majestic Theatre (www.gettysburgmajestic.org) now features an 850-seat main stage, a 150-seat black box theater, a movie theater, extensive production and rehearsal facilities and a café. Also new in Gettysburg is Gateway Gettysburg (www.gatewaygettysburg.com), a $275 million 100-acre complex that will offer restaurants, hotel facilities, entertainment and shopping adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield. At Gateway Theatres, visitors can watch “Fields of Freedom, a 30-minute movie chronicling the most important Civil War battle on the big screen.
For shopping aficionados, downtown Gettysburg has myriad antique stores and gifts shops. Additionally, Gettysburg Village (www.gettysburgvillage.com) is home to such national retailers as Eddie Bauer, Liz Claiborne, Van Heusen, Wilsons Leather, American Eagle and Aeropostale, all set in a fun, village-like atmosphere.
Perhaps you’re looking for shopping of the edible kind? Adams County boasts that it is “Apple Country, U.S.A.,” as each year the fruit growers of Adams County harvest over 5 million bushels of apples. Next month, on Oct. 7, 8, 14 and 15, take part in the 42nd annual National Apple Harvest Festival with apple products, live country music, antiques, arts and crafts and orchard tours at the South Mountain Fairgrounds (www.appleharvest.com). You also can purchase apples – and other fruits and vegetables – every Sunday through October at the Gettysburg Farmers’ Market, or take a drive eight miles west of Gettysburg to the Historic Round Barn and Round Barn Farm Market, one of the few round barns left in America. The Farm Market sells apples, pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn. Also in the area is Hollabaugh Bros. Fruit Farm & Market, nine miles north of Gettysburg, which grows fresh fruits and vegetables and offers orchard tours where visitors can learn about apple harvesting and pick a bag of apples to take home (www.hollabaughbros.com).
Of course, no trip to Gettysburg would be complete without a visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park. The National Park Service, which has cared for the Gettysburg National Military Park since 1933, recommends at least four hours here, although an entire day would allow you to really see everything offered. The National Park Visitor Center hosts a large museum of Civil War relics and the adjacent Cyclorama Center has an enormous painting of the Battle of Gettysburg. Also, don’t miss The Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg, final resting place of the thousands of soldiers who died during the three-day battle and the site of Lincoln’s famous “Gettysburg Address,” on Nov. 19, 1863.
Those looking to “hit the links” won’t be disappointed with a trip to Gettysburg either. The area has many beautiful golf courses, including The Links at Gettysburg, Quail Valley Golf Club and Carroll Valley Resort, which also has a hotel for overnight stays.
Well, it sounds like with all this to offer, a daytrip to Gettysburg won’t do. Although conveniently located only 54 miles from Baltimore, why not make a weekend out of it by staying at a historic hotel or bed and breakfast? Hickory Bridge Farm (hickorybridgefarm.com) sits nine miles west of Gettysburg and offers relaxing accommodations and country dining in a 180-year-old barn. Also nearby is the historic Cashtown Inn (circa 1797), James Gettys Hotel (circa 1804), the Herr Tavern & Publick House (circa 1815) and the Lightner Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast (circa 1862).
For more information to plan your trip to Gettysburg and for a complete list of events, visit www.gettysburgcvb.org.