As road schoolers, we are always looking for awesome ways to expand upon our studies through our travels. Really, literally, any place we go has some amount of educational value. However, there are some places that are extra awesome for road schoolers! Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is one such place.
We had the pleasure of visiting Gettysburg with some friends at the beginning of the summer. We learned a lot, had an awesome time, and are here today to offer our top tips for your roadschool visit to the town.
Before you head to Gettysburg, we highly recommend brushing up on Civil War history. You could do this by reading books like If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War or by watching videos like this one. You don’t have to dive too deep, but try to get a good foundation.
We found that the visitor center at this particular NPS site was not very helpful for building that foundation unless you wanted to spend money on the movie, museum, and cyclorama painting. Since we weren’t keen on spending all that much money at the time, we might not have had a very good time if we hadn’t already had a good understanding of Civil War History. Thankfully, we have covered this subject at various times over the years and had the foundation we needed.
Once you arrive in Gettysburg, you may be wondering where to go. Below are the things we did while in the area, after which we felt that we’d accomplished quite a lot without overwhelming the kids. Of course, you could definitely add on more of the many Gettysburg attractions if you had more time and/or a bigger budget to work with.
See the Visitor Center
The first place we went was the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center. This was an odd NPS site because it is run by the National Parks Service in conjunction with the Gettysburg Foundation. This meant that things that would usually be free or included with our “America the Beautiful” pass cost money.
Things that cost money at this visitor center include:
- A movie
- A museum
- A cyclorama painting
- Guided tours of the battlefield
Without these things, there wasn’t a whole lot to see in the center. We did spend a few minutes looking at the very few free exhibits and chatting with a ranger, but this stop didn’t take long and I wouldn’t expect much from it in terms of helping you get a feel for the history of the place.
The next stop was the battlefield itself. The visitor center has maps for driving tours and you can pick and choose where you stop. There is some information that you can read at most stops, but we actually ended up looking up videos on YouTube about the various events in order to get a good grasp on them.
I learned later that there are Gettysburg “auto tour” apps that you can download in order to hear the story of what happened as you explore the place.
We also visited the David Wills House. This is part of the NPS site but is actually located in the town. It is one of the only things the park offers for free, so you can bet we took advantage!
The house is where Abraham Lincoln (as well as many others) stayed the night before his famous Gettysburg Address. Guests can walk through the house and read the information on the family that lived there, the other people who stayed in the house that night, Lincoln’s experience there, and the Civil War in general.
We found this to be a very informative place, and highly recommend checking it out while you’re in the area.
This is a must-do if you have young kids with you when visiting Gettysburg. While most of the history-related attractions in the town are geared toward adults and might come across as dry or boring to younger visitors, this museum was made with kids in mind. It gets the story of the battle across, but does so from a child’s point of view and uses hands-on activities to keep the kids engaged and interested.
We loved this museum. We took several kids between the ages 2–11, and every one of them had a good time.
Like most people, we visited Gettysburg to learn some Civil War history. What we didn’t expect was a wonderful history lesson on President Eisenhower.
The Eisenhower National Historic Site is located on the property that Ike and Mamie Eisenhower called home, and is just outside of Gettysburg. The National Parks Service offers fantastic and free guided tours of the Eisenhower house, which looks just like it did when the Eisenhowers were living there—colorful bathrooms and all!
Be aware that tours are only offered during the spring, summer, and fall, and even then only on certain days of the week. Additionally, nearby parking is very limited and fills up quickly, especially on the weekends. If you plan to visit on a Saturday or Sunday, we recommend paying for the shuttle from the Gettysburg Visitor Center. That said, we visited during the week and there was plenty of parking.
Because Gettysburg is a tourist attraction, the majority of the restaurants in the area are pretty pricey. This meant most of our meals were made in our RV. Still, we did manage to find some gems that you might want to try:
Gettysburger — This place serves up incredible hamburgers with interesting toppings. The burgers are huge and could easily be shared between two smaller eaters.
Lincoln Diner — This is just a diner with diner food, but the prices are unbeatable, especially for kids’ meals. If you’re looking to have a cheap meal as a family, this is your spot.
Perrydell Farm and Dairy — Okay, so this is technically outside of Gettysburg, but we had an awesome time here. We got delicious ice cream, petted some baby cows, and even saw the milking process in action.
We stayed at Gettysburg Farm RV Campground, which is part of the Thousand Trails system. There are also a few Encore parks nearby that are part of the Trails Collection, so if you have Thousand Trails, be sure to look into these options. Keep in mind that even if you don’t have a Thousand Trails membership, you can pay to stay in these campgrounds.
Besides the Thousand Trails and Encore parks, there are many camping options near Gettysburg. These include the lovely Gettysburg KOA, nearby boondocking in the Michaux State Forest, and even a couple of Boondockers Welcome options.
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About the author: Chelsea Gonzales
Chelsea has the amazing opportunity to take part in full-time RV living and traveling with her tiny tribe. She homeschools her five-year-old son as they travel, and takes full advantage of their unique situation by using the entire world as her son’s classroom. A group of total Disney fanatics, Chelsea and her family often find themselves in the Orlando area in order to visit the Disney parks, but they have also visited over 25 of the 50 states with plans to see many more along the way. No matter where her travels take her, Chelsea enjoys riding bikes, gazing at beautiful sunsets, finding new coffee shops, Irish dancing, and sitting around a campfire with her family.
You can join her adventures through her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander.
Edward K. ~ “When I called in I had a flat tire on my RV. I didn’t think I was going to get service as fast as I did. Mary was quick to help. Offered assistance right away. It was reassuring to know I was going to be taken care of.“