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DC Day Trip: Gettysburg

Book a Guided Walking Tour

For Civil War buffs, visiting the Gettysburg battlefield is a must. About a two-hour drive from D.C., a visit to the town and battlefield can make for a great day trip.

Use this guide for more information on planning your day trip from D.C. to Gettysburg.

Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, which took place July 1-3, 1863. It would provide the inspiration for President Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.

  • Getting To Gettysburg
  • What to See
  • Gettysburg Tours

Getting to Gettysburg:

Take 1-66 West to George Washington Parkway, I-495 N, and I-270 for 47.5 miles to US-15 N. Take US-15 N 37 miles to PA-116 W in Gettysburg. You will pass into the greater battlefield, which surrounds the town of Gettysburg.

You can also use Viator to book excursions from Washington D.C. to Gettysburg, which will take care of several aspects of the trip for you.


What to See at Gettysburg:

The Gettysburg National Military Park is open daily. You can enter 30 minutes before sunrise and stay until 30 minutes after sunrise. You can plan your trip by visiting: https://sunrise-sunset.org/us/gettysburg-pa

The park is free to enter, though you can pay to get licensed battlefield guides.

The Museum Visitor’s Center is open 8 am to 5 pm from March 1st through October 31st. It has a reduced schedule for the rest of the year and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, with an early 1 pm closing on Christmas Eve.

While you are there, make sure to see the Gettysburg Cyclorama, an impressive and fascinating visual recreation of the battle. The Visitor’s Center is free to enter, but some experiences within, including the Cyclorama do have a fee.

The Gettysburg National Cemetery is open daily from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. There is no fee, and you can drive through the cemetery.

Other historical sites that are also worth a visit are the David Wills House (where Lincoln stayed) and the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station. Admission to the David Wills House is free.

The Eisenhower National Historic Site is another National Park Service location, adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield. The President and First lady used this preserved farmhouse as an escape from Washington D.C. in the hot days of the Cold War. Self Guided tours of the grounds are free.

Other Things to See in Gettysburg:

For something a little different, check out Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum. It’s not every day you’ll see Civil War battles recreated in miniature…with cat soldiers.

Grab a bite to eat. You might be hungry after walking around the battlefield, so check out some of the local spots. Hunt’s Battlefield Fries is a great place to get a burger and fries.

You can also select from more than 60 types of bottled soda, including various regional favorites from around the country.

Maybe you want to cool down with some ice cream. Try Mr. G’s Ice Cream for some tasty, handmade ice cream. Another option is Food 101, which serves specialty pizza and sandwiches.


Gettysburg Tours:

Gettysburg is rich in history and while visitors can check out many sites on their own, we recommend taking a guided tour!

Take a Ghost Tour

There are many tours offered by a number of tour companies that focus on the supernatural and macabre. These tours are very popular, even outside of the traditional Halloween season.

Hire a Licensed Battlefield Guide

You can hire Battlefield guides for your family or large groups through the Gettysburg Foundation. It’s a great way to learn about the history of the site with a more personal touch.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: November 2nd, 2022
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