Similar to the general audio tours that can be purchased from just about any shop in Gettysburg, with two main differences. First, being that these podcasts are FREE, and can be listened to on any device that can play the mp3 file format. Second, these podcasts are more specialized giving an in depth look at particular areas of interest. Right now there are podcasts for; Little Round Top, Pickett's Charge, Devil's Den, and The Wheatfield. The catalog does seem to be growing. When I fist found these podcasts there were only two, Little Round Top and Pickett's charge.
I have tried out the Little Round Top podcast. The tour is about an hour long and is just as good as those given by guides. In fact it is narrated by a local ranger. It shows key places where fighting took place as well as giving a little look into the back story of General Mead. Well worth trying out.
All the podcast come with a down loadable companion map to better help understand what is being talk about.
Just like in any other city on street parking is a premium. If it is not hunting for a spot it is looking for change to feed the meters.
To avoid this I would suggest finding a place to park and walk around town instead it will save you a little money and a lot of aggravation.
There is a parking lot between the Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tours and the Jennie Wade house on Baltimore St., it's a large lot and it's free.
There are at least two ways to tour Gettysburg on your own. The intersection of Baltimore Street (Hwy-97) and Steinwehr Avenue (US-15) is not downtown but it is the center of a tourist area. If you stay in a hotel or B&B near this intersection you can walk to many attractions, including the Soldiers' National Cemetery and Annex, the Ginnie Wade House, the Soldiers' Museum, the Hall of Presidents, the American Civil War Museum (former Wax Museum) and the Lincoln Train Museum. The area is also one end of the Gettysburg Historic Walking Tour that has wayside markers downtown around Lincoln Square and along both sides of Baltimore Street until it reaches Steinwehr Avenue. The three travelogues describe what you can see while walking in these places.
Another way to tour on your own is to do the self-guided auto tour of the battlefield which has stops northwest and south of downtown (including the above-mentioned area). Get a brochure at the new visitors' center or there is an online PDF brochure. You may want to try the View Map button (which has zoom capability). There are three maps in the brochure: an annotated self-guided driving tour of the whole battlefield, a map of the area around the Soldiers' National Cemetery, and a Battle at a Glance map of all three days. The auto tour covers 24 miles and has 16 major stops; however, there are literally hundreds of other interesting places and memorials to see along the way.
My first trip here when I was young I remember going on a guided tour with my family and the guide told everyone that if you want to know at a glance if a general was killed, wounded, or made it through the battle unharmed look at the legs of the horse. One leg up referred to being wounded, two legs up and they had been killed during the battle, and all legs down was no injuries during the battle.
This all changed however when the monument for Lieutenant General James Longstreet was erected the guide said. He was not wounded during the battle but the artist did not want to have Longstreet in a static pose because he was always on the move right in the thick of things. His horse also has a look of terror in its eyes while Longstreet has a very composed and determined face.
In addition to being the location where the largest battle ever fought on American soil was, it was also here that in November of that same year, president Abraham Lincoln read the Gettysburg Address to those who were in attendance. Below is that most famous of speeches:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The National Military Park. Regardless of one's interest in history, the enormity of what occurred there hits like a steamtrain and stays forever.
Fondest memory: My best memory is when I took my mom, now deceased, to Gettysburg for the weekend as a birthday surprise a few years ago. I'll never forget her awe and excitement as she explored the park for the first time.
Favorite thing: If you are able to do this, I recommed walking from the museums toward the square into downtown. The reason being that on many of the houses, buildings and sites, there are signs or interpretive displays that tell what the role of these places was during the time of the Civil War. The walk is nice...there are a few hills, but you can incorporate a little shopping or browsing into this history lesson. It's much better than trying to drive down, say...Baltimore or Carlisle Streets.
Don't be surprised if you go in a place to eat dinner and you're seated next to a Confederate Soldier dining with a Union General. Or if you're walking down the street and have a question, just ask the guy in grey. OR if you're on the battlefield and people are camped our in civil war era tents. This is very common in Gettysburg as the re-enactors come every weekend when it's nice out. It used to be once in awhile, now it seems to happen all the time. During the big reenactments, Gettysburg gets so crowded, it's hard to find a hotel room for miles. If you're in town during one of them, check it out. If not, hang out with these guys...there are tents set up for general elections in the 1860s, church services with civil war music and themes, and people playing music everywhere. Just no gunfire on the streets, thankfully:)
Fondest memory: They used to frighten me. They were hairy.
While it's absolutely beautiful in the Spring and there are more festivals and special events then and in the summer, late summer and early fall are my favorite times to see Gettysburg. Why? Well, not only is this area well known for the Civil War battles that took place here, but they have a HUGE apple harvest. Pennsylvania is also great this time of year, it's not too terribly cold yet, the leaves are changing and what goes better with the colors of the leaves than apples and apple cider? NOTHING!
Fondest memory: Autumn. As a child, I remember going down here, getting the boxes of "Adams County" apples, kicking through the leaves, drinking fresh pressed cider, climbing the rocks at Devil's Den. Many of my fond memories of Gettysburg include my mom and grandmother--perfect times, perfect memories and wouldn't trade them for anything.
If you visit Gettysburg in the summer with young kids, try to come on a weekend. The Park invites carefully selected reenactors to stay and set up camp. These "living historians" will put on drill and firing demonstrations in period costume using authentic weapons. What is even better is these guys love to talk! Sometimes young children can be overwhelmed by the idea of a battle, but talking to a soldier, touching a hardtack biscuit, and smelling the black powder can make history very real.
Best of all, these demonstrations are free!
Get a map at the visitors center prior to visit the battlefield. The access is free. The park rangers or private guides can comment the visit. The park is crammed of statues, monuments and memorials put as landmarks to remember an event, a man or a regiment.
Fondest memory: The journey in the battlefield can be made partly by car.
Have a look at the exibit in the visitor center to see the weapons of both armies.
Fondest memory: Visit also the CYCLORAMA CENTER (adjacent to the visitor center), which contains a 360 degrees huge painting of the Pickett's charge. You will see an assault by foot by infantry (no cavalry !).
Open : 9:00AM to 5:00PM. Prive : 3$.
Attend the Electric Map which is an audio-visual presentation of the three days of battle. It also introduces the major combatants.
Fondest memory: The presentation lasts 30 mn and costs 3$.
The model on the photograph is on exibit in the visitors center : it is not the Electric map.
Review your history course if you are an American or look for information if you are a foreigner like me.
Fondest memory: Anyway, you must pass by the visitors center 97 Taneytown Road -
Open daily 8:00AM to 6:00Pm in Summer.
Tour the battlefield either with a guide or the auto tour. Don't miss the High Water Mark, Little Round Top/Devil's Den, or the Eternal Peace Light
Fondest memory: My friend, Jim, and I watched the sunset from the top of Little Round Top. It was absolutely glorious.