Gettysburg Tips and Etiquette

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If you’ve got a bent for American history, the nation’s best-known battlefield can make for an enlightening – and entertaining – family trip. Thinking of visiting the national park in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania? Here are some tips to ensure you and the kids get the most out of Gettysburg.

Get tour savvy

To tour the Gettysburg battlefield, our family opted for the car audio tour, but I wish I’d known about another option – licensed battlefield guides!

At $55 for a two-hour tour, a licensed guide will drive your car for you and personalize your tour. These guides undergo a rigorous testing program, involving both a written and oral exam, to make sure that they not only know their history, but also can present it in an engaging way.

If you call in advance, you can make specific requests for your tour. Even if you walk in and request a LBG at the Visitor’s Center, the guide will still take time to ask your interests and even do a little research before taking you on your tour.

Visit the Gettysburg Daily for more information. Even if you skip an LBG, you can still benefit from a guide’s insights. We tapped licensed battlefield guide, Phil Lechak, to answer a few questions about visiting the site. (Read on for his tips!)

Beat the crowds

What are some of the least busy times of the year to visit Gettysburg? As you might expect, it’s absolutely jammed the Fourth of July weekend. But some less busy periods are in April, the last two weeks of August, and late October – which is beautiful, since the leaves are changing colors.

Behavior tips

Is there any sort of battlefield etiquette? Don’t climb on the cannons, Lechak says – and in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery you should be respectful. But it’s not like you have to be silent on the rest of the battlefield.

"Yes, something very bloody happened here and we wouldn’t want folks flying a kite, but there’s plenty of open area," Lechak notes. "Parents shouldn’t feel like they have to keep kids on a short leash. Kids can run around and enjoy the outdoors, too."

Character chat

Is it OK to talk to the Civil War re-enactors? They seem to be everywhere!

"When they’re doing demonstrations, no," says Lechak. "But other times, feel free to talk to them. They’re very approachable and they love to talk to kids."

Michigan troops

Here’s a little trivia on the Michigan troops at Gettysburg to get you going, courtesy of licensed Gettysburg battlefield guide Phil Lechak:

  • 7 infantry units = 2,250 foot soldiers
  • 1 battery/artillery (cannon unit) = 120 men
  • 4 cavalry regiments = 2,300 men
  • Total = 4,670 men
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