Circling – perhaps avoiding – Gettysburg for a lifetime because the battles don’t intrigue me shortchanged a lot of family conversations and personal contemplation. Should have gone sooner. By delaying, I denied us new thoughts to absorb: the osmosis of travel.
This Pennsylvania town population 8,000 or so is a glorious destination I figured out in the early autumn.
Go if you must for the 150th commemoration of the three-day battle that everyone says greatly influenced the Civil War. The 2013 schedule of sesquicentennial activities is long and thoughtful. That will be travel to participate in history.
Go another time, any other time, and connect with the mothers and wives of the soldiers, the little children and their neighbors.
Here are a few family travel ways to experience Gettysburg instead of, or in addition to the battlefields:
Shriver House Museum on Baltimore Street portraying the real-life experiences of 27-year-old Hettie Shriver and her daughters Sadie, age 7, and Mollie, 5, as the soldiers arrived July 1, 1863 on their street, all over their town, eventually in their house.
Baladerry Inn Civil War hospital on the edge of the battlefield, now a bed and breakfast inn. My room was in a new wing, but you can ask for a bedroom in the original upstairs. Musing at the front door, standing on the original wood floors, considering the wounded brought here. Powerful connection to realities of war without being in the battle place. Three-course breakfast too—hand-crafted, personal recipes from proprietor Judy Caudill.
Seminary Ridge Museum Be the first because this opens July 1 for the Sesquicentennial, possible soft opening in the spring. Art, music, films, voices, diaries, interactive exhibits: four stories in a totally renovated historic building devoted to telling the stories of the people, all the people, in 1863, and beyond. Anticipate conversations about history and religion never before possible.
Balance Civil War sensibilities with some patriots at the Dobbin House Tavern. That means excellent dining in a 1776 environment, the year this oldest house in Gettysburg was built. Counterpoint to the Civil War.
Fine travel recommendations for all ages with the Cyclorama, Military Park and museum, Cyclorama, diorama, bookstores, monuments and more, but that’s a different approach.
Christine Tibbetts is a University-trained journalist with 40+ years experience. She travels with and without her family of six children (birthed and inherited with marriage), dozen grandchildren gained the same way, and her husband of 34 years. Follow her as Blended Family Mom.