When planning what we wanted to see in Pennsylvania my Dad brought up Gettysburg. A quick look at a map confirmed it was very possible to alter our route to include a stop over to tour the the battle field area. When I am looking for options in a new to me area I browse through Tripadvisor to get some ideas. One of the top listed things to do was to book a battlefield tour with the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides. I also google for more information just to be sure its a good fit for our family.
One option is $30 a person riding the bus on a guided tour. That would have been $90 plus a tip for the 3 of us to cram on a bus with strangers for two hours. It works but I would rather have a smaller group. It is $55 for 1-6 people in your own car with a Licensed Battlefield guide.
You can either book by calling them directly in advance (717) 337-1709 or by visiting the National Park visitors center the day you want to tour to purchase a tour. Booking directly with the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides not only saves you a few dollars but also lets you customize your private tour. Do you want two hours or longer? Do you want the standard tour or is there something that specifically interests you? And by booking in advance you know you are guaranteed a tour! Over the summer they can be completely booked if you just hope to reserve a tour at the visitors center the day of your visit and there is a $10 surcharge if you book at the visitors center.
I called a couple of weeks in advance and left my information including my desired tour date and time with my phone number on their answering machine. A guide called me back, confirmed my information and asked me a few questions. I was told to pay the guide at the end of your tour when we were done. Just like that we were booked, very easy!
The morning of our Gettysburg visit was cold and very windy. So windy that several trees were down in town near the cemetery and there was no power at the visitors center. Our initial plan was to tour the visitors center at 8am and then meet our guide Bob at 9am. With no power we left the visitors center to tour the cemetery before meeting our guide.
It was freezing and we were dressed for cold but the wind was biting! We spent about 40 minutes viewing where Lincoln spoke and checking out the different monuments. While it was still snowing back in the Midwest spring was already in full bloom in Gettysburg!
We meet our guide at the designated spot at 9am. Even though the power was out the emergency lighting and toilets were still working at the visitors center so we stopped before our tour. We did not see facilities on our tour so use it before you go!
Our guide took over the driving and led us on a two hour chronological tour of the battles. He would point out what direction the south would advance from and what they encountered. Then show us what the north was trying to hold while waiting for reinforcements.Without a guide the battlefield looks like a bunch of monuments and stones. Spend the money and hire a guide, there is so much information you cannot gleam from a placard!
He would throw in tidbits about our state and the key players. Wow! He was a treasure trove of information and told us many things I had never heard before about how the weather played a role. He showed some of the remaining trenches and where some farms were burned down to prevent snipers.
Our two hours flew past and our guide ended back up at the visitors center. After thanking and tipping our guide we had a couple of places we wanted to drive back to and explore on our own like Devil’s Den.
More information on the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides can be found here: http://gettysburgtourguides.org/guided-tour-rates/