Most people think of visiting Gettysburg as a summer activity (or early fall at the latest). But Gettysburg is open in the winter, and the colder months can be the best time to visit this historic battlefield!
If the weather’s getting colder, don’t fret–you haven’t missed your chance to pay a visit to the most famous battlefield in America this year! The Gettysburg National Military Park is open year-round. The only things closed here are the Visitor Center and the Museum, closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. But the battlefield itself is open every single day of the winter season. The park hours in the winter are 6 am to 7 pm, which is slightly shorter than the summer hours, but you’ll still have plenty of time to see everything you want to see. Rangers don’t offer many tours during the winter, but if you pick up a self-guided driving tour of Gettysburg like this one, you’ll still get the full story of the battle without having to fuss with a fixed schedule.
Now, folks generally associate the Gettysburg Battlefield with the hot, humid days of summer, especially since the battle itself took place on the first three days of July in 1863. But, paradoxically, that’s also precisely what makes winter such a good time to visit Gettysburg. Why? Because there won’t be nearly as many people! There is so much in Gettysburg to do and to see, so the absolute last thing you want to be dealing with is traffic or big crowds of people at the essential destinations (or even the much-dreaded tour buses packed with as many people as they can fit)! Without all the swarms of people getting in the way, you can truly appreciate the landscape that Generals George Meade and Robert E. Lee studied when planning their attacks and defenses. Plus, a self-guided tour of Gettysburg can bring those hills and valleys to life with a dramatic rendition of this tumultuous battle.
Winter is also a spectacular time to make this journey if you’ve been to the battlefield before and want a different experience. Gettysburg in winter is a different experience from the same battlefield during the summer months. There’s a stillness in the air that’s hard to find in our modern age, which feels a lot like what the soldiers under Generals Meade and Lee might have felt during the tense hours before the battle began! If you’re fortunate, you might even see a dusting of snow transform this hallowed battleground into a sad, beautiful tribute to the men who gave their lives all those years ago. Having seen it once myself while taking this driving tour, it’s something to check off the Gettysburg to-do list!
Suppose you’re planning to visit in November, which the park technically considers winter. In that case, you’ll also have the chance to attend the annual Remembrance Day Illumination, one of the park’s most moving events. Volunteers lit candles on each of the 3,512 graves in Gettysburg and read out the names of each of the fallen soldiers. It’s a powerful, gripping tribute and an absolute must-see for anyone visiting the battlefield. And on top of that, it’s free to the public!
So don’t let a little cold weather dissuade you from visiting this iconic American battlefield. Grab a self-guided tour and get out there!