Ways, places and best spots to tour in Gettysburg

Visitors view the High Water Mark from Seminary Ridge in the Gettysburg National Military Park May 31.
Visitors view the High Water Mark from Seminary Ridge in the Gettysburg National Military Park May 31. (DAVE MUNCH/TIMES PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

For those wishing to visit the Gettysburg battlefield this summer, be sure to have a licensed tour guide.

Katie Lawhon, the media representative for Gettysburg National Park, said licensed battlefield tour guides are the only people who can give tours to visitors on the battlefield, Lawhon said. Advanced reservations are recommended for tours.


There are 150 different licensed battlefield guides, in a highly competitive market, she said. There are about 15 openings to become a battlefield guide every two years. Both a written and practical exam are required to become a licensed battlefield guide, which can be challenging for people, she said.

Sometimes those who perform well at the written exam do not do well on the practical exam, which requires being able to make visitors comfortable, and be able to answer questions on a number of subjects, she said.


"If you have the book knowledge, translating that into a [typical] two-hour tour can be difficult," she said.

The guides first became regulated in 1916, Lawhon said. From 1895 until 1916, commercial tours varied widely in time, expertise and cost. An Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides helps to regulate it.

Lawhon said licensed battlefield tour guides are great for in-depth tours and that they often gear tours specifically toward what the visitors are interested in.

If a Gettysburg tour is not on the national park grounds, it is probably not being directed by a licensed tour guide, she said.

Below are some of the ways people can tour the battlefield this summer, with the help of a licensed tour guide.

By car
A privately guided tour of the battlefield from your car is available for a fee. A licensed battlefield guide will drive your car around the battlefield for a one- to two-hour tour. The tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis. To make an advance reservation, call 877-874-2478. Cost: $65, 1 to 6 people per vehicle; $95, 7 to 15 people per vehicle; $135, 16 or more people per vehicle

By bus
Several times a day, a licensed battlefield tour guide will lead a tour from a commercial bus. The buses leave from the Museum and Visitor Center, and tourists are able to get off the bus to check out the sites for several stops. Tickets for battlefield bus tours may be purchased at the ticket counter in the lobby of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Visit http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org/16 to reserve bus tickets online, or call 877-874-2478. Cost: $30, age 13 and older; $18, ages 6 to 12; free, children 5 and younger

By motorcycle
For those who travel to Gettysburg on their hogs, licensed battlefield tour guides are available through Gettysburg Motorcycle Tours as well. A two-hour tour describes the events leading up to the conflict and three days of war. The group travels by motorcycle and the guide stops at several locations to describe the battle chronologically. During Bike Week, from July 11 to July 14, tickets are $10 each. Advance reservations are highly recommended. Tickets are available at the tour tent at the Granite Hill camp grounds at 3340 Fairfield Road, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 10 to 11 a.m. on Sunday during Bike Week. For all other tours, advance reservations are required. Please allow 10 days for advance reservations and choose a tour date and starting time. Contact gettysburgtrips@embarqmail.com or 717-642-5444 to schedule a reservation. Cost: $75, groups of up to 15 people; $120, groups of 16 people or more

By bicycle
Gettysbike Tours uses licensed battlefield guides to provide a variety of tours around the battlefield and town of Gettysburg. The Yanks tour is the tour for those who aren't comfortable biking in the town or who don't want to bike as many miles, according to the website. The tour covers all the basics of the three-day battle and is approximately 7.5 miles in length. The tour is on National Parks roads almost the entire time, with one significant hill to Little Round Top. The Town tour is a 4.5 mile bike ride through the town of Gettysburg to look at original historic buildings, and learn about the civilian point of view from the battle of Gettysburg. The tour is not recommended for children under the age of 13, due to traffic. The Grand tour includes all three days of the battle, trips to the town, the first day's battlefield, and the Confederate lines. The tour is approximately 13 miles and requires trips through town traffic. It is strongly advised that children under the age of 13 do not go on the grand tour. The group also offers private and customized tours for additional fees. Call 717-752-7752 to arrange a private tour. Tourists can save $5 by bringing their own bikes, otherwise bikes will be provided. To learn more, and find specific tours geared toward the 150th Gettysburg event, visit http://www.gettysbike.com Cost: Yanks tour, $55; Town tour, $51; Grand tour, $71; Private tour, add $100 per group to the regular price; Customized tours, $100 per group and $25 per hour, per person; Group tours for 10 or more, call 717-752-7752 for a quote

By horseback
While there are several horseback tours around the Gettysburg area, the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides recommends the Artillery Ridge Horseback tours. The company has more than 32 years of experience, according to its website. Two-hour guided or narrated tours are offered twice a day by a licensed battlefield guide, that takes tourists from Union Cannon, to Little Round Top, Big Round Top, the Valley of Death, Pickett's Charge, the Confederate Battle Lines and many more sites. Tours begin at 9 a.m. and noon. There is a one-hour historical trail ride that includes a narrated tape tour of the surrounded area. The tape is performed by a licensed battlefield guide. Tours begin at 3 p.m., 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. There are also group tours, and private horse tours, that require reservations. To make a reservation email artilleryridge@comcast.net or call 717-334-1288. Cost: $80, two-hour tour; $50 one-hour tour

By carriage
The Victorian Carriage Company offers a carriage tour with a licensed battlefield guide around the battlefield of Gettysburg. Panoramic views of the battlefield are visible from Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield and right in front of Little Round Top. The tour accommodates 11 passengers in a comfortable carriage, and lasts for approximately two hours. To book online, visit http://www.victoriancarriagecompany.com, or call 530-535-8687. Cost: $69 to $74, adults; $64 to $69, military; $54 to $59, children ages 3 to 9

By scooter


Getty Peds offers two different kinds of tours by scooter. The Blue Battlefield Tour, which lasts two and a half hours, includes the first day's action at Gettysburg as well as Culp's Hill and Cemetary Hill. The Gray Battlefield Tour, which lasts three hours, includes battlefields and monuments from the second and third days of battle, including Cemetery Ridge, where Pickett's Charge took place. Allow three weeks to schedule a tour, according to the website. To schedule a tour online visit gettypeds.net/, or call 717-398-2600. Cost: Blue Battlefield Tour, $50 for scooter, $90 for coupe; Gray Battlefield Tour, $55 for scooter, $95 for coupe; for families, rent one scooter full price and get the second at $30. Rent one coupe at full price and get the second for $50.


By Segway
To visit the battlefield by Segway, the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides recommends Segtours. There are two tours for the western half of the battlefield which is excellent for an overview of Gettysburg. The tour is approximately three hours long including 30 minutes of training on how to use the Segway. The western tour visits all of the most famous sites, with an audio recording of a battlefield guide. A shorter tour is available on the east side of the battlefield. While many of the monuments are not as well known, it was the site of several pivotal engagements, according to its website. The tour is approximately two hours including 30 minutes of training. A live guide requires a reservation and is an additional $15 per person. To schedule a reservation, visit http://www.segtours.com, or call 717-253-7987. You must be 16-years-old to ride a Segway, and weigh at least 100 pounds. Cost: West battlefield tour, $70; East battlefield tour, $50

Recommended on Baltimore Sun