Those of you who know me well are aware of my penchant for American history. One area in particular would be the American "Civil War" as it is popularly known. Lancaster PA happens to be within driving distance of several key historic sites, principal of which would be Gettysburg National Military Park. My two boys and I paid a visit to the brand-new Visitor Center last Saturday in a steady downpour - but the place was packed all afternoon. Here's my take:
The building and grounds are very nice (with the exception of the stormwater runoff - drains were clogged around the grounds - can't help myself - I'm a Realtor after all). I like the styling of the cyclorama building resembling the famous "Round Barn" nearby in Adams County, PA.
We were there right up until sunset so I got a nice shot of the Center with the lights coming on...
The inside is spacious compared to old Gettysburg Visitors Center, and looks like their promises of using environmentally-friendly materials was true - lots of nice touches throughout. We paid ($7.50 for adults, kids over 5 were $5.50) and went into the museum portions.
The museum itself is a vast improvement over the old setup, and the exhibits and flow through the galleries was first-class with two relatively annoying issues: Everything seemed to be sponsored by the History Channel, and (for those closely in tune with the antebellum period) the over-emphasis on slavery as the cause of the war (there were other important factors that received little or no attention).
The museum was only mildly crowded but still there were a few "choke points" were people stood to watch a video and others couldn't get through. Still needs a bit of work, in my humble opinion.
The movie in the main theater was OK (narrated by Morgan Freeman - sigh) and rehashed much of the images and phrases from the museum. Wasn't really worth the price of admission - but the centerpiece of the Gettysburg Visitor Center is the fully-restored Cyclorama of the Battle of Gettysburg, created in the late 1800's and just as amazing today as it was when unveiled to actual battle of Gettysburg veterans at the turn of the century (it made them weep).
They have done an AWESOME job with the restoration and are to be commended. This makes the admission and trip worth every penny! The viewing was over all too soon. I was struck by how easily an 1800's "multimedia" presentation kept up with all the 21st century stuff in the museum next door.
We left the center at sunset and just HAD to drive through the battlefield - I had heard about the tree removal in progress near Devils Den and the Slaughter Pen. We stopped there after cruising Cemetary Ridge...
We took a dusk walk through Devils Den before grabbing a bite downtown Gettysburg and heading for Lancaster and home.
If you get a chance, the new Gettysburg Battlefield Visitors Center is worth the day trip - the Cyclorama alone is worth it. My boys & I took yet another trip through the history of our country and how men shaped it's destiny on the fields of south central Pennsylvania...