Philadelphia, Baltimore, & Civil War Sites

Jul 31st, 2003, 07:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Philadelphia, Baltimore, & Civil War Sites

My daughter and I are history/Civil War buffs and have planned the following 5 day trip - we are leaving the Tuesday after Labor Day so hopefully tourist season will be winding down. Any comments or suggestions for maximizing the time we have to spend would be welcome.

Tuesday - arrive in Baltimore at 9:25 AM. Drive to Philadelphia. Spend the night at the Hampton Inn on Race Street. Hope to have enough time to visit the Constitution Center and Independence National Historic Park. Will we have time to visit any other sites? What is the easiest way to get around - I plan to park my car at the hotel?
Wednesday - Drive to Gettysburg and spend the day and night there. The AAA map I have shows the best route as I-76 to 222 to 30. Is this the fastest route? Will we be able to see the major sites at Gettysburg in one day? If not, which should we concentrate on visiting?
Thursday - Travel from Gettysburg to Antietam, on to Harpers Ferry, and then through Leesburg to Manassas, spending the night in Manassas. Will we have time to see the major sites at each of these locations? If not, what are the must-see sites and what should we skip?
Friday - Travel from Manassas to Woodlawn and then to Mt. Vernon. We have also considerd visiting Gunston Hall instead of Mt. Vernon. Have been to Mt. Vernon before, but we were on a tour with a limited time and did not get to tour the entire estate since we had to wait so long to go through the mansion. How long should we plan to spend at Woodlawn? Is Gunston Hall worth exchanging for Mt. Vernon, or could we do all three in one day? Upon leaving this area we will be traveling to Baltimore to spend Friday night at the Inner Harbor. How long will the trip take? What is the best route? We will have the entire day in Balitmore. Return flight doesn't leave until 7:30 PM. Planning to visit the aquarium and take the water taxi to Fort McHenry and other historic sites. Will these plans take up our day, or should we plan to visit other sites?
Any help with planning this trip would be greatly appreciated. Would like to have more time, but 5 days is the best we can do.
mlm59 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2003, 08:34 PM
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I would suggest that you go yo and and enter your starting and ending points for each segment to get an idea of travel time.

Keep in mind that you will be in heavy traffic from Leesburg to Manassas, from Manassas to Woodlawn/Mt Vernon area and from Mt Vernon to Baltimore.

You should easily be able to do Woodlawn, Mt Vernon, and Gunston Hall in one day. Try to visit the famed Pohick Church on route 1 in that area. 15-20 minutes should do it. Confederate soldiers carved their initials on the inside of the door.

It will be about 1 1/2 hours to Baltimore. If you finish up at Mt Vernon, Take the parkway north to the beltway.
ronkala is offline  
Jul 31st, 2003, 09:46 PM
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Let me start out by saying I'm not a history buff so I'm not a good guage for judging how much time you need to cover a destination.

That said, I think your Thursday plan is overly ambitious. Travelling to and seeing Antietam, Harpers Ferry, Leesburg and Manassas is going to entail at least 4 hours of driving time. The closer you get to the DC metro area the more likely you are to find yourself embroiled in traffic. Alas, it's not a minor consideration.

On Friday, I wouldn't substitute Gunston Hall for Mt. Vernon. Both are fine properties (tho Mt. Vernon excels) but a trip to Gunston Hall means using I95 or Rt 1 which are heavily travelled commuter routes. If you were starting out and staying in the Mt Vernon area I'd say all 3 sites were doable in a day. But Alexandria to Baltimore on a Friday afternoon/evening will be daunting.

Sounds like a fun trip and the crowds should be diminished afer Labor Day.
obxgirl is online now  
Jul 31st, 2003, 10:21 PM
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I only have info on Gettysburg...we have been twice in the last two years. You will get a terrific tour with a guide from the visitors center...the guide will drive your car and give you more information than you can take in the two hour tour...very comprehensive and excellent. You will then have plenty of time to explore the site and town on your own. You can make reservations for the tour or just arrive at the visitors center and arrange a time for that day.
karenabs is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 06:43 AM
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As you don't indicate any accommodations in the Gettysburg area, may I suggest inquiring at the Doubleday Inn. ( Located on Oak Ridge in the heart of the July 1st. action, this lovely B&B will help you maximize your limited time in the park.

Like obxgirl, I believe that your itinerary for Thursday is way too ambitious. I would suggest trying to obtain accommodations for that evening at Piper's Farm on the Antietam battlefield (Longstreet's headquarters) by contacting the NPS. That would give you the ability to drive down to Harpers Ferry where you could visit the NPS sites there and have lunch in town before heading over to Antietam. If you cannot obtain a room at Pipers Farm, you could do the battlefield first and then head down to Harper's Ferry where you could spend the night. If you have your heart set on doing Balls Bluff and Manassas, you'll have to sacrifice your current plans for either Friday or Saturday. To add to your confusion, let me add that there's a great museum on Civil War medicine located in Frederick MD.
Retired_teacher is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 08:13 AM
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In terms of the Philadelphia part of your trip, I think that the National Constitution Center and Independence National Historic Park are all that you will have time for in one day. The best way to get to the historic area from your hotel is to take the Market-Frankford Subway eastbound and get off at 5th Street.
Jacksen is offline  
Aug 4th, 2003, 11:50 AM
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It sounds a little too agressive to me. I have been to Gettysburg (twice), Antietam (twice), Harpers Ferry, Philadelphia (work), and in the vacinity of Manassas. I am a history and Civil War buff. A lot of people tour Gettysburg in a few hours. You can do it in 4-5 hours, including some time at the visitor center exhibits and the cemetery. You can also easily spend 2-3 days at the battlefield. I would allow at least a full day. Plan to get there early. There is a lot to see because there are so many monuments - highlights are the Confederate state monuments on Seminary Ridge, Little Round Top, Devils Den, the Peach Orchard, and the site of Pickett's Charge. Most people can easily take in Antietam in 3-5 hours. It is more compact and requires less getting in and out of the car to really see the battlefield - highlights are Bloody Lane, including the tower for overall views of the battlefield, the Dunker Church, and Burnside Bridge. Harpers Ferry is only a few miles south of Sharpsburg (Antietam) and should take 30-45 minutes depending on travel. Harpers Ferry can get crowded on weekends.

At most, I would plan for Antietam and Harpers Ferry in a single day and leave Manassas for early the next day.

You might want to take a look at a new book that just came out - "Hallowed Ground" by James McPherson. One of the leading Civil War historians takes you on a tour of the Gettysburg battlefield. I have not read it yet but have seen it in bookstores. The more you know about the sights ahead of time, the more you can maximize the time you have.

I have a rapidly growing segment on my personal travel/photography site devoted to the Civil War - that will give an indication of what there is to see. You can also see photos by Jim Tardio at He recently finished a trip to PA, Baltimore, and Annapolis.

dan_woodlief is offline  
Aug 4th, 2003, 12:07 PM
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A thought on Friday. It sounds like you are spending the day in VA and then traveling to Baltimore Friday evening. Is that right? If so, may I strongly suggest doing this AFTER rush hour?

Honestly, it can take about 2 hours to get from DC to Baltimore at rush hour, and Mt. Vernon is south of DC. If you wait until after dinner, say 7pm or later, it should take about 1 1/2 hours, as someone else suggested.

Have fun!
kaudrey is offline  
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