Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was Supreme Allied Commander, war general, president of Columbia University and ultimately 34th president of the United States, lived in over 40 different homes before finally retiring in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1961. Eisenhower studied the Civil War and had spent time training soldiers at Camp Colt in Gettysburg during World War I. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, purchased the 187 acre complex in 1950 and used the home as a “weekend White House” and for an extended time when Eisenhower recovered from a heart attack in 1955. The Eisenhower National Historic Site, now part of the Gettysburg National Military Park, has been open to visitors since 1980 and almost every artifact in the home is authentic to the Eisenhower family. The home reflects the everyday living of the Eisenhower family in the 1950s and 1960s.
Traveling with Kids:
Timed tickets must be purchased online or at the Visitor Center for the Gettysburg National Military Park. Visitors must take a bus from the Visitor Center to and from the home. The bus ride lasts ten minutes and has some automated narration.
Plan on a 90-120 minute visit (including travel time). Buses run every half hour.
Parking and dining facilities are located in the Visitor Center of the Gettysburg National Military Park.
Wear sneakers as visitors are able to walk the grounds, which may be muddy due to weather.
The first floor of the main house is handicap accessible. Avoid bringing the stroller. Younger children will enjoy roaming freely on the grounds and there is plenty of open space.
The Reception Center includes a brief film about the family, narrated by Walter Cronkite, restrooms, and the chance to collect National Parks passport stamps. Children can also complete a Junior Ranger Secret Service Agent booklet to earn a badge- it’s definitely one of the most engaging junior ranger booklets we have completed!
The tour is mainly self guided (make sure to grab a Home Guide), but a volunteer will offer some background information and anecdotes about the family. There is also an audio tour option, which includes several outdoor areas.
While touring the home and grounds, have kids play “I Spy” for the following ten unique things:
1. Black angus cattle roaming the grounds- Eisenhower’s original cattle won over 300 ribbons in competitions (although he entered them under different names to avoid any favoritism).
2. Helicopter landing space– Eisenhower was the first US President to use a helicopter.
3. Two golf carts, a 1955 Crown Imperial limousine, and a 1965 Buick station wagon driven by Eisenhower, who earned his driver’s license at the age of 70! Eisenhower was known to drive the golf cart to pick up visit from the helicopter landing area and then give them a tour around the property.
4. Putting green behind the Reception Center- Eisenhower was an avid golfer.
5. Guest book inside the main entrance to the home- Mamie insisted every visitor sign the guestbook every time he or she came to the house. Her grandchildren often tried to sneak into the house before she could make them sign the book.
6. The 1950s television in the “porch” where the family often ate dinner and watched tv. Eisenhower preferred Westerns and Mamie loved soap operas.
7. Italian marble fireplace in the living room- it was originally in the White House in the 1800s and later given to the Eisenhowers as an anniversary gift from the Eisenhower White House staff.
8. Mamie’s pink bathroom and pink master bedroom– guess what her favorite color was?
9. Kitchen– Home and Gardens magazine profiled the kitchen as the “modern kitchen for the 1950s”
10. Bell displayed outside the back of the house. It was a gift from the San Francisco Railroad Company and was used as a decoration, although Mamie had the clacker removed out of fear the grandchildren would make too much noise ringing it!
We love visiting the homes of presidents, and to date have visited over two dozen presidential sites. Check out adventures at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Theodore Roosevelt’s Inaugural National Historic Site, and presidential libraries.
Disclosure: My family was given a media pass to visit the site. All opinions expressed are my own.