The Battle of Antietam in the Civil War was the deadliest day in US military history. Today the battlefield park is a beautiful setting of farms and rolling hills, set aside to educate and remember the 23,000 soldiers who were killed or wounded on that terrible day in history.
Antietam National Battlefield Park is located just north of Sharpsburg, MD near the West Virginia border. We decided
to take advantage of gorgeous June weather to spend the
day learning about some of our nation’s history with our 9
and 10 year old girls. As with all National Parks the best
place to begin is the Visitor’s Center.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Here we paid our $10 family entry fee, talked to the Rangers and picked up a map and packets for the Junior Ranger programs for the girls.
We have visited many National Parks and National Monuments and love the Junior Ranger programs. It gives kids something to focus on while touring the sites and helps them to learn a little history geared towards their age group and level. At Antietam, Junior Ranger packets were available for the age ranges of kids under 6, kids 6-8 and kids 9-12. Upon completion of the free packets you can turn it back in to the Ranger to receive Junior Ranger badges, patches and trading cards of historical sites.
While at the Visitor’s Center we toured the small museum and bookstore and then viewed the video to give us some background information on the war’s movement leading up to the battle and the timeline of events from September 16, 1862. The 27 minute movie plays continuously throughout the day on the hour and half hour.
TAKING A TOUR OF THE PARK
Using the park map and Junior Ranger activities as our guide we then headed out on the driving tour of the park. Eleven marked stops lead you through the events of that day with historical markers and monuments scattered throughout to help you piece together the history of the places you are visiting.
Highlights for our family were the cornfield (where much of the battle took place), the observation tower at Sunken Road and the walk down to Burnside Bridge on Antietam Creek. We spent about 3 hours in the park and could have stretched it longer by taking on some of the self-guided hikes and visiting the historical buildings. For families who are not taking advantage of the Junior Ranger program, another way to keep kids interested in the stops on the tour is by downloading the Battlefield Scavenger Hunt from the nps.gov website.
For extra kid-friendly value schedule a visit to Antietam on 21st Aug. Living history volunteers will present artillery firing programs at 11:00 and 1:00 by the New York State Monument next to the Visitor Center.The park also offers several ranger programs daily for those who prefer a live guide to just using the information on the map.
Antietam National Battlefield Park is open everyday except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and the roads remain open until sunset. You can extend your visit by including the Pry House Medical Museum on your tour. The museum has a separate $5 donation for entry.
Recommended Food and Drink in the Area
- Nutters Ice Cream Sharpsburg, MD – We didn’t get a chance to visit this spot but had read about it prior to our visit. We drove past the shop twice and both times there was a line out the door for this locally produced ice cream.
- Blue Moon Café – Shepherdstown, WV – We were ready for dinner before making the hour and twenty minute drive back to Silver Spring so headed 10 minutes west to the town of Shepherdstown in West Virginia. This little college town has coffee shops, craft brew and wine bars, several restaurants and access to the Potomac River. We ate at Blue Moon Café, which had outdoor seating, a unique kids menu and delicious food.
Photos by Kim Engstrom.