Some people say you can do the park, visitor center, USS Cairo and cemetery in 2 hours- don't believe them. If you truly want to enjoy and understand this battle I suggest spending all day here. My family and I spent 6 hours here and we would have stayed for longer but the weather was chilly.
Start with the visitor center- there are some exhibits and a movie. The movie does a good job to give visitors an overview. However, it was clearly written by the North so take it with a grain of salt.
I suggest driving through the park, bring a picnic lunch and prepare to stop and get out. Some people hike it but for my family it made more sense to drive. The markers are very helpful to get an idea of how close both side were to each other. The monuments built by the states are very nice- Illinois, Texas and several others were especially impressive. Follow the road all the way around and listen to the free phone call service and/or read the pamphlet you can get from the visitor center.
I think the NPS has done an amazing job keeping the park a place for everyone to visit to learn more about the war and remember those who fought, regardless of which side.
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