Sometimes the best part of traveling is the memories you bring home with your family when you learn about your nation’s history. We’ve partnered with adventure, culture, and smart-luxury traveler, Dr. Cacinda Maloney from the blog Points and Travel as she reflects on past family experiences involving American history.
Children begin to learn about American history in elementary school. From Native Americans and early European explorers to the Revolutionary War and the birth of a nation, they piece together historical events to understand their country’s struggles. It can get confusing though, all those names and dates and events. A great way to teach children their nation’s narration is by showing them where events took place.
Family Travel Magical History Tour: Boston
Begin by walking the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail marked by a red line that weaves through the city to 16 historic sites. Make stops at Paul Revere’s house, the Old South Meeting House where the Boston Tea Party was organized and Old South Church where lanterns were hung to tell Paul Revere and William Dawes “One if by land, and two if by sea.” Step aboard the USS Constitution that was launched in Boston in 1797 making it the oldest commissioned warship afloat. Visit the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill that took place June 17, 1775; the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. Just off the trail is The Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum for an even more vivid understanding of events leading up to war between the colonies and England. A half hour northwest of Boston is the site of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War took place here April 19, 1775, only weeks before the Battle of Bunker Hill. Concord is a lovely community with tree-lines streets, excellent restaurants, and quiet little locally-owned shops. Concord was also home to authors Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau.
Family Travel Magical History Tour: Philadelphia
It’s easy to navigate Philadelphia’s historic district where patriots met and discussed mounting problems with England, dined at City Tavern, lived and worked. The best place to begin a visit is Independence Visitor’s Center located at 6th and Market Streets. Here pick up free timed-entry tickets to tour Independence Hall (March through December) and ask park rangers questions about the area. Independence Hall, where the rebellion against England was debated and ultimately where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed, should be first on your to-see list. Next, cross the street and visit the Liberty Bell Pavilion. Franklin Court offers a great understanding of Benjamin Franklin — philosopher, author, inventor, publisher, and statesman. In the courtyard is a ghost house representing where his house stood. A museum is filled with Franklin’s possessions and inventions.
Visit the President’s House Site, where both George Washington and John Adams spent most of their presidencies before the White House was built in Washington, D.C. There’s also the Declaration House where Jefferson lived while drafting the Declaration of Independence, National Museum of American Jewish History, African-American Museum in Philadelphia, Carpenters’ Hall where the First Continental Congress met in 1774, Betsy Ross House and Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in America. Every building, every block, and every street bring to life our nation’s beginnings.
Family Travel Magical History Tour: Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is a destination for looking at the past and hoping for the future. It’s hard to drive in the city with its confusing streets and heavy traffic, and nearly impossible to find a parking spot. The best way to see many of the most-visited sites is on a tour. Old Town Trolley Tours, for example, offers three different tours with hop-on and hop-off privileges. The best place to start is the National Mall. The National Park commonly refers to West Potomac Park to the west and the entire area between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol as the mall. Monuments and memorials help prompt conversations about the important roles men played throughout the centuries including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Ulysses S Grant Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Washington, D.C. is also a destination to honor the sacrifices of the men and women who fought for our nation including the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A World War I memorial is being planned. There are also 14 Smithsonian Institute museums at or near the National Mall including Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum and American History Museum. By studying what each museum offers, you can gauge which ones children will enjoy the most.
Planning Your Family Travel Magical History Tour
Make sure to involve children in the planning by ordering visitors’ guides and brochures. They know what they are studying in school and what they’d like to see. A great way to get from Boston to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. is on Amtrak. By taking the train, you can also make stops in other cities along the way including Newport, New York, and Baltimore. Or fly into Boston and rent a car, driving the 450 miles south to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and flying home from D.C.
History can come alive. Visiting these cities can be the framework of a great family vacation.
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