Travel shouldn’t be only about moving from one place to another, while killing time by staring blankly out of a car or an airplane window. It should be about adventure and learning something new and exciting. Think up some fresh family vacation ideas, especially when you take your kids with you. Try to create an itinerary whereby the places you visit have some educational and entertainment value. Renting the right vehicle is vital, so the trip is comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.
Show your kids national historic landmarks. Teach them those important facts of American history that will stir their belonging and patriotism.
After all, what better way to learn the basics about the Civil War, for example, than to visit the actual battlefields?
The Antietam National Battlefield
Southerners also call it the Battle of Sharpsburg because it took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek. This major combat in the American Civil War fell on Sept. 17, 1862, and it was the first to be led on Union territory. It is often referred to as the bloodiest battle in American history, for after 12 hours of an uninterrupted offensive, 23,000 soldiers were killed or went missing. In the end, the Confederate troops withdrew and Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, preventing the British and the French from recognizing the Confederacy.
Also, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, houses 21 original Civil War photographs documenting the Battle of Antietam. Mathew Brady, considered to be the father of photojournalism, took them in 1862.
The Plimoth Plantation
There is no better place to go back in time and get a feel of how it all started. Plimoth Plantation offers a glimpse of the first original settlement, established in 1627 by English colonists. It is locаted in Plymouth, Massachusetts and it has gradually been recreated using facts from period paintings, artifacts and personal accounts as well as first- and secondhand records. To make the experience vivid and real, the museum employs interpreters who dress, act and speak as people did several centuries ago. They address visitors in the first person and are ready to answer questions as well as demonstrate skills in blacksmithing, animal husbandry, cooking and planting. If you take your kids there, check the Parent’s Guide on the museum’s website to find out about all the fun things you can do together.
The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
One of the greatest American protests of all time, the Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773 and it jump-started the American Revolution. The Colonists wanted the same rights as true Englishmen and objected to being taxed without representation in the English parliament. And when one shipment of tea reached the Boston shores with an imposed tax the Americans had not authorized, the demonstrators destroyed the entire supply by dumping it in the water.
So this floating Boston museum is a treat for the entire family. Today, you can explore authentically restored tea ships; meet the colonists (role-playing actors) or dump tea overboard just like the Sons of Liberty did 240 years ago. If you have the chance, visit the museum on December 16 because the whole event will be reenacted, and it’s spectacular.
Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois
This isn’t Abraham Lincoln’s birth house, but it’s the first one he ever owned. He lived there with his wife Mary Todd from 1844 to 1861, before becoming the 16th president of the United States. It contains 12 rooms on two floors. The presidential memorial includes also the four blocks surrounding the house and a visitor center. Back in 1887, Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln donated the property to the State of Illinois on condition that it would be open to the public free of charge and well-maintained at all times. Some other properties on that four-blocks perimeter are also preserved and open to visitors. The exhibits embody the spirit of the times and the life of Lincoln and his neighbors.
The Wild West is a big part of American history, and it is strictly unique to this country. Probably the best place to take your kids to experience the murky times of when the gold rush was big is Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center of the West. So many things could be seen and touched at the five museums comprising the center. The kids could play cowboy or cowgirl, learn facts about the wild Buffalo Bill; collect information about Native Americans and the early ways of ranching. Nearby is the Old Trail Town where authentic Western buildings and cabins bear the spirit of times long gone, but a significant part of American history nevertheless.