August 16, 2011
A new school year is beginning and families across America are saying goodbye to the last weeks of summer. While most families will have less time to spend together and travel, many parents try to find a way to stay actively engaged in their children’s lives, especially when it comes to supporting their academic pursuits. This usually translates to organizing carpools to and from school and volunteering for field trips but it can also mean planning a fantastic family vacation that makes learning fun! With time off coming up over the labor day weekend, Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s a great time to consider visiting some of America’s most historically rich, family-friendly destinations.
When it comes to history, adventure, excursions and even great food, what better place could there be to visit than our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.? The city is actually very clean downtown, despite the huge number of tourists who visit every day. Some noteworthy spots include:
- The White House – check out the president’s lawn and maybe catch a glimpse of the Commander-in-Chief himself!
- National Archives and Records Administration – see the original copies of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence!
- The Smithsonian – incredible American and Native American history, the National Zoological Park and so much more!
- The National Mall – this open-area national park houses some of the district’s most popular landmarks, memorials, monuments and museums.
- U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum – while somber, families can learn about the history of how the Jewish population was targeted during World War II.
Virginia is absolutely overflowing with historical sites. Take the family to some of the very first settled areas in North America by visiting the Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg triangle. There is a lot to see and do so it’s best to plan to dedicate at least two days to visiting the sites (and for a break, head over to the nearby Busch Gardens/Water Country). Fans of Disney movies might be interested to know that Pocahontas was from this area!
- Jamestown became America’s first permanent English colony in 1607 and, today, visitors can visit the museum and experience the recreated Powhatan Indian village and other notable sites.
- Yorktown Victory Center allows families to see the where the Americans, British and French battled it out during the Revolutionary War.
- Colonial Williamsburg is incredibly cool since families can stroll along the roads and see original buildings in the town and go on guided tours of the College of William and Mary and other notable structures. Feeling courageous? After the sun goes down, head out on one of the ghost tours!
The City of Brotherly Love is a favorite among history lovers and who wouldn’t want to visit the hometown of Rocky Balboa? Aside from running up the steps and checking out the statue commemorating Rocky’s big moment, families can head to some truly historic hot spots.
- Independence Hall – see where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution came into existence!
- The Liberty Bell – the bell was rung to mark the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776 and later became a symbol for abolitionist societies.
- U.S. Mint – observe the present state of coin manufacturing as well as the history of the Mint. They might make money but they don’t take it. The tours are free!
- Pennsylvania Hospital – Benjamin Franklin helped create the country’s first hospital in 1751. The facility houses the first surgical amphitheater and the first medical library!
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Heading someplace warm to escape the winter chill? The sand and surf isn’t the only amazing thing to see while vacationing in Hawaii! Oahu is a beautiful island filled with gorgeous vegetation, incredible beaches and delicious food but it also is the location of one of the most important historical sites in the country.
- The American naval base at Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. The attack was shocking, leaving more than 3,500 Americans dead or wounded, and was the catalyst for the United States’ involvement in World War II.
- The Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum and Visitor Center – purchase tour tickets and watch a 23-minute documentary about the attack.
- The USS Arizona Memorial is built above the original USS Arizona and marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors killed on the sunken vessel.
New Orleans, Louisiana
With its broad cultural diversity, delicious Creole fare, jazz music and historic quarters, New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in North America. There is something to do around every corner in this Louisiana destination.
- St. Louis Cathedral – the oldest continuously operated cathedral in the United States.
- Hurricane Katrina might be modern history but the devastation it left behind will linger in history books for years to come. Families can tour the destroyed areas and witness the restoration progress first-hand.
- Jackson Square – jazz lovers will love the music and kids will enjoy the street performers and face painting!
- French Quarter – the most popular destination for visitors is also the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. The area has more of its buildings declared as National Register Historic Places than any other city in America.