As I stated in my review of Yellowstone last year, national parks are wonderful places to combine history education with outdoor activities. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many families are not able to travel to the best known national parks this year. However, right now is the best time to begin planning for summer 2021. Many of the hotels, restaurants, and activities sell out 9-12 months in advance so you will want to start planning your dream trip today!
One way to learn more about the history of the Civil Rights struggle in America is to visit the moving National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The museum is built beside the preserved Lorraine Motel, which was where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his last night. The museum is an important and must-see site for families, especially with the current challenges facing our country. Read my new review today!
Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, VA is a place with a storied history that dates back to the beginning of America. It was on these grounds that the first enslaved African-Americans came to the English colonies in 1619. This site was also known as “Freedom’s Fortress” during the Civil War, as thousands of contraband slaves who made it to its walls were given their freedom by Union Gen. Benjamin Butler. 155 years ago this month, it served as the prison for the former Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. The fort continued to be used by the military for another 140 years before being decommissioned in 2011. Today, the fort’s lovely grounds and buildings are open to visitors, including the Casemate Museum where Davis’ jail cell was located. It makes for a fun day trip, even in the midst of the pandemic closures. Read my new review today!
155 years ago, the United States was in turmoil. President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated, his killer, John Wilkes Booth, was on the run, and some Confederate forces had not yet surrendered. While Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox effectively ended the Civil War, there were still soldiers in North Carolina and in states and territories out west that didn’t lay down their arms until weeks or even months after Appomattox. Not only was North Carolina a pivotal place in these last few weeks of the war, it also served as the birthplace of the 17th President, Andrew Johnson, who was negotiating the peace. Read my new review today about the historic sites around Raleigh/Durham where you can learn more about President Johnson and the largest surrender of soldiers during the Civil War.
Living in Central Virginia, Civil War history is all around us. With much of the war taking place in the area, there are many battlefields, historic homes, and museums with their own history from the war. This week marks the 155th anniversary of the end of the war - from the fall of Richmond on April 3rd to the last battle at Sailor’s Creek on April 6th to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9th. Check out my new post about that week’s events and some spots to visit, both virtually and in person, to learn more about this important time period in our nation’s history.
With our current quarantine situation due to the COVID-19 health crisis, no one will be traveling for a while. Hopefully the situation will improve shortly but until then, virtual travel is our best bet. In researching Presidential and First Lady sites for my checklist, I found that many sites have online virtual and video tours. It would be a fun project to tour each site with your kids! We are picking one a day to "tour." If we can’t check off the sites in person, we can at least visit virtually!
Virginia is the birthplace of our nation, and its state library, the Library of Virginia, was created in 1823 as a repository for all of its original documents and manuscripts, dating back to Jamestown’s founding in 1607. Its online resources are vast, and with the current health crisis keeping our kids from attending school, this is the perfect time to explore the documents, artifacts, and manuscripts available. There is even a way for your kids to potentially get their volunteer hours through the Library’s Making History: Transcribe program. Read my new review today about visiting the Library, both in person and virtually!
If you are planning a trip to Dublin, one of the coolest new museums to see is the Irish Emigration Museum (EPIC). It opened in 2016 in a reclaimed 19th century warehouse near the docklands, just east of Dublin’s city center. On the banks of the River Liffey, it tells the unique story of the 10 million Irish citizens who immigrated to other countries and what impact they had on those countries. Not many countries can boast about their cultural influence like Ireland! This museum is a must-see attraction while visiting Dublin, particularly if you have any Irish ancestors!
If you are visiting Washington, DC, you will likely spend time in several of the Smithsonian museums, most centered around the National Mall. One of the most interesting museums is the National Museum of American History. This museum contains many priceless and meaningful artifacts from America’s past, and you can spend hours in its galleries. March is Women’s History Month, and with the museum’s new exhibit on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, this is the perfect month to visit. Read my new review today!
The ultimate Presidential site to visit is the White House in Washington, DC. Every President since John Adams has lived in the White House, making it the most historic home in America. From its burning during the War of 1812 to its complete renovation in the 1950s, the importance of the White House building has remained constant. If you are planning a trip to Washington, DC, you need to take your family to see the “people’s house.” Read my new review today to learn how to visit with kids.