By Carrie Dunlea
If the thought of Fourth of July approaching makes you want to explore America’s history a bit more this summer, there are plenty of opportunities. Grab your kids, spouse or friend and pack your red, white and blue for a trip that will top the charts.
To discover the history of the American Revolution you must first stop in Boston, Massachusetts, where it all began. Several of our country’s founding fathers called this city home, and as a result, many of the initial meetings and actions that sparked the fight against the British took place in Boston.
The best way to immerse oneself in history is to walk Boston’s Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile route that leads you to 16 historic sites along the way. The trail traverses through downtown, the Government Center, the North End and ends in Charlestown at the USS Constitution. The entire Trail is marked by a red line on the sidewalk, either painted or bricked at points along the way. Top sites along the Trail include Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, Bunker Hill Monument, Benjamin Franklin statue, the Granary Burial Ground and the Park Street Church. Find information you need at Freedom Trail information centers throughout Boston at Boston
Common (Tremont Street), Faneuil Hall and Building 5 at the Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center.
The Freedom Trail Foundation offers a daily schedule of public walking tours featuring several sites along the trail. Purchase discounted online tour tickets in advance and save time and money. Tours are led by 18th-century costumed “Freedom Trail Players” and feature a bit of drama to make the walk a memorable one. The foundation’s mission is to market and help preserve the Trail. Find the official Freedom Trail brochure and so much more at freedomtrailfoundation.org.
If you prefer to wander the Trail independently, the National Park Service offers free 60-minute themed Freedom Trail Walking Tours starting at the Faneuil Hall Visitor Center in downtown Boston.
No matter which route you choose, the Trail is worth seeing, particularly at an unhurried pace so visitors can observe all the amazing stops along the way. If you end your walk at Bunker Hill, visit the Bunker Hill Museum. Got time to travel outside Boston? Visit Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, MA.
While in the Northeast, travel to Upstate New York and visit Fort Ticonderoga. The Fort is known as “America’s first victory” in the American Revolution. This is where Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, along with a small band of Green Mountain Boys, captured the Fort from the British in an early morning raid on May 10, 1775, only three weeks after Lexington and Concord.
The Fort is considered the core of a strategic complex controlling passage on Lake Champlain and Lake George. Guests of the 18th-century fort can also visit Mount Defiance as part of the Fort package. Learn more about this mountain with many names as you climb to the top and see spectacular views of the Northeast.
There are multiple tour options at the Fort for all ages. New this year, visitors can discover the story behind the British campaign to control Lake Champlain in 1781. This story, and many other chapters, can be learned through new programs, guided tours, live weapon demonstrations, exhibits, gardens, daily boat tours, soldiers’ life programs, hands-on family activities, the Carillon Battlefield hiking trail, and more. Daily tours/demonstrations include the Key to the Continent where visitors can learn about the iconic battles of Ticonderoga within the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War. Other activities include musket firing demonstrations, Carrillon boat tours on Lake Champlain, historic garden tours and cannon firing demonstrations.
Another feature at the Fort is the daily soldiers’ life programs where one can explore the lives of British soldiers and sailors at Ticonderoga in 1781. Activities include shoemaking, carpentry, and much more. Aside from the tours and demonstrations, there are reenactments to enrich your experience on the trip.
Need time to relax? Take advantage of the beauty of the region and book a sunset boat cruise on Lake Champlain.
If you’re planning a trip to Washington, D.C. this summer or fall save time for a side trip and discover the home of George and Martha Washington, just 15-miles away in Mount Vernon, VA.
While most of us know Washington as the first president of the United States, you’ll learn so much more about this farmer, soldier, statesman and husband after you tour the Washington homestead.
While you can take a 45-minute sightseeing cruise from Washington to see Mount Vernon in the distance, chances are you’re not going to want to view this mansion and grounds from afar. Tour the mansion, the beautiful gardens and landscapes that Washington was so passionate about. Learn about historic trades, see the tombs where Washington and Martha were laid to rest, and visit the slave memorial honoring those slaves who worked on the farm. On the grounds is a 4-acre Pioneer Farm complete with a reconstructed slave cabin, distillery (the largest of its time) gristmill and a museum and education center complete with seven galleries.
For visitors with an interest in Washington’s role in the Revolutionary War, there is detailed information including a 4-D movie experience, information about music in the war, display of weapons used and details about each battle. Learn more at mountvernon.org.
No trip to learn about Revolutionary War history would be complete without a trip to the Yorktown, Virginia, site of the final battle of the Revolutionary War. Whether you spend a day or a weekend, there is plenty to do with three major must see places to visit, Yorktown Battlefield where George Washington secured America’s independence, The American Revolution Museum, and Historic Yorktown.
The museum was updated in 2017 and replaced the original Yorktown Victory Center. The new museum has 22,000-square-foot permanent exhibition galleries that feature period artifacts, immersive environments, dioramas, interactive exhibits and short films. There is a 170-seat museum theater where visitors can watch “Liberty Fever.”
On the grounds of the museum is a living-history Continental Army encampment and a Revolution-era farm. Take the time and wander outside and see soldiers’ tents, surgeon and quartermaster’s quarters, drill field and artillery demonstration area. The farm has a house, tobacco barn, slave quarters, crop fields and more.
While in Yorktown, visit two other nearby destinations, Jamestown and Williamsburg, which complete the “Historic Triangle.” The Jamestown Settlement is located adjacent to Historic Jamestowne, only 10 minutes from Williamsburg and 20 minutes from the museum in Yorktown.
As America’s first permanent English Colony, visitors can experience 17th-century Virginia at the Jamestown Settlement. There are gallery exhibits, films, a colonists’ fort and a Powhatan Village. In addition, there are re-creations of three ships for visitors to explore. Combination tickets are available for visitors to the settlement and The American Revolution Museum. To learn more about this visit, historyisfun.org.
This summer, take a journey through America’s Revolutionary War history touring forts, battlefields and museums up and down the East Coast. It’s not just a vacation, consider it a tribute to America’s freedom.