We have really been packing it in on our blitzkrieg history tour. On Monday we drove to Williamsburg to spend the day in colonial times. You can actually walk around Williamsburg for free, but if you want to go in the buildings and listen to the reenactors, you pay an entrance fee. I am still not sure if it is worth the hefty price tag, but since we were there, I figured we might as well just do it. I would say it is very similar to This is the Place State Park.
We were able to go into many buildings , like the governor's mansion, printing press, wig shop, silversmith, and state house. It was also nice to be there on Memorial Day. They had a parade with a colonial marching band and lots of period costumes.
After we finished our visit to Williamsburg, we headed over to the original Jamestown site, which is now a National Park. We made it in to the visitor's center with just enough time to get a stamp for our NPS passport and to watch a video about the site. Then we went and looked around. You have to walk on a bridge that goes over wetlands. That was a great experience because we could see a prodigious amount of wildlife: terrapins, snakes, frogs, a muskrat, etc. At Jamestown they have excavated a lot of the original foundations and have several monuments to the big players like Pocahontas, John Smith, and the like. There is also a church there and a cemetery.
We missed the visitor's center at Yorktown, which was kind of a bummer. However, we walked the grounds a little bit and took some pictures. It is quite an honor to be able to walk where George Washington walked. I loved it.
Yorktown also had some action during the Civil War, so about a half mile down the road was a Civil War cemetery. Every grave was honored with a flag. It is good to know that they are not forgotten.
On Tuesday, it was time to see the Capitol, the perfect place for an American history trip. We first went to the American History Smithsonian Museum. I didn't drag the kids through every exhibit but we did see the highlights like the star-spangled banner, Nauvoo sun stone, military installation, and of course the ruby slippers.
After lunch and as a small mercy to Zach, we then went to the Natural History museum and that is when he could be the tour guide and explain stuff to us. We looked at the rock display mostly, and were able to see the shiny, expensive stuff as well.
We waited in a short line to get into the National Archives, which is next door to the Natural History Museum. The rostrum is where the founding documents are displayed. The room is dark and photography is forbidden. It was kind of sad to see that the Declaration of Independence is severely faded, almost to the point of illegibility. But what an honor it is to be able to see the actual documents that they signed.
After this, we thought we would try to get a tour of the US Mint. We walked through an interesting sculpture garden, across the Mall, and past many excessively large government buildings to get there. Unfortunately, we would have had to wait another 90 minutes to get in, and decided to bag it. Hence, we went back to the hotel a little early and relaxed a bit. But after dinner, it was time to hit the history trail again. We went back to the Mall to see the monuments. Night time visits are perfect. There are free places to park, it is cool, and not too crowded. They light them all up, so they are easily seen and do stay open quite late. Unfortunately, it decided to rain a lot.
We pretty much got soaked!
But can I tell you? I loved it! The lightning storm was amazing to witness from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. And then the heavy downpour was a fun experience. You just don't get that kind of thing in Utah, or the west anywhere really. I am glad that my boys could experience it as well.
We saw the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, WWII Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. We also happened upon a sweet sculpture of Albert Einstein.
Wednesday was the perfect day to finally go see Arlington, which really is a requirement when you visit DC. I have been there many times, but had never gone to see Robert E. Lee's house. I picked the perfect time to go because they had just finished restoring it a few years previously. The park ranger takes you on a tour and they have done a wonderful job with the house. And by the way, I had no idea that his wife was a direct descendant of Martha Washington. Whaaa?
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is such a special place...hallowed ground. I kind of get teary-eyed whenever I am there just thinking about it. The wreath in the picture is from Memorial Day. It is the wreath the President put there. I also learned that the Vietnam grave is empty because they tested the soldier's DNA and now he is not unknown. But it symbolic anyways, so I guess it really doesn't matter.
After lunch, we decided to go to Ford's Theater. I had never been there and was looking forward to it because I had read a book about it when I was in a book club in Reno. It was a worthwhile stop on our itinerary. There is a museum in the basement and they have many artifacts from that horrible moment in history, including the gun used to kill Lincoln. Then we sat in theater seats and listened to a presentation from the park ranger. We could see the president's box, but we couldn't go near it. Darn!
Every night we Facetimed my mom and were able to talk and see the kids. It was such a blessing to be able to do that. It was a highlight of every day. Noelle would try to eat the iPad and the other three enjoyed making lots of faces.
It was time to move on to our next location. We packed up and headed out after rush hour traffic. Our first stop was Fort McHenry in Baltimore. We spent about an hour at the fort, but it was totally worth it. The visitor's center plays a top-notch movie about Fort McHenry. I am not going to lie, I got a little teary watching it. I am not going to give you the details and ruin it for you. Go someday and see for yourself.
Then we started heading toward Keri and Jeff's house, which was about an hour out of Baltimore. We made an unplanned stop at another National Historic Site called Hampton House. It was on the way and we needed to kill a couple of hours. This was a little treasure we found. The reason it is a historic site is because of the architecture of the house. Hampton was a plantation and the house is early Georgian. Plus, all of the furniture is original from the hundreds of years it was privately owned. There was a lot to see at this estate. And it was raining, so it was good to find a place to kill time that was indoors.
We finally got to Keri P.'s house in the early evening. And it was awesome! Keri and her family, Jen M. and her kids, and Lauren and Nate (way back from our Univ. of Utah days) and all of their kids were all there. It was quite a crowd. Amazingly enough, they all ended up in the same ward in rural Maryland and they all love each other. It was a wonderful visit and I am so grateful I have made the best associations over these past twenty years. These ladies are the cream of the crop. Their husbands aren't too bad either. We ate dinner, visited, had some dessert, and then it was time to hit the road again.
|L to R: Lauren, Jen, me, and Keri|
This time we were headed for Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. But I really wasn't feeling the love from Maryland to New Jersey because, holy cow, the toll roads! Are you kidding me?!?
I had never been to Philadelphia so I was anxious to put the boots on the ground and check it out. We followed Keri's recommendation and did Once Upon a Nation with our boys. And it was great. They had ten stations where you could sit and a volunteer would tell you a story. I think it helped some of the history to come alive for Raef and Zach. The storytellers were animated and fun. You could tell they loved being there. It also helped us navigate a well-laid path for seeing the most important stuff in the city. I always feel like I never have enough time though!
There was a sign saying that all the tickets to Independence Hall were gone. What!?!?! I was almost gonna be devastated. I really wanted to go in the building. Fortunately, I decided to ask a park ranger and they actually had extra tickets. Never give up...never surrender!
We made sure to get some real Philly cheese steaks for lunch and to hit all of the story spots. Because if the kids heard all of the stories, they would get a free ride on the carousel. This was the perfect motivation for them.
And they did it!
On our way back to the car, we saw the Federal Reserve building and it offered tours. We went in and were sad to see that we were ten minutes late for a tour! Grrr... However, the security guard was very nice (and shockingly, a Republican...what???) and he gave the kids souvenir money. It is the shredded stuff that the Reserve gives away at the end of the tour. To pay back that kindness, I gave him my cakey cornbread recipe, courtesy of Our Best Bites.
We also checked out Elfreth Alley and then ate dinner at a Greek booth at the Reading Terminal Market.