Family Road Trip to Explore American History
July gets me thinking of our heritage of freedom and how much fun it would be to take a family road trip to explore early American history. Freedom is a precious gift that Americans treasure, knowing that freedom has been preserved for future generations at the cost of innocent lives. Taking our children to visit amazing places across this beautiful nation of ours can help inspire a love of freedom.
Whether or not you are studying USA history this coming year, it’s always fun to explore history on a road trip. If you can’t travel this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, I have enclosed links so you can explore these places online.
Let’s visit some of America’s landmarks!
The early settlers of this country were the Spanish. Explorers like Ponce de Leon and Hernando de Soto explored Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and the Southwest.
Saint Augustine is the oldest continually inhabited city in the United States, founded in 1565 and located on the east coast of Central Florida. The fort, Old Schoolhouse Museum, Lightener Museum, and all kinds of living museums, exhibits, and stores make it a remarkable way to learn about history. To see St. Augustine, Florida, visit online: visitstaugustine.com/things-to-do/historical-sites.
The California Missions Trail
The Spanish shared the Gospel and built missions for the soldiers, new converts, and religious folks. There are several colonial Spanish missions in California: San Diego de Alcala, Luis Rey de Francisco, San Juan Capistrano, and 18 more!
Visit any one of these to get a feel for the Spanish settlements in the southwest of America. Most of these are located along or near Highway 101, California. Visit online: https://californiathroughmylens.com/california-missions.
Then along came the English.
Walter Raleigh established a colony on Roanoke Island that was destroyed without a trace. The next settlement at Jamestown was more successful.
Visit Historic Jamestown to see a reconstructed fort, village, and living history characters. Visit Jamestown Settlement to recreate the 1607 Jamestown settlement. To see Jamestown, Virginia, visit online: https://historicjamestowne.org/visit/.
For a creative learning experience, Learn American History the Fun Way by Building Jamestown with Pretzels.
Visit Pilgrim Hall Museum, living history Plymouth Plantation, Plymouth Rock, and other historical sites to learn more about the brave Pilgrims who traveled to the New World on the Mayflower. To see Plymouth, Massachusetts, visit online: https://www.plimoth.org/.
Step back in time to Colonial America at Williamsburg, the first capital of Virginia, the bustling colonial seaport of Charleston, and the Dutch colony of New Castle.
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
The grandest restoration I have ever seen and the world’s largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg will take you back in time. Walk down the brick streets, see many folks dressed in 18th century fashion, visit shops and restaurants, and enjoy museums and demonstrations. This place feels like you stepped back in time! To see Williamsburg, Virginia, visit online: colonialwilliamsburg.org/visit/.
Old New Castle, DE
Founded by the Dutch in the mid-1600s overlooking the Delaware River, Old New Castle is a living town, not a living museum. People own and live in the 300 to 400-year-old homes. The churches, buildings, and streets are quaint and lovely. I love to browse in the cemetery there because reading the tombstones is a history lesson itself. To see New Castle, DE, visit online: visitdelaware.com/cities-regions/new-castle/.
Charleston, South Carolina was a bustling seaport city in Colonial Times; today, it’s a beautiful city that takes pride in its loveliness. The Heyward-Washington House was built in 1772 by Thomas Heyward, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Charles Towne Landing is where a group of English settlers landed to start the colony of South Carolina in 1670. The Powder Magazine was used as an arsenal from 1713 to 1748 to defend herself from the Spanish, French, pirates, and Native Americans. I could go on and on! This place is filled with history from every era, but you will definitely get to see some Colonial America history in this beautiful city. To see Charleston, South Carolina, visit online: https://www.visit-historic-charleston.com/.
Museum of the Bible
The Museum of the Bible is an amazing museum dedicated to God’s Word. Exhibits focus on the stories of the Bible, archaeology, Bible history, art treasures, the Bible’s impact on the world and, drum roll, the Bible’s impact on America! This is the perfect section to learn about Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Religious Freedom in America, and the Abolition Movement. This museum is amazing! The Museum of the Bible is located at 400 South Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024. Visit online: museumofthebible.org/.
We will explore the American Revolution next.
Independence Hall, Philadelphia
Wow! I love Independence Hall! It’s like stepping back in time. The old capitol is restored beautifully so you can just picture John Hancock signing the Declaration of Independence. Right next to it, is a small museum where you can see the Liberty Bell, documents, and other displays. Independence Hall is located on Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Visit online: nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehall.htm.
Mount Vernon, home to the Father of our Country, is one of the most popular historic sites in our nation. You can tour the home, lush gardens, grounds, museum galleries, the burial sites of George & Martha, distillery, gristmill, and a pioneer farm. George Washington’s Mount Vernon is located at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA 22121. Visit online: mountvernon.org/.
Monticello, or “Little Mountain,” is the beautiful plantation home of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. You can tour the historic house, plantation grounds and outbuildings, museum, research institute, and Presidential library. Monticello is located at 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA 22902. Visit online: home.monticello.org/.
Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation Red Hill
Red Hill is Founding Father and former Governor of Virginia Patrick Henry’s last home and burial site. You can tour the home, seven historic buildings, the burial site, and the beautiful grounds overlooking the beautiful Staunton River Valley. Patrick Henry National Memorial is located at 1497 Red Hill Road, Brookneal, VA 24528. Visit online: redhill.org/.
Old North Church, Boston, MA
The Old North Historic Site includes Old North Church (“One by Land…” Paul Revere’s Ride), 1713 Clough House, 3 large courtyards, 2 formal gardens, and a war memorial. An Episcopal congregation still meets at Old North Church. Old North Historic Site is located at 193 Salem Street, Boston, MA 02113. Visit online: oldnorth.com/.
Learn more about our Founding Fathers with my blog post My Favorite Founding Fathers.
Once Americans won the Revolution and signed the Constitution, it was time for some to settle down and govern while others spread out far off yonder across North America.
Lewis & Clark Boat House & Museum, St. Charles, MO
The museum houses a life-size replica of a keelboat. How cool! Beyond the exhibits, there are history reenactors who involve the children in reliving the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The museum is located at Bishop’s Landing, 1050 S. Riverside Drive, St. Charles, MO 63301. Visit online: lewisandclarkcenter.org/.
Fort Boonesborough State Park Living History (NPS), Richmond, KY
A living history museum with events and programs where kids can act out history together with actors/reenactors. There is also camping! The park is located at 4375 Boonesborough Road, Richmond, KY 40475. Visit online: fortboonesboroughlivinghistory.org/.
Daniel Boone Homestead, Birdsboro, PA
Focused on Daniel Boone’s youth in Pennsylvania, children get to reenact the olden days with hands-on activities and living history demonstrations. Daniel Boone Homestead is located at 400 Daniel Boone Road, Birdsboro, PA 19508. Visit online: danielboonehomestead.org/index.html.
Hagley Museum, Wilmington, DE
Hagley Museum is the original site of the gunpowder manufacturing plant founded by E.I. DuPont in 1802. You can visit the restored mills, a workers’ community, and the DuPont family’s home and gardens. Hagley Museum is located at 200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, DE 19807. Visit online: hagley.org/.
U.S. Supreme Court
Visitors can visit the public areas of the Supreme Court Building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Visit online: supremecourt.gov/.
The U.S. Capitol, completed in 1800, is where Congress meets to debate and pass laws. You can visit the Capitol, a beautiful building too, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Visit online: visitthecapitol.gov/.
U.S. White House
To visit the White House, you must request a visit through your member of Congress. Tours are on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit online: whitehouse.gov/.
Share some of your family road trip adventures related to American history in the comments below.
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of American History Timeline, American History Cookbook, American Literature & Research, Americana Newspaper Reporting, and Families Learning Together: American History Art Appreciation. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Read her blog at PowerlineProd.com and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.