Tagged with "National Park Service"
2 Oct
2017
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Take a Trip: Boston

View of Boston from Bunker Hill Monument

Go visit Boston, sooner rather than later. Trust me on this one.

We’ve visited an array of U.S. cities…Portland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Chicago, Savannah, and Louisville to mention a few. None of the American metropolises have won my heart quite like Boston. She’s unique.

North Bridge - The shot heard round the world

We visited Boston this summer as part of our epic road trip to the East Coast. Cities are not my favorite vacation destinations. I prefer mountain tops and beaches to sidewalks and buildings. This road trip had several major U.S. cities on the itinerary. My only experience in Boston before July was inside Logan International Airport for a long layover before flying to Europe over 20 years ago. I’m a history nerd raising pint-sized lovers of history. Our oldest had just finished studying the early years of American history in school, so Boston was a the perfect spot for him to show off what he had learned. More than once I was impressed with how much knowledge he had about events that happened in and around Boston.

Witness house at Minute Man National Historic Park

Musket reenactment at Minute Man National Historic Park

We began our visit to the Boston area at the Minute Man National Historical Park in Lexington and Concord. Walking the area where witness houses and stone walls still stand on the road where the battle occurred April 19, 1775 puts history in perspective. We’ve heard the story of Paul Revere’s ride and the “shot heard around the world” to start the American Revolution, but to stand where those stories occurred was more powerful than words on a page. Walking through militia battle formations and understanding what worked and didn’t work in 1775 was illuminating. The life and training, or lack thereof, for minute men left me in awe of the conviction and determination of the people who fought in the American Revolution.

Freedom Trail medallion on a Boston sidewalk

Children walking the Freedom Trail line in Boston

I could wander Boston for days. The juxtaposition of historical buildings dating to the 1700s next to modern architecture in the downtown area had me continuously reaching for my camera. The 2 1/5-mile Freedom Trail connects significant historical locations, museums, churches and burying grounds in downtown Boston. The trail is marked by a red line guiding tourists from location to location. Visitors can pay for guided tours of the trail or traverse it self-guided. We chose to go at our own pace and walk the trail without a tour guide. The Freedom Trail ranks as an all-time favorite activity we’ve done on vacation.

We walked the entire trail which includes 17 official sites ranging from the USS Constitution to the Bunker Hill Monument to the Boston Massacre site to Paul Revere’s home. We didn’t tour the inside of every site. We researched the sites and then chose which ones to spend our time in that were historically the most pertinent in our minds and fit our interests.

Stained glass at the old Massachusetts State House

We started at the Massachusetts State House that visitors should give at least a short tour of to see the beautiful stained glass windows. It’s quite stunning inside the massive building where we started our walk of the Freedom Trail. I’m not going to write about each of the places we visited, but touch on our favorite spots from the trail. This could be a wordy post if I covered everything.

Downtown Boston

Side note: We stayed outside of Boston and took public transportation into the city. Everything we read and heard about Boston traffic was true. I would never drive in that city. There were times we felt crossing streets was dangerous. Word to the wise, double and triple check streets before crossing, even at a crosswalk with a blinking walk signal. Back to the history tour…

Paul Revere house - Boston

The Paul Revere House was built in the late 1600s and is the oldest building in downtown Boston. Revere was living in this house when he made his famous ride in 1775. A tour of the house costs $3.50 per adult and $1 per children. It doesn’t take long to make your way through the home and attached museum. Our kids find it interesting to compare home and furnishings from times gone by to what we have now. There were a lot of differences to discuss after touring this house. My favorite spot in the tour is a display of different silver pieces Revere made — a silversmith being one of his many occupations.

A cannoli from Mike's Pastry in Boston

After touring the Revere House, we made a slight detour off the trail to visit Mike’s Pastry for homemade Italian goodies. This bakery was filled with a copious amount of the choices and a large crowd eager to make purchases — cash only. Don’t be daunted by the crowd. There are several “lines” inside the bakery with numerous people working behind the counter to help patrons. It took us longer to choose what we each wanted than it did to purchase the delectable treats. If I make it back to Boston, Mike’s will most definitely be on the list of places to visit again.

Bunker Hill Monument climb ticket

The Bunker Hill Monument honors the site of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. Tickets to climb the monument can be obtained across the street at the National Park Service office for the Boston National Historical Park. The 294-step climb to the top of the monument was a hot and sweaty ordeal in July when we visited, but the views of Boston from the top were worth the trek. I recommend listening to a ranger talk about the battle. Our ranger was passionate about the topic and taught us a great deal more on the battle in 15 minutes than I ever learned in a classroom.

USS Constiution - Charleston Navy Yard

We have a deep love for touring battleships and the Charlestown Navy Yard did not disappoint. The yard has the USS Cassin Young and the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the U.S. Navy. We didn’t tour the Cassin Young because of a planned visit to Battleship Cove in Massachusetts and allotted our time at the yard to the USS Constitution, aka Old Ironsides, and the USS Constitution Museum.

USS Constitution top deck

The USS Constitution was dry docked during our visit for refurbishment. It being out of the water allowed us to see the copper plating on the bottom of the ship which is not normally visible. The ship, first launched in 1797, can still be deployed in times of conflict. Naval officers educate visitors about the history of the ship. We walked the deck of a ship that’s served our country for 200 years. The stories that ship holds are countless. Experiences like that are why we traipse thousands of miles around this country to not only tell our children about the history of this place we call home, but show them where the history happened.

Acorn Street Boston

From Faneuil Hall where people have met and debated issues for 275 years, to Old North Church where two lanterns were hung in 1775, to the graves of Benjamin Franklin’s parents, Boston is home to important pieces of our country’s history. If you have the means and love of travel, especially with children, make Boston a future destination. I hope to make a repeat visit in the future.

 


 
Cuyahoga Valley: An Urban Park
By     |    Jul 20, 2017
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Cuyahoga Valley: An Urban Park

I had predisposed ideas about Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. I knew it was large with an extensive trail system, waterfalls and a covered bridge. What we found was the most urban national park we’ve visited. The park, our first major stop on our epic road trip, is not far from both Akron and Cleveland. It’s a refuge for animals and people alike in the bustling urban sprawl. We visited on a weekend, and the park was busy. The... [Read More]

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Five Favorite Family Vacation Destinations
By     |    May 25, 2017
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Five Favorite Family Vacation Destinations

My list of places to vacation is extensive while the allotted vacation days are finite. I like picking the brains of fellow travelers for tips on destinations we have planned and will talk your ear off if you venture to ask for ideas of places to visit. This is the time of year I’m asked quite often for vacation ideas. Most of my suggestions are for outdoor lovers and those who don’t have a fortune to spend on vacation. We’ve... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Badlands National Park
By     |    Apr 3, 2017
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Take a Trip: Badlands National Park

We visited Badlands National Park for the fourth time this weekend. After several friends mentioned not knowing about the park, which is four hours from our home, I thought it needed some love. Our first three visits to the park were in the summer months when it’s crowded and hot. A spring visit was much more to our liking. There were no crowds. We didn’t have to circle around for a parking spot at the visitor center or any trailhead.... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Canyon de Chelly
By     |    May 5, 2016
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Take a Trip: Canyon de Chelly

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. If there’s a theme to our vacations, besides national parks, it’s canyons. There’s not a canyon rim hike we haven’t enjoyed, from the Grand Canyon to Canyonlands to Yellowstone. We love the views across a canyon and peering into the depths below. We’ve watched videos and viewed... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Flagstaff Area National Monuments
By     |    Apr 27, 2016
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Take a Trip: Flagstaff Area National Monuments

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. When anyone inquired where we were headed for spring break this year, I answered northern Arizona, which translated as Grand Canyon to everyone who asked. While Grand Canyon was on our list of stops over break, it was just one of several. The Flagstaff area is home... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park
By     |    Apr 18, 2016
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Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. We spent years talking about visiting Grand Canyon National Park. We couldn’t ever peg down a good time of year to visit. There were other national parks ranked higher on our wish list. Excuses piled for why we never chose the iconic American spot. This year was the... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
By     |    Feb 26, 2016
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Take a Trip: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. Across the United States there are over 400 National Park Service entities. That’s a lot of places deemed worthy to be protected for historical reasons or the natural beauty of an area. I let go of any dream of visiting all of the entities a few years... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Arches National Park
By     |    Feb 5, 2016
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Take a Trip: Arches National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. This winter is relentless. There’s been snow on the ground for months, and it’s part of the permanent forecast these days. You know there’s a lot of snow when your son’s Nordic ski team can’t practice because they aren’t able to get up the mountain. It’s that... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Capitol Reef National Park
By     |    Jan 18, 2016
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Take a Trip: Capitol Reef National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. Capitol Reef National Park is located in a remote area of Utah. We visited several years ago (March 2011) over spring break and essentially had the park to ourselves with only a handful of other visitors to share the over 240,000 acres. I’m a sucker for rocky... [Read More]

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One Thing that Changed Our Travels
By     |    Aug 25, 2015
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One Thing that Changed Our Travels

I remember five years ago standing in a visitor center making the decision to purchase a book titled, Passport To Your National Parks. I thought the book would be a nice way to remember places we visited but had no idea how much it would change the way our family travels. It was meant to be a souvenir but changed the way we travel. The passport is a blue, small, spiral book where tourists can collect stamps from visits to... [Read More]

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