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Great History Destinations for Kids
Children often find history irrelevant, boring, tiresome. But these historical sites can help history come alive for your children and grandchildren. The website FamilyVacationCritic.com recommends these 10 destinations to help kids understand their nation’s triumphs and its tragedies.
Washington, D.C. This is the center of government, both past and present, so there is plenty to see. Get a look at all three branches of government by visiting the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court. Take a walk through parts of the country’s past at the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and memorials to the soldiers of World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Go to Arlington National Cemetery, or view the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives. And visit any or all of the amazing buildings of the Smithsonian.
Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg., Va. Museums can help children understand the significance of Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America, and of Yorktown, where the British surrendered to end the Revolutionary War. But the highlight is Williamsburg, a historically re-created town where re-enactors show what life was really like in the 18th century.
Philadelphia. Attractions include Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the U.S. Mint. Start at the Independence Visitors Center. There is also an audio-guided walking tour that lets you see the city and cover the historic highlights.
Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. The Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 -- which President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “a date which will live in infamy” -- resulted in the entry of the United States into World War II. More than 3,500 Americans died in the attack, many of them on the battleship Arizona; a memorial to the fallen has been built over the sunken ship.
Manhattan Project in Tennessee. Take a free bus tour through Oak Ridge, Tenn., one of three sites where the United States developed nuclear weapons during World War II. Nearby, you can check out the Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton, Tenn., the site of the first integrated public high school in the South. Or visit the Museum of Appalachia, also in Clinton.
Gettysburg, Pa. There were 51,000 casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg, which marked the end of the South’s hopes for victory in the Civil War. There is a museum, and you also can explore the battlefield on your own or with a guide.
Plimouth Plantation, Massachusetts. Plimouth is a historically accurate depiction of life in the 1600s. Located between Boston and Cape Cod, it gives kids an up-close look at how English settlers and Native Americans lived and interacted in the earliest days of the colonies.
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. This traces the forced march of the Cherokees from their homes in the Southeast to reservations in Oklahoma in the 1830s, and the death of thousands of Cherokees as a result. The National Park Service maintains a number of sites along the Trail, which goes through Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Space Center Houston. Discover the history and accomplishments of the U.S. space program at this official visitors site for the Johnson Space Center. Take a tram tour of the Johnson Space Center, including the historic and current Mission Control centers, and don’t miss Kids Play Space, where kids can find out what it’s like to be an astronaut.
Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site, downtown Atlanta. This site celebrating the civil rights leader includes the Visitor Center, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, The King Center and the Birth Home. There are a variety of exhibits on King and the struggle of the civil rights movement; don’t miss the Visitors Center’s interactive exhibit for kids called “Children of Courage,” which highlights the movement’s children.