December 7, 2011
By Tanya Glover
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~George Santayana
As a huge history buff, I want so much for my children to have a love for it as well. To me, history tells a story much better than fiction and teaches us to better understand the world around us. The questions “who are we” and “where did we come from” are answered through history. These are important questions in defining the world as we know it and understanding the worldviews of others. There are many places I want to be able to take my children for this purpose. These places are good for family fun and make history something that is enjoyable to young minds. Hopefully, they will inspire a love of history for my children and yours as well.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is brimming with history. This is a perfect vacation spot to learn about a very important part of our nation’s history, catch some sun on the beautiful beaches and get a great seafood meal. Charleston is where the Civil War began. The first shot was fired from Fort Sumter, which is visible from Battery Park. You and your family can get on the ferry boat and cruise over to the fort for a tour. This can be an exciting for children, especially if they have never been on a ferry ride. The fort is in excellent condition and has been preserved very well. The tour will make this era come alive for both children and adults, making all involved want to know more of the history surrounding Charleston and the Civil War. In addition to the tour of Fort Sumter, there are several homes and plantations in Charleston that can make history touch your child’s mind. The best one that I experienced as a child was Boone Hall Plantation. Here you will tour the main house on the plantation. It contains most of the original furniture and has the slave quarters intact for exploring as well. (The history of slavery in the United States has always been of interest to me since being introduced to it in Charleston.) The tours are given by people in period dress, making it fun for children and allowing them to really experience that time in history. To inspire your child’s love for history, Charleston is a must.
Many children love witches, ghosts and goblins. This is why Salem is the perfect place to take a vacation if you want to get them into history. Massachusetts was one of the original 13 colonies so it has much history to share. Here your child can learn about the Puritan people, their way of life and what it was like to live in Massachusetts during the 1600’s. They may be especially interested in the Salem Witch Trials that took place in 1692. There are several places in Salem to learn about this time in history but the most visited is the Salem Witch Museum. There you will find out about the bleak time in history where regular people were accused of being supernatural beings and being put to death for their “crimes”. The most compelling feature of this museum is the stage show that is given. It is a dramatic showing and really pulls you back into history. As a child I remember reading the book about the Witch Trials and being so taken with the history that I had to know more. Most children enjoy stories about witches so Salem is the perfect place to show them their real part in history.
Our nation’s capital is a great place to get your children involved in history. There are so many things to do that can spark their interest in the past and keep them wanting to learn more. One must see in D.C. is the Smithsonian Museum. It would be more accurate to say museums as there are 19 separate sites for the Smithsonian. The museum of American history is a fantastic collection of history that will excite your children’s minds. Here they can see our first president’s uniform, Thomas Jefferson’s lap desk and the ruby slippers worn by Dorothy herself in the movie the Wizard of Oz. They will also see historic items left behind by first ladies’, original machines that were built for communication, items from everyday domestic homes and pieces of original military history. You can then head over to the air and space museum and learn about air travel, starting with its birth. The very first plane constructed by the Wright Brothers in on display and is a big hit with children. Space travel is also well illustrated and the night sky can come to life in the show seen in the planetarium. From American history to the American Indian Museum and the history of space travel to the history of motor car travel, you can spend a week going through all the collections contained within the halls of the Smithsonian buildings. Looking back, I can honestly say that this location was the top inspiration I had for falling in love with history. But, the museums are not place to go for historic inspiration. The White House and the Lincoln Memorial are also fantastic places to visit. These tell the story of our nation’s birth and history in a way that one will never forget.
Even though Washington, D.C. is our nation’s capital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the birthplace of America herself. This is the place where the founding fathers of our country lived and the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed. If you want your children to really understand how the country was born, this is the place to go. One of the coolest attractions for your child in this town is The Liberty Bell. The history of the bell will be explained right down to the visible crack in its side and why it is an important symbol for America. Your next stop should be Independence Hall. Here you will get the tour of a lifetime. Guides dressed in period clothing will take you through the hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed and re-enact that important day in history. Finally, you should not miss Franklin Court. This is the spot in which Benjamin Franklin’s home stood. Though it was burned to the ground long ago, there is a steal framed outline where the house once sat and a post office in which you can send someone special a post card that has the hand stamped post mark made with the original stamp belonging to Franklin himself. How many children can say that they held Benjamin Franklin’s post mark stamp in their very own hands?
The places I have spoken of are a few of the many historic places that your children will love. You do not even have to leave your own state to find history that will inspire your children. History is everywhere. If travel is not possible, begin in your own town’s historic society. Learning about the history of your own town can get that spark going. Once this happens the flame will grow and your children will hunger for more information from the past.