Your little history buffs will totally dig diving into history with these fabulous day trips around New England. From witches to pilgrims, rich opulence to stark isolationism, these historic spots offer a variety of experiences for your New England family vacations.
Boston Freedom Trail
In colonial New England, the port city of Boston was very important (remember the Boston Tea Party?). Today, the city is home to the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail, a suggested walking tour that takes self-guided visitors past many historic meeting houses, churches, burying grounds, and museums. From Boston Common—as in America’s oldest park (not the former TV show)—to Old North Church where two lit lanterns alerted locals to Paul Revere’s famous ride and ignited the American Revolution, there is so much to see and do here. While your kids may not be up for the full 2.5 mile walk, you can pick and choose the most interesting parts.
Just north of Boston sits a town made famous by horrific witch trials in 1692 in which more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft. Twenty were put to death. While the witch trials are what Salem, Massachusetts, is best known for, it’s also a village with a rich maritime history. These days, Salem has embraced its witchcraft history. Visit in spring, summer, or fall, and ride the Salem Trolley, which will take you on a live-narrated tour of the town’s best sights—including author Nathanial Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables (also a title of one of his books!). You and your kids can pop on and off the trolley at your discretion to spend more time exploring any of the sights too.
No, Plimouth isn’t misspelled here—that’s the actual name of the seaside 17th Century English village located near Plymouth Rock, where history comes to life as actors play the parts of actual residents who lived there hundreds of years ago. The players go about their days in colonial garb and practice—from work to cooking to eating. Visitors can watch, listen, and ask questions—so encourage your little ones to voice their inquiries. While you are there, also be sure to check out the Mayflower II, a full scale reproduction of the original Mayflower that brought pilgrims to America in 1620. This ship, which is totally seaworthy, has crossed the Atlantic too—from England where it was built.
The Elms. Rosecliff. Marble House. The Breakers. These are among the names of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, that give visitors a peak into the Gilded Age when art, architecture, interior design, and landscaping flourished with elegance. Wealth—created largely by the expansion West—led American royalty like the Vanderbilts to create breathtaking summer homes on the shores in Newport. And now, many of those homes can be toured, visited, and taken in. You won’t see opulence like this up close in too many places. For younger kids, your best bet is The Breakers, which offers a family audio tour that kids love.
Mark Twain House
“It was the best of times; It was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens.
While Dickens penned that famous quote in A Tale of Two Cities, it was Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens) who lived a life that could easily be described as such. The famous Connecticut resident had a thriving career when he and his wife built the stately Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut. With 25 rooms, the house is a prime example of Gothic architecture. Visitors can take guided tours through the elaborate home that the family left behind when they fell on hard times. There’s also a museum that tells more of Twain’s story.
Walden Pond State Park
In 1845, Henry David Thoreau left his life to live in a cabin in the woods at Walden Pond for two years. While there, he penned observations of the environment and his surroundings, which later became the basis for Walden, Or Life in the Woods, which is credited with raising awareness and respect for the natural environment—long before the eco-friendly movement was even considered. Now a state park of 335 acres, visitors can walk trails, visit a replica of Thoreau’s cabin, and participate in programs like nature crafts designed for young visitors.
Minute Man National Historic Park
Who exactly where the Minute Men? Find the answer to that question and many more Revolutionary War queries at this park located in Massachusetts. This is where you go to learn more about the battles of Lexington and Concord, as well as America’s first soldiers and more. With reenactments, guided tours, and lots to see and do, the littlest history buffs will be enamored with this historic site.
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