Colonial America Vacation (travel review + tips)

This summer, we spent a week exploring “Colonial America”. My husband loves this time period and wanted to experience the major sights in the US. While we never got to Gettysburg on this trip, the following was our itinerary:

Day 1: Monticello (http://www.monticello.org/) for the morning. We were able to do the 9am house tour, 10am garden tour, and 11am slavery  tour. After lunch @ Monticello we drove to visit  and tour Monpelier (http://www.montpelier.org/). Afterwards, we drove to our hotel in Williamsburg and walked around Colonial Williamsburg that evening.

Day 2: Having had a “taste” of Colonial Williamburg the night before, we decided to switch our plans and spend the most of today at Historic Jamestowne (http://www.historicjamestowne.org/) instead. Do not be confused – there’s a museum that’s called “Jamestown Settlement” also in Jamestown. While the kids may like it, if you don’t experience “Historic Jamestowne” you will have missed walking where the first English settlement was. We loved, loved Historic Jamestown and the 11am Archeological tour was incredible!! Hubby also saw a bald eagle fly over-head with a fish in its claws while we were there (it’s a beautiful location).  Seriously, a trip to Colonial Williamsburg is NOT close to being complete without a morning spent at “Historic Jamestowne”. For our evening, we ate dinner at one of the Colonial Williamsburg taverns and walked the streets some more. Colonial Williamsburg was definitely a hot spot for children and families.

Day 3: On our way leaving Williamsburg and heading to DC, we stopped at Mount Vernon (http://www.mountvernon.org/). This was the only presidential house tour that I thought a child may enjoy as it seemed to have more for children to engage with. Then we went on to DC but didn’t see any sights this evening.

Day 4: Learning that Lincoln’s Cottage (http://lincolncottage.org/) tours were sold-out for the next day (Saturday), we decided to go first thing in the morning today. Having purchased a day pass for the public transit, we took the subway to as close to Lincoln’s cottage and then walked. I’d advise for people to drive this as there’s free parking, it’s an uphill walk from the subway station, and the neighbourhood was a little sketchy.  At Lincoln’s cottage, we got on the first tour @ 10am and spent some time reading and watching videos in their education room afterwards.  Back to DC where we not only saw the Capitol building from the outside, but took their free 45 minute tour. We weren’t planning on doing this but it was great!!  We then went to see the White House and joined a walking tour from 7-9pm where a guide told the story and took us to various significant places on the night of Lincoln’s assassination. This was free and totally worth the time.

Day 5: We spent this morning exploring “the mall” area in DC. What was most disappointing was how poorly marked at the Lincoln Monument was the Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a Dream” plaque. I literally walked over it without even knowing. Hundreds of tourists walked over it without looking down once to know where they were standing. Also, the new Martin Luther King Jr. monument is not connected to “the mall” area. You have to have a map to know where you are going (and cross a street) to find it. I found Martin Luther King Jr’s monument to be deeply moving and well worth finding. Lastly, before leaving DC and ending our historical vacation, we went to the Holocaust Museum. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get in to see the main exhibit until a time after we needed to be on the road. So we spent a good 2 hours exploring their other exhibits and spend some time speaking one of their holocaust survivor’s who work there.

To summarize:

1) Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon seemed to be the best places on our vacation for families with children.

2) While these were not originally on our to-do list, Historic Jamestowne and a tour inside the Capitol Building were some of our favourites and worth checking out.

3) While we did all of this in 5 days, stretching it to 7 days could allow more time for Colonial Williamsburg and an extra day to explore the many museums (all free) in DC.

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