Monday, July 08, 2013

Summer Road Trips for History Lovers

Camp'Otel Family Vacation
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It’s vacation time so why not combine your trip plans with some history? Whether you’re researching a novel or you just love history in general, there’s plenty of fun out there.

There is not enough space here to explore all the options, so I’ll look at some of the more popular US destinations and make some suggestions.

Orlando, FL


Plan to see the mouse this summer? Add some history to your trip. Like many American cities, Orlando began as a fort. Fort Gatlin, south of present day Orlando, was built to protect settlers from Indians in 1838. In downtown Orlando, visit the History Center and go back much further, 12 million years in history. http://www.thehistorycenter.org


The Great Smoky Mountains, TN


Great Smoky Mountains from Roundtop
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There is nothing as inspiring than a mountain vacation, and in addition to hiking in the National Park and enjoying all the family-oriented activities the area has to offer, consider visiting nearby Chattanooga, TN, and theChattanooga History Center http://www.tnvacation.com/vendors/chattanooga_history_center/
You’ll find walking tours and several Civil War driving tours in addition to the exhibits in the permanent collection.

Grand Canyon, AZ


As awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon is, and the realization of how many milliniums created it, don’t miss the chance to learn about what the archeological digs have discovered there. There are also historic structures within the park to explore. Find out more here: http://www.nps.gov/grca/historyculture/index.htm 

New York City, NY

New York City Public Library front
New York Public Library. Click on photo for credit.

You may be planning to go to a Broadway show and shop until you drop in the Big Apple, and that’s all well and good, but here are a couple of historic sites that just might interest you as well. (On my trip to research my new Ellis Island Series,  I skipped the shows to spend time at some of these!)

The New York Public Library: Of course libraries contain history, but the architecture alone will astound you.

The Hunger Memorial: It’s always good to find something for free in NYC. This memorial is well planned and as you walk through the tunnel and listen to the recorded voices of the Irish immigrants, you’ll be inspired. And it certainly looks a bit like like Ireland as well! http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/cities/news-irish-hunger-memorial

The Tenement Museum: A restored tenement that looks at the lives of its residents in the late 19th and early 20th century. http://www.tenement.org

And of course you’ll want to visit the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigrant Museum (after it reopens.) http://www.ellisisland.org 

Orange County, CA


Sure, you’ll be visiting Disney World, but where else?  What about the nation's largest selection of Antique American Indian Art,  Navajo Rugs and Navajo Blankets and old antique American Indian baskets? http://www.indianterritory.com
or The Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum. http://www.nixonlibrary.gov


Niagara Falls, NY


Vacation 2006 - Niagara Falls
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After you’ve seen the falls and explored the natural beauty, you might visit the Daredevil Museum and see memorabilia and hear stories about those who dared to cross the falls. Then check out Das House German Heritage Museum to learn about the German immigrants to the area. http://www.niagara-usa.com/things-to-do/attractions/falls-region 


Yellowstone National Park, ID, MT, WY


History here goes back 11,000 years! National Parks got their start here. The Yellowstone National Park Museum will probably already be on your itinerary: http://www.nps.gov/yell/historyculture/museum.htm but also consider the Buffalo Bill Center of the West: http://www.bbhc.org/ The Wyoming Dinosaur Center: http://www.wyodino.org and The Museum of the Mountain Man! http://www.museumofthemountainman.com


Branson, MO


Live shows and outdoor activities will keep you plenty busy, but here are some activities history buffs will enjoy. The Murder Rock Trail follows a historically important 19th century trail where travelers were ambushed and killed by robbers. The area, 4-miles south of Kirbyville, became know as the “Murder Rocks.” http://www.explorebranson.com/blog/2012/04/murder-rock-trail-a-great-hike-and-a-fascinating-history-lesson/
Learn about Rose O’Neill, the creator of the Kewpie doll at the Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, and Homestead. http://www.roseoneill.org/mainpage.html#/

I’ve only brushed the surface, I know. When you start looking for historical sites to explore, there is no limit. Don't forget to pack your books or your ebook reader!!

So, tell us, what historical side trip have you taken on your vacations?
Suitcase Stack
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Cindy Thomson is the author of a new novel featuring an Irish immigrant to Ellis Island, Grace’s Pictures. She is also the author of Celtic Wisdom and Brigid of Ireland. She enjoys exploring Irish history. She has written numerous articles on Irish genealogy. Visit her blog Celtic Voices and her web site where you can sign up for her monthly newsletter.

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