Amazing Historic Vacations
Historic Hot Spot: Boston, Massachusetts
Start with a guided adventure along Boston's red-brick Freedom Trail. Take the Walk into History tour; the Freedom Trail Foundation's guides adopt personas of characters like Margaret Kemble Gage, daughter of a businessman and herself a suspected spy. She'll share inside info about Revolutionary Boston while leading you through 12 sites, including the Granary Burying Grounds, where John Hancock and Paul Revere were laid to rest ($12 adults, $10 students, $6 kids ages 6 to 12; thefreedomtrail.org). The walk stops at Faneuil Hall Marketplace; come back later for a breather and a bite. On your own, continue to Paul Revere's home, the Old North Church, or the famous battleship the U.S.S. Constitution. Need a break from the past? Catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park (the country's oldest ball field), grab dinner in the Italian North End, or meander along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a mile-long ribbon of parks that takes you through Chinatown and the harbor area (bostonusa.com).
Take a day trip to Lexington and Concord. At Minute Man National Historical Park, stand on the Old North Bridge, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired. In Concord you can tour the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson and visit Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the final resting place for Louisa May Alcott and other literary luminaries.
Where to Stay
The elegant Omni Parker House Hotel is offering a special Family Circle rate of $199 through 2010 (800-THE-OMNI, code FMCRCL). The Midtown Hotel is very quiet and has an outdoor pool (midtownhotel.com, from $139).
More Revolutionary America Destinations
Historic Hotspot: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Explore Ben Franklin's stomping grounds, check out an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, see the Liberty Bell up close, visit Independence Hall, and taste those famous cheesesteaks—aficionados rave about the ones at Jim's Steaks on South Street (visitphilly.com).
Historic Hotspot: Lakes to Locks Passage, New York
Running from Albany to the Canadian border, this spectacularly scenic Adirondack Byway winds past forts, battle sites, and strategic lookouts that helped shape the country's destiny (byways.org/explore).
Historic Hot Spot: Great Falls, Montana
Long considered a mere stopover between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, Great Falls is an uncrowded, affordable base for exploring the Wild West. The heart of Lewis and Clark Country, this waterfall-laced area is where the famed explorers and their corps hauled canoes for 18 grueling miles until they reached calmer waters on the Missouri River. Get the lay of the land with a historic two-hour trolley tour ($22 adults, $5 kids 2 to 12; www.greatfallshistorictrolley.com) followed by a visit to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center ($5 adults, free for kids 15 and under; www.fs.fed.us/r1/lewisclark/lcic/). The Great Falls History Museum is also full of frontier paraphernalia, while the C.M. Russell Museum houses a huge collection of cowboy-themed canvases. Great Falls is good for just kicking up your heels too. Rent bikes and cycle along the River's Edge Trail in town, hit the hiking paths, or check out Electric City Water Park (greatfallscvb.visitmt.com).
An hour away by car and virtually untouched by time, the frontier town of Fort Benton is a great excursion. Other worthy adventures include a trip to Buffalo Jump Park, where Native Americans reportedly slaughtered buffalo by running them off a cliff. Or venture to Lewis and Clark's aptly named Gates of the Mountains—1,200-foot crags hang over the Missouri River and tour boats roam the waters ($11 adults; $7 kids 4 to 17; gatesofthemountains.com).
Where to Stay
A short stroll from town, La Quinta Inns & Suites has rooms with breakfast from $109 (lq.com, 800-SLEEPLQ). For authentic hospitality and great horseback riding, stay at the family-owned Rocking Z Ranch, about an hour south of Great Falls (rockingz.com; weekly rates start at $1,330 for adults, $1,197 for kids 12 and under, including meals). Mention Family Circle and get a 5 percent discount through July 15, 2010.
More Frontier Destinations
Historic Hot Spot: Black Hills, South Dakota
In this remote expanse of America, the Gold Rush town of Deadwood is still alive, Indian powwows are regular events (powwows.com), and the Presidents of Mount Rushmore keep watch (blackhillsbadlands.com).
Historic Hot Spot: Natchez Trace Parkway
Stretching 440 miles from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, this byway snakes through America's first frontier region past old iron industry villages, historic forts and battlegrounds, and Native American landmarks (byways.org/explore).
Historic Hot Spot: Charleston, South Carolina
From its heroic role in the American Revolution to its darker side as the nation's largest slave port, this city is a virtual time capsule—as well as a great place to learn about the cultural, economic, and political forces that led our country to civil war. Kick off your trip with a carriage ride through Charleston's historic downtown; reserve in advance or online for discounts ($20 adults, $12 kids; classiccarriage.com). Then take a boat ride to Fort Sumter —the first shots of the Civil War were fired here (boat ride $16 adults, $10 kids 6 to 12; fortsumtertours.com). Other key sites include White Point Gardens and High Battery, where cannons still stand guard. Browse in the craft, clothing, and antique stores on fashionable King Street, then take teens to the funky scene at Folly Beach; they'll love checking out the surf shops, catching some rays, and eating lunch by the sea (charlestoncvb.com).
Drive or take a 30-minute shuttle ride from Charleston's Visitors Center to one of the extravagant plantations outside town for a glimpse of antebellum life. Save another day for a 20-minute drive to Sullivan's Island, where you can tour Fort Moultrie ($3 adults; $1 kids; nps.gov) and stop for lunch at Poe's Tavern, so named because the nearby fort was where renowned writer Edgar Allan Poe was stationed during the Civil War. Another must-see: The Naval and Maritime Museum at Patriots Point, which occupies four historic naval ships on Charleston Harbor ($16 adults, $8 kids 6 to 11; patriotspoint.org).
Where to Stay
Housed in a onetime citadel, the Embassy Suites Historic Charleston keeps families happy with a pool, hot breakfast, and roomy suites. Doubles start at $199; mention Family Circle code 0560075752 for 15 percent off through February 2011. (Blackout dates may apply; historiccharleston.embassysuites.com.) If a full-service resort is more your style, rent a room or condo at the sprawling beachfront Kiawah Island Golf Resort, on a barrier island 21 miles south of town. One-bedroom villas start at $199 per night. Get a 10 percent discount from May 28 to September 6, 2010, by calling the resort directly (800-654-2924) and mentioning Family Circle.
More Civil War
Historic Hot Spot: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg is more than a hallowed battlefield—it's the place to explore 10 Civil War-related museums and see themed events and live performances (gettysburg.travel). Stay in Gettysburg or make your base an hour away in Hershey and visit the famed amusement park (hersheypa.com).
More Civil War
Historic Hot Spot: Springfield/New Salem, Illinois
Combine a visit to the Land of Lincoln with a trip to Chicago, or devote a long weekend to exploring attractions along the Lincoln Heritage Trail, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum ($10 adults; $4 kids 5 to 15; presidentlincoln.org), Lincoln's home, and the Lincoln Douglas Debate Museum.
World War II
Historic Hot Spot: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Explore the chilling, yet fascinating, desert region known as the birthplace of the atomic age. Start off your adventure with a visit to the recently opened New Mexico History Museum, which traces the state's events from pre-Columbian times to present day ($9 adults, free for kids under 16; nmhistorymuseum.org). Then visit the restored 18th-century El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum ($6 adults, $12 kids 5 to 12; golondrinas.org). Ride a vintage train into the high desert, take a hot air balloon ride, or hike along the area's gorgeous mountain trails (santafe.org).
A 40-minute drive through stunning desert will land you in Los Alamos, the middle-of-nowhere town where the A-bomb was invented. The Bradbury Science Museum (lanl.gov/museum) offers an "unclassified" glimpse at the high-level research that's been done there. Also worth a visit is the Los Alamos Historical Museum and the Fuller Lodge, a former boys' school that housed the first Los Alamos lab. Before heading back to Santa Fe, grab a burger at the Hill Diner (a favorite lunch spot for scientists) and tour the ancient Native American dwellings at Bandelier National Monument.
Where to Stay
A retro motor hotel with southwestern style, the El Rey Inn on old Route 66 is one of the few bargains in Santa Fe, with rooms starting at $99, including breakfast (elreyinnsantafe.com). For horseback riding and family-friendly flair, stay 3 miles outside of town at Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa (bishopslodge.com; doubles start at $189).
More World War II Destinations
Historic Hot Spot: San Francisco, California
Visit the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, home to the Presidio, the defensive nerve center for the American West during WWII. Climb aboard the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, sole survivor of the 6,000-ship armada that stormed Normandy on D-Day ($8 adults, $4 kids 6 to 14; ssjeremiahobrien.org). And at Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, see the murals sponsored by the Depression-era Public Works of Art Project.
Historic Hot Spot: Oahu, Hawaii
Before hitting the beach, visit Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, "ground zero" for the United States during WWII (nps.gov/usar). The nearby U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park offers the chance to board one of only 15 remaining submarines used during the war ($10 adult, $4 kids 4 to 12; bowfin.org).
Historic Hot Spot: Atlanta, Georgia
Tour the Sweet Auburn District, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace; the MLK Jr. National Historic Site; the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where MLK preached; the tomb where MLK Jr. and wife Coretta are buried; and the African American Panoramic Experience Museum ($4 adults, $3 kids; apexmuseum.org). While there, stand in the footsteps of civil rights leaders on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Then head for Atlanta University Center to see an array of museums and galleries featuring African American art and culture. Also worthwhile: a visit to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum ($8 adults, free for kids 16 and under; jimmycarterlibrary.org); its focus is on contemporary civil rights struggles. Give your brain a break and dive into the Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the world.
Take the 90-minute drive to Macon, where you can tour 20 historic and cultural sites that tie in with the African American experience, including the Tubman African American Museum ($6 adults, $4 kids 4 to 17; tubmanmuseum.com) and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to music greats like James Brown and Ray Charles ($8 adults; $3.50 for kids 4 to 16; georgiamusic.org).
Where to Stay
A block from Centennial Park, the Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Downtown has rooms starting at $140 (atlantadowntown.hgi.com). For an authentic Atlanta experience, try the elegant Georgian Terrace Hotel, which hosted the Gone with the Wind cast during the film's 1939 world premiere. Rates start at $169, but mention Family Circle for 15 percent off through 2010 (thegeorgianterrace.com, 800-651-2316).
More Civil Rights
Historic Hot Spot: Washington, D.C.
Walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and other heroic Americans on D.C.'s self-guided Civil War to Civil Rights Downtown Heritage Trail. Visit the Smithsonian's African American-focused Anacostia Community Museum. And stand at the Lincoln Memorial, where MLK Jr. made his famous speech.
More Civil Rights
Historic Hot Spot: Memphis, Tennessee
Visit the National Civil Rights Museum, the former motel where MLK Jr. was assassinated (civilrightsmuseum.org). Then explore the connection between black music and the civil rights movement at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music (staxmuseum.org).
More Historic Hotspots at a Glance
LBJ Ranch, Stonewall, Texas
Lyndon Baines Johnson's sprawling ranch is where you'll find his reconstructed birth home and the cemetery where he and Lady Bird are buried (nps.gov/lyjo).
Mesa Verde, Colorado
Cliffdwellings and more built by the ancient Pueblo Indians (nps.gov/meve).
Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway, Colorado/Utah This scenic byway travels through dino country, past museums and excavation sites galore (byways.org/explore).
Gold Country, Colorado
Follow historic stagecoach routes leading to America's greatest gold camps (byways.org).
Newport, Rhode Island
Tour the magnificent summer mansions built by the elite of America's Gilded Age (gonewport.com).
Originally published in the May 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.
All special Family Circle room rates are subject to availability and blackout dates, and cannot be combined with other discounts.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings, and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.