A Powerful Draw: A Trip to Our Nation’s Capital

Our nation’s capital is always a great choice for a family vacation. Not only are there enough activities to keep you and your “munchkins” busy for days, but the city’s symbolism and spiritual pull should be experienced by all Americans, young and old. This is where our nation lives and breathes; it’s a reminder of what a powerful and beautiful country we live in.

You may be daunted by the traffic that routinely winds its way through D.C. Avoid dealing with road stress by taking a bus tour through the city. Bus tours or plane trips are always an option if you don’t want to brave long traffic lines, especially if you live far enough away that a road trip in your vehicle will not be practical.

For a different twist, you may want to try not to focus on the old stand-bys of a trip to Washington D.C. Of course you’ll want to visit famous attractions like the Washington Monument, the Wall and the Smithsonian, and you’ll want to peek at the White House if you have a chance (I got my first glimpse from a swiftly-moving bus window!) but you might want to find something smaller, less known. It seems like every American family and their mother-in-law winds up at some of these crowd-pleasing attractions. Find some quiet places to explore; they are no less historical, but are considered off the beaten path.

Kids (and adults!) will be fascinated with a visit to the International Spy Museum; it is definitely a different approach to our nation’s history and is crammed with educational and historical interest. The International Spy Museum is a high-tech paradise, located in an old brick building that looks as if it jumped right out of the 1930s. Prices are reasonable; $15 for adults (over 12) and $12 for children (ages 4-12). Children younger than 4 are admitted free. The Spy Museum sports a unique gift shop where little spy enthusiasts can get their fill of cool gadgets and souvenirs and an upscale restaurant is located nearby for an unforgettable dining experience.

If you or your children love animals, Washington’s Zoological Park (the National Zoo) is a great find. The zoo is part of the Smithsonian complex but feels like a totally different atmosphere as you traipse around taking memorable photos of furry (and not-so-furry) creatures. From flamingos to bears to sea life, there isn’t much chance that you won’t see whatever animal you may be looking for. Posing with animals makes a great photo op for kids, as long as animals are safely behind their cages! The Zoological Park boasts over 2,000 different animals with countless species and many varieties of birds, reptiles, mammals, etc. Don’t miss the zoo’s store for some great buys.

For a cultural experience, visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. You certainly don’t have to be of the Jewish faith to appreciate the vast number of lives torn apart by the horrendous institution of the Holocaust, which included many countries and resulted in the deaths of many other groups including gypsies and those with certain disabilities. Come here to reflect on the tragic loss and learn about the people killed during the years of World War II. See photographs and special collections and hear amazing stories of survival. Admission is free for the main building and exhibits, but for the large permanent exhibit, you will need a pass.

Most of us have heard of Ford’s Theatre throughout our school years, and we know it’s the place President Lincoln was assassinated. What many visitors may not know is that, in honor of that beloved president, Ford’s Theatre has been reopened and once again puts on performances for awed viewers. Although you won’t find hoop skirts and top hats (unless the performers happen to be performing a play about the Civil War era) it will be interesting to both take in a show and take in the history of this morbidly fascinating building. Tickets for most performances range between the $20.00 and $50.00 price scale depending on which event you plan to attend.

Do some research and you may find a unique activity or an event in the area at the time you will be visiting. The best “off the beaten path” thing I ever found was a slow boat ride down the Potomac to Mount Vernon but there are plenty of things to keep you very busy in and around the city.

Is Georgia on your mind? Visit the Old South!

I can honestly say that Georgia is one of my favorite states of those I have ever visited. It isn’t really the attractions as much as the ambiance; warm sunny breezes, beautiful Spanish moss-laden branches swaying, fantastic rivers and swamps, and stately plantation homes. I truly don’t believe there is another state that quite shares Georgia’s beauty. Of course, although my love for the state goes beyond things to see and do, Georgia certainly has plenty of attractions, not only in the larger cities, but in small-town places as well. Huge cities like Atlanta and Savannah – each with their own distinct charms – have plenty of things to offer vacationing families.

Atlanta

Georgia’s huge capital is one of the state’s many prime tourist destinations. Attractions are divided between history related sites and more modern things to experience. Atlanta’s role in the Civil War is widely known and many Georgians still feel a sense of pride that their ancestors fought in this great conflict. Their respect of fallen heroes is best seen at the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum. Come and see a huge mural rising over 40 feet, showing Atlanta’s famous battle near the end of the Civil War. Exhibits and an old steam train at the adjoining museum will be well worth your time.

For another glimpse of Georgia’s illustrious past, visit the Atlanta History Center. You will find reconstructions of 19th century life here, contrasting experiences at a farm and a Georgian mansion. Be prepared to thoroughly enjoy the artifacts and many colorful exhibits you will see here. There are also gardens, offering a beautiful glimpse of Georgia’s striking natural beauty. Take advantage of the state’s wonderful climate and scenery by staying awhile, even if just to soak it all in and relax.

If you have tired of Atlanta’s regal heritage and want to get a sense of wonder exploring nature, hop on over to Atlanta Zoo. Atlanta Zoo hasn’t stopped growing for decades and will likely continue to do so. From monkeys to rare Chinese pandas, you’ll find countless animals here to stimulate your love of the wild. Atlanta Zoo will be a big hit if you’re traveling with children.

For an experience that is both educational and fun, try Fernbank Science Center. There doesn’t seem to be too much that this place does not have. Here you will learn about Georgia’s development spanning thousands of years, and there are aerial exhibits to satisfy little space travelers as well. They even offer an aviation camp on the grounds; if you’re not up to the challenge, perhaps you’d enjoy watching other people try their hand.

Savannah

Savannah means different things to different people. To most, it is a luxurious piece of the Old South where time has stood still for 150 years and carriages still carry tourists to visit the city’s historical sites. Savannah is all this and more. From architecture to attractions, Savannah has it all. Although it was founded many years before the Civil War, it gained its importance during these turbulent years of the 19th century.

It’s impossible to visit Savannah without studying its role in not only the Civil War, but the history of America. For just one of many historical homes open to the public, stop by the Green-Meldrim House. This particular home has significance in Savannah history for being Union General Sherman’s temporary center of operations in 1864. It is easy to understand why he chose this particular home; its ancient style of architecture is both unusual and pleasing to the eye. Other homes, such as the graceful Owens-Thomas House, are worth at least driving by on your tour through the town.

Old Fort Jackson is a great place to find Civil War artifacts and get a taste of Georgian life in the 19th century. Fort Jackson is Georgia’s oldest military fortification still standing and was built in the early years of the 19th century. It was famous not only in the “War Between the States” but also the War of 1812. The barracks and other parts of Fort Jackson have been carefully preserved.

For history mixed with modern enjoyment, try a haunted pub tour, the old-fashioned city market, a maritime museum, and much more. Whether or not history is your forte, you’ll find plenty of things to keep you busy in Savannah.