Mention history and vacation in the same sentence and the response from just about any kid is going to feature groans and complaints about history being boring. But it doesn’t have to be that way; there are plenty of options to make a short break or a two-week vacation that incorporates a little history fun for all the family.
Air and space
Children are sure to get excited about seeing giant rockets and spaceships. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC has everything, from artifacts from the first ever flight by the Wright brothers in 1903 to the first moon-landing mission of Apollo 11 in 1969. There are also fighter aircraft from the First and Second World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex has a huge collection of rockets and space-related exhibits. There is also a stunning Space Shuttle Atlantis display. Space Shuttle Enterprise can be seen in New York at the USS Intrepid, which also has a British Airways Concorde, while Space Shuttle Endeavour is housed at the California Science Center.
The Space Center Houston is another must-see for adults and children of all ages. The NASA tram tour takes in the Johnson Space Center, while the Kids Space Place allows youngsters to become an astronaut by way of themed areas and interactive exhibits.
Independence and civil war
Philadelphia is the place to go to learn about how the country gained independence. First stop should be the Independence Visitor Center, followed by Independence Hall, where the US Constitution was written and the Declaration of Independence was signed. Next, take a look at the Liberty Bell and spend some time at the US Mint. Kids are sure to love Philadelphia Zoo and the PECO Theater, where the Liberty 360 3D Show has ‘Benjamin Franklin’ acting as tour guide.
The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War and the Gettysburg National Military Park has guided bus tours, a museum and multi-media presentations. There is also a Junior Ranger program, which involves kids taking part in three activities to qualify as Junior Rangers.
The nation’s capital is awash with history, from iconic buildings such as the White House and the Capitol to the Smithsonian Institution, with its 19 individual museums and the National Zoological Park.
The National Children’s Museum covers subjects and activities as diverse as global citizenship, play, and the arts. For younger children, there are interactive exhibits, books, and videos centered on Sesame Street characters. The Ripley Center is home to the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater, where children of school age can enjoy folktales and classical stories told through dance, puppets, mime, music, and storytellers.
Native American history
There are Native American cultural centers and museums all around the country. For example, in New York, the Children’s Cultural Center of Native America holds puppet shows and workshops for school groups. Boston Children’s Museum has a section dedicated to Native American Art, and the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois has a teaching lodge and organizes activities such as craft mornings for kids.
History through music
Since the dawn of time, music has played an important role in recording key historical events. There are the songs of Native American Indians, which can be heard at cultural centers around the US and folk clubs where music from the time of the first English settlers is still performed. The likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, who came to epitomize the 60s with their Vietnam War protest songs and support for the Civil Rights Movement, are still performing. More recently, Bruce Springsteen has used his music as a platform to highlight the challenges facing working-class Americans throughout the 80s and 90s. Artists like Springsteen are great examples of living history, and much can be learned from listening to their songs and attending live concerts. Not to mention children will be entertained while doing so!