written by Natalie Miller Moore, editor of Local Scoop and BFF of Tripbound’s Frugal Travel Mama
We are lucky enough to live in a really historic town (hello, Williamsburg, Va.), so you’d think we’d want something totally different for our family vacation. Right? Well, that didn’t turn out to be the case—we find history everywhere!
We have friends from Michigan who we meet up with most summers. And, this was the year we went to Fort Ticonderoga, New York—plus a stop at Gettysburg along the way.
First stop, Gettysburg!
It was mid-July, and one of the best things about heading north is that the humidity begins to recede. By Gettysburg, the air was already less saturated and there was a breeze as we approached the infamous battlefield.
Our boys (10, 7, and 4) were anxious to get out of the van, but exclaimed as they saw all the rolling green fields:
“Where is everything?”
I guess they needed something more tangible than the expansive battlefields with monuments every few yards. Yet, we ventured to the Visitor’s Center for some orientation and explanation, and were warmly greeted with interpreters eager to engage my children in imagining life during the Civil War.
It’s too bad my kids are pretty unimpressed by heavy wool coats and cannons. Living in Colonial Williamsburg will do that to you, I guess. But, the kids were fairly game and loved going out to a tower that looked like a castle to survey the entire place.
On the other hand, my husband was mesmerized. This was a huge deal for him to see, having studied history for his whole life. And, I definitely thought it was interesting, but I didn’t want to stay nearly as long. All that to say, I’d recommend it for half a day for a family visit. The guides do a great job setting the scene.
Our next stop was the destination where we’d meet our friends, in Ticonderoga, New York, which is on the shores of Lake George. By then, the humidity was nearly non-existent and the daily temperatures were a blissful 84 degrees. (I highly recommend heading north!)
We were going to see the Battle Re-enactment of the Siege of Ticonderoga. All the non-historians in the group didn’t know much about it. Nonetheless, we were excited to see one of my husband’s former co-workers who was literally leading the charge!
If you’re wondering where in the world Fort Ticonderoga is, it’s right at the tip of a peninsula between Lake George and Lake Champlain, which was a strategic defense location during the Revolutionary War.
What I can tell you in modern day terms is that the views from the fort are gorgeous and totally Instagram-worthy. My favorite part of our visit was the restaurant, which is slightly cantilevered over one of the lakes, and serves both modern and historic food. (We also got to watch people in colonial clothing pay for their drinks with debit cards, which always makes me giggle. Some things don’t change!)
Because of the anniversary of the battle, there were a number of special events, including a craft fair on the grounds. We got to set our sights on carved wood products, quilts, and metal work. And, my middle son got to help a potter make a cup on his wheel, and of course, also made a mess as well. Kids!
As for the fort, it’s wonderfully reconstructed and the number of reenactors marching, sewing, and preparing food and weapons offered a great time machine to the past. Also, the museum’s education center built into the wall of the fort had a great number of hands-on exhibits for kids. And, it’s worth mentioning that they had a great time (in air conditioning, no less!).
We walked out to the battle in the woods with several hundred other guests, and stood in awe of the opportunity to see what happened more than two hundred years ago.
It was, however, loud, and hot, and visceral. Besides the colonists and the French fighting the English, there were a number of native tribes involved as well, namely the Iroquoians and Algonquians. Ultimately, it was an intense experience to watch and wait as the battle raged on.
Why a History-Focused Vacation?
One of the reasons I love history on vacation is that you are free to find your own interesting angles to it. I am very interested in how the geography of a place shapes its history, and Fort Ti (as it’s known) would not have been the same without its ability to control the waterways between New York and Vermont.
Speaking of Vermont, there’s a very interesting ferry that runs from Fort Ticonderoga to Shoreham, Vermont. It takes just seven minutes! But, you drive your vehicle on it and then watch your kids like a hawk because there are basically no sides to it!
Hey, what’s a vacation without a little adventure? Happy travels, history lovers!
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