I love the 4th of July. It’s one of my favorite holidays, hands down, because there’s no pressure; you don’t have to do anything except sit around and maybe throw some hot dogs on a grill. It combines all the best things about summer: barbeques, fireworks and just hanging out.
So as I buy my red-white-and-blue plates and pin lots of elaborate party ideas that I will never actually try (who has time to painstakingly make stripes of blueberries and strawberries on a cake? Not this girl. I have sparklers to light and grass to run around in. Barefoot, of course.) I got to thinking about some of my favorite historic places.
With two teacher/history buff parents, you’d better believe I’ve seen most historical sites on the eastern seaboard. Since my travels west of the Mississippi have so far been limited to Las Vegas, I apologize for not including more sites from the left side of our fair country. They’re definitely on my to-see list.
Salem, MA: For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a serious obsession with the Salem Witch Trials. I’ve read countless books by historians with more degrees than I can count, and I know the difference between Salem Town and Salem Village. Fun fact: when you visit Salem today, you’re visiting the larger town (the small village where the hysteria actually began is now called Danvers). But if you find yourself in Salem, just look past the touristy shops and seek out the truly impressive sights. Check out the Peabody Essex Museum, which houses original documents from the trials. You can tour the Witch House, former home of Witch Trials Judge Jonathan Corwin. There’s also the Salem Witch Trial Memorial, a low stone wall with each victim’s name and date of death carved on a slab. On my next visit, I plan to head out to the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, the restored home of one of the victims. These are just a few highlights; Salem is so much more than Halloween-themed pointy black hats and broomsticks.
Plymouth, MA: Even as a moody teenager who would’ve rather been watching General Hospital than driving up to New England with her family, the first time I saw Plymouth Rock I couldn’t help but be impressed. And when I toured the replica of the Mayflower, I couldn’t help but be horrified. That ship was tiny. I’m talking microscopic. Suddenly my family’s hotel room didn’t seem so small. There were lots of cool things to do, like wander around 17th century cemeteries and get back to basics, pilgrim-style, at Plimoth (no, that’s not a typo) Plantation, an awesome living history museum that explores how the pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe lived. Just don’t forget to check out that rock.
Colonial Williamsburg, VA: Time to head south now, to Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg is another living history museum, like Plimoth Plantation, but fast-forward about a hundred years. Visiting Williamsburg is a must if you are interested in Revolutionary War history or time travel. You can stroll along the streets, mingling with costumed residents and imagining what it might’ve been like to have been on a first-name basis with George and Martha Washington. It’s complete immersion in another time period. You can also make it a history double-header and visit the nearby settlement of Jamestown.
Come back next week for Part 2. Because all of my history loving can’t be contained in one post, next week I’ll look at post-Revolutionary War sites. It’ll be century-hopping fun.
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