Historic Jamestown

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We visited Jamestown, VA on November 16, 2016

Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in North America. The fort began here in 1607 and it is a perfect one-day activity for families with kids. This was an easy field trip for the 3 kids and I, while Chris was away on business. It was only a 20 minute drive from where we were staying in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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We actually didn’t arrive until later in the afternoon, so we only had 2 1/2 hours here. If we were to return, I would pack a picnic lunch and a blanket and eat somewhere between the fort and the water. The historic park is huge and there is plenty of room to wander off as a family in the vast expanse of grass and trees. This would be a beautiful place to nature journal with kids…wish I had thought to plan that!

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The grounds are beautiful in the autumn and a visit here is a perfect afternoon activity. It was one of our more relaxed field-trip outings. When we arrived we were told that a docent was giving a talk, while dressed in character, so we ventured over to the water to hear her speak. The talk, as well as her period attire, were brilliant…we actually learned quite a bit. My girls were a bit more interested in listening to a woman from the 1600’s…so this is my son fiddling with sticks and bugs, sitting under the trees:

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After the talk, we meandered over to the fort and explored the recreated area as well as the active excavation site where archeologists have rediscovered the fort that was once thought to be swallowed up by the James River.

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We learned a bit more about Captain John Smith, the first Governor of Virginia.

And then I found this…after seeing all she wanted, my teenager slipped off quietly to dig into a good book.

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After touring the grounds, we headed inside to the Visitor’s Center to further our history lesson.

On our way out, we stopped into the Glassblower’s shop, as it is right on the way back to the main road. This was very cool! We arrived at 4:45, right before closing, but we were able to hear the glassblower speak with another family and he was explaining the process and how glass is made. It was fascinating and beautiful. Clearly, my children are all enamored by the fire.

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Visiting Tips: Children 15 and under are free. Adults pay $5 WITH a National Park Pass (they charge a fee as this is an active excavation site). Hours are 9-5. Your pass is valid for 7 days, so you can visit multiple times if you wish…or even return simply to picnic and explore the grounds.

 

Arlington National Cemetery

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As we roam the country, I am always captivated by old, unique and historical cemeteries. My husband has watched me jump out of the truck at random times or disappear up a hill to snap a photo of a beautiful memorial or resting place. I am captivated by the history in a headstone, the beauty that the centuries leave on a cemetery and the words by which a person is remembered.

It was only fitting that we should visit Arlington National Cemetery as a family. When I was fifteen, I visited Arlington with a group from my high school and we toured historical landmarks of the east coast. Naturally we visited our nations National Cemetery. I vividly remember that visit, as I had won an essay contest, and earned the privilege of laying a wreath on the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. It was on July 4th, 1993 and even as a teen, I understood the magnitude of honor and sacrifice that was memorialized in this landscape.

This week, our family walked the rows of headstones and saw a tiny glimpse of the many great American heroes that have served and fought for our nation. Our visit was truly remarkable and I seek to document it for my kids…but also, to inspire other families to do the same. I did not want to do a formal tour with the kids, nor did I want to ride a tram or spend money here. I simply wanted us to walk among the Americans who had served our country, fought for our nation and contributed to our democracy.

The night before our visit, we did a lesson with the kids on the significance and the history of Arlington. I found an absolutely amazing and free resource online that I highly recommend for all Americans, that plan to visit our National Cemetery. It was created by a teacher for students in grades 4-8, but portions of it can be used for any age level. You can download it for free from the Teachers Pay Teachers website. Ms. Cobb, the teacher who created this mini-lesson pack, has you watch the music video “Arlington” by Trace Adkins which is beautiful. I cannot watch it without tearing up, to be honest. Then she provides a link to a documentary on Arlington with worksheets for your child to answer as you watch the movie. This lesson took us about 2 hours total and was paramount to our successful field trip to Arlington National Cememetery. It gave all five of us a solid foundation of information for what we would see, as well as an understanding of the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. It was the perfect amount of information.

The next morning, we took the metro to Arlington and stopped into the Visitor Center. I recommend stopping here to pick up a detailed map of the grounds. You will need this to navigate the fields and also to find any markers you might be searching for. (Note: I had printed a free self-guided tour map provided by Free Tours By Foot…but it did not work for me and I ended up using the National Park’s map. If you are looking for a guided tour though…I would try this one). We planned our time around seeing the changing of the guard. This time of the year, the guard changes every hour, on the hour. This worked perfectly for us, and we had one hour to tour several areas before heading to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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John F. Kennedy’s Memorial sits below the Arlington House

After watching the documentary, we were all in awe of the guards who serve at this monument. Their dedication, honor and attention to detail are inspiring beyond words. This location and ceremony demand respect and honor and I loved having my children present to witness this up close and center.

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After this, we explored several notable memorials:

Walking down the hill, out of the cemetery…you are confronted with a sea of headstones.
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From here, we took the advice of Full-time Families pioneer, Kimberly Travaglino, and walked across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, into Washington DC and began our tour of the monuments surrounding the Reflecting Pool. She has also created a “Top Secret Travel Guide” for touring DC, which helped me in several phases of my own trip planning. Starting our day in Arlington and then walking into DC worked perfectly for us and makes for excellent planning…we then visited Washington DC section by section.

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The Challenger Memorial
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Audie Murphy Grave; The most decorated soldier in World War II