The 4th of July, (a big holiday for us Americans), was on Friday and had me thinking about a trip down a revolutionary road of American history. So, let’s start off by journeying 22 miles outside of Boston, MA to Minute Man National Park, the home of the first battles of the American Revolution against British rule. The site encompasses areas around the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts and the roads that connect them.
A visitor center run by the National Park Service gives you an overview of the events of April 19th 1775 when the colonial militia went toe-to-toe with the professional army of the British Empire. I would recommend getting a guided tour from one of the park rangers, they are free and a great way to hit the sights you might miss on your own. The programs are at scheduled times and each last about 20 minutes. You can also take a ride on the Battle Road Trail, which attempts to interpret the story from the perspective of residents in the area. Imagine having a front row seat as militias used hit-and-run tactics to thin out the British troops as they marched along the road from Boston.
The next stop is the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA. It’s a federally chartered non-partisan center for education about the United States constitution and civics. I visited the center a few years ago and was impressed by the interactive approach of each exhibit. The multimedia platforms encouraged you to test your knowledge of US history and law. You also have the chance to stand at the podium and read the presidential oath of office from a teleprompter.
The Kimmel Theater has a 17-minute 360-degree video and live action production called “We The People…” that shouldn’t be missed. I chose to watch that first to get me in the mood for the rest of the museum. Visitors can even sign in on the museum’s register, which is treated like an addendum to the US Constitution, so you’re “signing” the constitution along with Jefferson and Hancock. The admission price is $14.50 for adults and is well worth every penny.
While you’re in Philly you might as well see one of the most treasured buildings in the United States, Independence Hall, the birthplace of both the Declaration of Independence (signed on July 4th 1776) and the US Constitution (later in 1787). The Georgian-designed brick building was built between 1732 and 1756 as the Pennsylvania state house. The building was “loaned” out to the second Continental Congress in 1775, and became the de facto capital of the rebel colonies.
The rooms are simple and not loaded with the interactive exhibits of the Constitution Center, but it is a place you can stand in quiet reverence as you look at the room where some of greatest Americans in history once stood. The admission to the hall is free, but timed tickets are required from March to December.
The last stop on our tour is the Yorktown Victory Center near Williamsburg, Virginia. The American Revolution had lasted 7 years when in 1781, British General Lord Cornwallis, after being under siege in Yorktown, surrendered to General George Washington, effectively ending British rule of the American colonies south of Canada. You can visit colonial encampments, multiple indoor exhibits, and a working 1780s farm with interpretation by living historians.
You might find it prudent to get the Four-Site Value Ticket ($34.50 for adults) that includes historic Jamestown, the Jamestown settlement, Yorktown battlefield and the Yorktown victory center. It’s a nice way to see the beginning of colonial rule (Jamestown), the first permanent English settlement in north America, and then the place where colonial rule ended (Yorktown).
Whether you are into history of not, an American or not, we hope you had a happy 4th and enjoyed the fireworks.