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Thanksgiving in Plymouth

Plymouth Rock

There is no better place to celebrate Thanksgiving than in Plymouth, Massachusetts!  After spending time in Plymouth last Thanksgiving, we learned about the Pilgrims struggle to survive and how they influenced our country’s current form of government.  It was great way  to teach my son and nephew that Thanksgiving is more than drawing turkeys around their fingers, filling up on that once a year cranberry sauce  dish and watching football!  This was such a fun getaway and I am pretty sure the boys will never forget spending Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims!

If you are looking for the ultimate Thanksgiving experience, plan to go the weekend before Thanksgiving.  On Saturday, Waterfront Park is packed with activities and there is a Thanksgiving Parade.  Sunday, Plimoth Plantation holds a Turkey Dinner at Waterfront Park.  For more information about the events planned for the Plymouth Thanksgiving Celebration, call 508-746-1818.   Here are my additional picks for planning a memorable Thanksgiving!

What to See & Do:

Plimoth Plantation is a histoical living museum.  Here you will visit the Wampanoag Homesite and meet the Natives and then travel to the English Village and meet English Colonist.  The costumed role players are great!  Your family can watch the Natives cook over an open fire and make crafts using the same techniques from 1627.  While in the English Village your family will be able to speak with the colonist and take in an amazing view of the Cape Cod Bay.  The best deal is the Plimoth Pass for $122.50 which allows 2 adults and up to four children (6-17) admission.  This pass can not be purchased on-line and must be purchased at guest services in the visitor center or at the Mayflower II.

Mayflower II is a full-scaled reproduction of the original Mayflower .  Here your family will be able to learn about the 102 passengers that made the transatlantic journey.  The role players do a great job in sharing tales of how life was aboard the ship.

Plymouth Rock is located very close to the replica of the Mayflower.  Here on the waterfront you can find the important symbol of American history that you first learned about in elementary school.

Jenney Grist Mill was built by Pilgrim John Jenney to meet the needs of the growing Pilgrim population.  This was the first mill in America and the beginning of industry in our country.  Your family  will learn how to grind corn and how it was made into Jonnycakes.

Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation

Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation

Jenney Grist Mill

Jenney Grist Mill

Mayflower II

Where to Eat:

The Blue-Eyed Crab Grill & Raw Bar at 170 Water Street.  Great New England Clam Chowder and Lobster Roll.  We actually had the opportunity to speak to the chef  as he made his rounds around the restaurant.   He really does “SEA food” differently!   The menu is unique and the atmosphere is family friendly. 508-747-6776

Carmen’s Cafe’ Nicole at 114 Water Street.  The Famous Pilgrim Wrap was delicious.  I still crave it!  The restaurant is small, but it is worth the quick wait.  There is plenty on the menu to make your little pilgrims happy too!  508-747-4343

RooBar at 10 Cordage Park.  Great pizzas!  We particularly enjoyed the Maine Lobster Pizza.  The portions are very large and the boys kept busy coloring on the table!  508-746-4300

Where to Stay:  

Hilton Garden Inn Plymouth – 508-830-0200 or book through hotels.com, my go to site!  (If you book through hotels.com, make sure you sign up for their welcome rewards program!) We love staying at Hilton Garden Inns!  We stayed for two nights over a holiday weekend for $245!  The indoor heated pool, close proximity to attractions, and breakfast at the Great American Grill makes it a great place to stay for families!

Plimoth Plantation

Happy Thanksgiving!

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John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, Boston

This week I thought a lot about a period of history that took place before I was even born.  The life and accomplishments of our 35th President, John F. Kennedy was on my mind because his wife and former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy’s soft-spoken voice accompanied me in my car  through my travels of the week.  I purchased Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy a week ago.  As I listened to the recorded CDs that accompanied the book, I enjoyed hearing her reflect on the past of her husband’s political life.  She reminded me of many things I learned when my son and I visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum.

One thing I remember from reading the book Presidential Courage by Michael Beschloss was that Mrs. Kennedy had stated that “history made JFK who he was”.   The President had spent a lot of time reading as a young boy when he had been sick.  He believed “history was full of heroes”.  It was important to Mrs. Kennedy that her husband’s life be studied by “other little boys”.

Four years ago when my “little boy” was introduced to social studies in the third grade he became fascinated  with the American Presidents.  He still remains intrigued and loves to learn about the Presidents and American History.  Visiting the JFK museums in Boston and Hyannis served as a great place to bring the years of President Kennedy to life for my son.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy becoming president.  The anniversary serves a great opportunity to visit the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.  There are wonderful exhibits that can teach kids about the importance of public service and human rights. They also will learn how our generation is still  reaping the benefits of JFK’s decisions regarding science and the environment.  If you can’t make it to Boston, your kids can always learn about President Kennedy by visiting  www.JFK50.org.

John F. Kennedy wrote about many heroes in his book Profiles in Courage.  Visiting these museums will allow your children to learn that John F. Kennedy was the epitome of courage.  One of his greatest lessons was to “take a stand” for what is right.  My son realized after learning about President Kennedy that it is everyone’s responsibility to encourage peace and equality.  A good lesson for today’s world.

Visiting the exhibit of the campaign trail.

In 1961, JFK pledged that America would land a man on the moon. My son by John Glen's 1962 space suit.

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Halloween 2010

Halloween is one of those holidays that is fun and entertaining for both kids and parents.  Last year, my son and I experienced one of the best Halloween’s in Salem, Massachusetts.  Each year Salem  celebrates by hosting Haunted Happenings throughout the month of October.  The event known as “America’s Halloween Festival” includes events like walking and trolley tours, psychics and sites like witch museums and haunted houses.

The Burying Point

Headed to Frankenstein's Laboratory!

We started our weekend in the Haunted Neighborhood on Derby Street.  I had purchased a Halloween Pass through SalemWaxMuseum.com online before arriving.  The pass included a cemetery tour, admission to the Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers and admission to two haunted houses, The Haunted Witch Village and Frankenstein’s Laboratory.

Stone at The Salem Witch Trials Memorial

My son and his friend loved the haunted houses and found them frightful.  The museum was a disappointment and we went through it in less than fifteen minutes, but  we all enjoyed the tour through the cemetery and the Witch Trial Memorial. The Burying Point is the oldest burying-ground in Salem.  We saw the headstone of John Hathorne who was a  judge of the Witchcraft court.  He was actually an ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne.   We learned that Nathaniel Hawthorne actually changed the spelling of his last name, because he didn’t want to be associated with the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

More Witches!

People watching was entertaining in itself!  The boys had a great time touring the town in their costumes.

A tourist posing with my son and his friend.

We checked out the stores and places to eat on the  way down to the House of Seven Gables.

House of Seven Gables

We ended the day at the annual Carnival Fiesta Show where the boys had fun on the rides and playing games.

We really had a great time and plan on heading to Salem again.  The next time we go, I would love to stay at The Hawthorne Hotel over the last weekend of October and attend the Annual Costume Ball.  Of course both the hotel and the costume ball sell out quickly and reservations typically need to be made far in advance.  On our next visit to Salem, I would change things up from my visit in 2010, so I plan on starting our visit at the National Park Service Salem Visitor Center.   Apparently you can start the Heritage Trail, which is an easy walk along a red line to many of Salem’s attractions.  I loved the Freedom Trail in Boston, and this sounds very similar.  The trail hits highlights like the Witch History Museum , Salem Witch Museum and The Witch Dungeon Museum where there are reenactments of the Salem Witch Trials.

There really is no better place to celebrate Halloween than in Salem, and if you are in driving distance, you really should put this destination on your “Must See and Do” list for at least once!  In my case it is on my list for many more Halloween’s to come!  Planning is key to make this a fun time for you and your family, so check out www.haunted happenings.org or like them on Facebook.  You can even text SALEM to 72727 for updates!  See you in Salem on Halloween and don’t forget to wear your scariest costume!

Witches Brew!

Witches Brew!

Look at my hands!

Look at my hands!


Arrgh

Arrgh!

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After what I have called my year of transition (new house, new job, new car),  I was really looking to escape where I could leave all the craziness of my life behind for a couple of days. My aha moment came when I recalled a quote referencing Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau, ” A man may stand there and put all America behind him”.  Despite the fact that “putting it all behind” most probably wasn’t possible traveling with three boys, I was intrigued to explore the Cape.

Pirate's Cove Adventure GolfExploring the Cape is exactly what we did, with of course a little down time by the pool each day. Our first night into town we enjoyed mini-golf at Pirate’s Cove in South Yarmouth which is most probably shocking to many, since I am always planning learning experiences for our trips. It was really crowded since it has a reputation of being one of the best miniature golf course on Cape Cod.  Their reputation is well deserved, the crowds moved quickly and the course was entertaining for my pirate loving crew.  If you asked my son what his favorite part of the trip was he most probably will tell you it was at Pirate Cove when he hit a hole in one unintentionally!  Yes the ball went out of the green, bounced off the stairway and back onto the green in the hole!

Our second day in Cape Cod covered the learning category when we visited the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum and the John F. Kennedy Memorial.  The four of us headed into the museum for a whopping $7.50.  Not surprisingly, my son loved learning more about one of his favorite presidents. There was a quick film which really put everything into perspective for my young nephews and after the viewing they were trying to follow the Kennedy family tree on the wall to identify family members that they had just learned about.

Of course the museum is small, so we filled the rest of the day with two tours.  First we went to the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory.  This was FREE!  It only took about 15 minutes, but it was cool for the boys to see the progression of potato to the chip, then to the bag and ultimately boxing the bags to be shipped out.  They learned cool facts like it takes approximately 4 pounds of potatoes to make 1 pound of potato chips, because the potato is mainly water.  They munched on the “Kettle-Cooked” samples while chatting with one of the friendly employees while I purchased a couple of bags to take home.  It was a good time.

Only a couple of blocks away from the JFK Hyannis Museum, we discovered  Cape Cod Duckmobiles.  My son and I had done a Duck Tour in Boston and loved it, so I had to do it again so my nephews could experience the amphibious vehicle.  Honestly, there was not a lot to point out, but the guides were humorous and kept the boys entertained and they were thrilled when we “splashed down” into Hyannis Harbor.  If you take the tour don’t expect to see the Kennedy compound, but you do get to see the church the Kennedy family frequented and the armory where JFK made his speech during the election.

After our busy morning, the boys played in the pool while I tried to have a “Thoreau” moment before heading to catch a little “summer baseball”.  The Cape Cod Baseball League is a collegiate summer baseball league.  We decided to watch the Hyannis Harbor Hawks play the Brewster Whitecaps.  I have been to countless baseball games, but this was one of the most enjoyable games.  It is not because the Harbor Hawks won or the game was FREE, but because it was like I had stepped back in time where the boys could roam freely during the game without worry and at the end of it all, go onto the field and approach the players.  I wish we could have gone to more games!

Another highlight of the trip was taking the boys on a Pirate Adventure.  The Pirate Adventure was also not educational, but it was too much FUN not to mention.  First, I must give kudos to the staff.  I had made a mistake with my online reservation and had bought tickets for Monday instead of Sunday.  Considering that we would be back in New York on Monday, I was happy that they  honored our reservations on Sunday!  My son who is twelve was a little old for this adventure, but the Captain befriended him and gave him the ins and out of the operation while my nephews were having the time of their life!  The boys had their faces painted and wore costumes as we sailed off on The Sea Gypsy.  The whole experience was so much fun!  I was crying I was laughing so hard as the kids were shooting the water cannons on the side of the ship at a pirate who was trying the take the treasure that belong to the crew of their ship.  From figuring out the treasure map to doing the limbo it was nothing short of a great time.  It was one of the most expensive things we did at $21 a ticket, but well worth it!

We ended our trip with a visit to the Cape Cod National Seashore.  This year the Cape Cod National Seashore celebrates it’s 50th anniversary of when President Kennedy  signed legislation to protect the seashore and making it a part of the U.S. National Park System.  We visited the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham first and the boys participated in a FREE shellfishing demonstration and were ready to go clamming when we left.  We then headed to Nauset Light Beach which is also in Eastham.  We toured the Nauset Lighthouse, the one that is pictured on the Cape Cod Potato Chip Bag.  The tour was FREE and the boys learned the history of the lighthouse and the battle of the erosion that forced the lighthouse to be moved more than once.  The Nauset Lighthouse was our last stop on Cape Cod before heading home.  It was a perfect place to end our trip and I didn’t realize it until we had climbed the stairs and looked out the window to a magnificent view of the ocean.  It was at that moment I found my self ” standing there”  and literally could “put America behind me”.  I shared this with the boys, and even at the ages of 12, 9 and 7 they got it!  I hope one day you will be able to experience what Thoreau described in the 1800’s and what my family experienced in 2011.  Cape Cod turned out to be a great escape.

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Anyone who has read The House of  Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne would enjoy touring the house that inspired his gothic novel.  The house, one time owned by Hawthorne’s cousin Susanna Ingersol is in Salem, Massachusetts.  It is said that childhood stories from his cousin inspired him to write the famous novel, but he was adamant about the novel being a work of fiction.

We toured the house  which was led by a professional guide.  The best part was the secret staircase.  Another place to visit on this national historic site was the house that Hawthorne was born.  The house was originally on Union street, a few blocks away but was moved in 1958. The seaside garden is another spectacular feature.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's home

If you visit during October make sure you see  the live performances are the Spirits of the Gables which brings Hawthorne’s novel alive.  Make sure you make reservations because this is a busy time which coincides with Salem’s Haunted Happenings.

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At the Orchard House

Concord, Massachusetts, is a quaint town entrenched in the history of the American Revolution just outside of Boston. The town is known to captivate literary enthusiasts, since it was home to some of the greatest minds in America; Louisa May Alcottt, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorn.

To embrace the area, I recommend starting at the Concord Museum. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. As far as tour, you can tour the Orchard house which is the home of Little Women. The Ralph Waldo Emerson House and the Wayside which was home to three families of authors (the Alcotts, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney) also offer tours.  Walden Pond is the site of H.D. Thoreau’s cabin where he wrote his book Walden and is now a state park.

Emerson's Home

Although, my son most probably won’t read Little Women, I did purchase a copy of Walden for him for the future and a book of favorite quotes.  We wrapped up our day at Walden Grill, where we enjoyed a great meal and re-capped our exciting day.

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Nestled among the skyscrapers of Boston still lies the preserved colonial times of some of America’s historical icons like Samuel Adams and Paul Revere.  From 1761 to 1775, Boston forged America’s identify.  When my son and I visited Boston, it was wonderful to visit the sites of the Freedom Trail the way John Adams might have walked through the colonial town of Boston. The Freedom Trail is a red brick path that winds through downtown Boston linking sixteen of the city’s historic landmarks from the first major battle of the American Revolution and to the many historical giants that espoused freedom.

We started at the visitor information center in the Boston Common.  Majority of the sites are run by the National Park Service We were delighted to learn that majority of the admissions were free.  There was an admission for the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House Museum and Paul Revere’s house since they are privately run. Admission is $13 for adults and $3 for kids which includes all three buildings.  The U.S.S. Constitution Museum also had an admission fee of $5 for adults and $2 for children.

After speaking with a park ranger and learning the admission fees we picked up our map and journeyed back in time by following the red brick road that led us to …

Boston Common – America’s oldest public park. The 44 acres has served as a place to graze livestock until 1830, a training field during the American Revolution and a place of celebration when the repeal of the Stamp Act and the end of the Revolutionary War.

Boston Common

Massachusetts State House – The State House was built as a new center of state governance shortly after the revolution and is still used today by the senators, state representatives, and governor as they conduct daily business of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State House

Park Street Church – This site on the Freedom Trail is known for political, social and humanitarian issues.  Prison reform, woman’s suffrage support and protest against slavery all happened in this church.

Old Granary Burial Ground – Some of Boston’s most famous revolutionaries were buried here.  Three men who signed the Declaration of Independence – John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Pain.  Paul Revere and victims of the Boston Massacre were also buried here.

King’s Chapel and Burying Ground – This burying-ground is older than Old Granary Burial Ground, in fact it is older than Boston itself.  Buried here was Massachusetts’ first Governor, John Wintrhop and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

First Public School – Established in 1635, as the name suggest this is our country’s first public school.  Benjamin Franklin attend classes here before he dropped out.

Old Corner Bookstore Building – Initially this building was an apothecary shop.  In 1828 it became a bookstore and printing shop and publisher Ticker and Fields published great works of Longfellow, Hawthorne and Emerson to name a few.

Old South Meeting House – This building held meetings that set the stage of some of the most dramatic events leading to the American Revolution.  One of those meetings led to the Boston Tea Party which sparked the Revolutionary War.

Old State Meeting House

Old State House – Before the Revolution, the Old State House was the seat of British Government.  After the American Revolution it served as the first capital building.

Old State House

Boston Massacre Site – Right outside of the Old State house is the site of the Boston Massacre where five colonist were killed by British troops.  This of course is known to be one of the catalytic events that led to the American Revolutionary War.

Boston Massacre Site

Fanuell Hall – Also known as the “Cradle of Liberty, this main market place served as a meeting place where Samuel Adams tried to convince fellow colonist to unite and fight against the British.

Faneuil Hall

Paul Revere House – This is the oldest house in downtown Boston and is the house that Paul Revere lived in when he made his famous “midnight ride” to warn the minutemen in Lexington of the arrival of British troops.

Old North Church – It was here that lanterns were hung by Robert Newman, sexton of the Old North Church to signal Paul Revere that the British troops had arrived by sea.

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground – The second oldest burying-ground where many early colonist are buried.  Robert Newman is also buried here.

USS Constitution – Old Ironsides was built in 1797, the oldest war ship of the U.S. Navy is moored here at one of the country’s first ship yards.

U.S.S Constitution

Having a drink with friends at the Museum at the U.S.S. Constitution Museum

Bunker Hill Monument – The last stop on the Freedom Trail is the Bunker Hill Monument.  This monument commemorates the battle of June 17, 1775 between the British and colonial forces.  The British won the battle, but were later forced out by George Washington’s troops nine months later.

Bunker Hill Monument

Last stop on the Freedom Trail

Have you visited The Freedom Trail with your children?  I am sure glad I brought my son.  Experiencing the Cradle of Liberty first hand hopefully, will allow him never to forget what the Sons of Liberty accomplished for future generations which includes our family.  Not to mention those first hand lessons came in pretty handy during 7th grade American History class.

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