Historic Destinations in the Southeastern United States

The southern United States is full of history and destinations that market themselves as historic vacation destinations. They include numerous civil war battlegrounds and Native American historical sites along with Colonial Williamsburg. Many families choose to visit these destinations because each represents a unique way to educate kids about history that's fun and entertaining. Kids can better understand their past by walking in the steps of their forefathers in many locations across the country, well preserved and brought to life in museums and tours.

Civil War Battlegrounds

The Civil War was one of America's bloodiest and most controversial times in its history. It left behind stories and sites that are frozen in time for visitors to see and learn from. Civil War battlegrounds cut a swath from North to South over hundreds of miles, and many pertinent sites have been preserved or restored for the general public to see and explore.

Does your family have a desire to tour some of America's greatest Civil War sites, but you're not sure where to start? Check out the Civil War Discovery Trail. This site connects over 600 Civil War sites. (www.civilwardiscoverytrail.org)

In Virginia's Orange County, Montpelier is world famous as President James Madison's lifelong home. Madison was the fourth president of the United States and is known as the “Father of the Constitution.”

Travel Tip

Montpelier hosts a popular wine festival each spring that includes activities for the entire family with live music, cooking classes, and children's entertainment and rides. Wine tastings go on all day.

Just a mile from Montpelier, freedman George Gilmore and his wife Polly set up a farm and cabin that still stands. They lived on or near the land dating back to 1870. Gilmore built his cabin from the remains of a deserted Confederate camp. The couple had five children and the Gilmore family farmed the property until 1920. The trail to the Gilmore cabin is located on the grounds of Montpelier and is free with purchase of house admission. (www.montpelier.org)

Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site is in Four Oaks, North Carolina, and the Bentonville Visitor Center features a fiber-optic exhibit that details the conflict that took place on March 19, 1865, including major battlefield maneuvers of both Northern and Southern armies. The Harper House at Bentonville Battlefield was a functioning Civil War field hospital. Visitors to the site can tour a Confederate mass grave and Harper family cemetery, and walk a trail leading to a Union XX Corps earthworks. (www.nchistoricsites.org/bentonvi)

The Battle at Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, with an estimated 51,000 deaths. Here President Abraham Lincoln gave his address that would go down in history. (www.Gettysburg.com)

The Confederates saw their last victory at Chickamauga Battlefield in the Campaign for Chattanooga in Georgia and Tennessee. The area was the “gateway to the deep south” and was the nation's first national military park, created in 1890. The park is over 5,000 acres and can boast monuments, historical tablets, exhibits, and trails. (www.nps.gov/CHCH)

Colonial Williamsburg

A visit to Colonial Williamsburg is like a hands-on history lesson. Featuring buildings from 1699 to 1780, Colonial Williamsburg was Virginia's capital in Colonial times.

In Colonial Williamsburg's “Revolutionary City,” families can watch a dramatic street theater program about colonial times between the years 1774–1781 as if they were really there.

Colonial Williamsburg also has evening entertainment that includes concerts, films, dramatized witch trials, and ghost walks. Kids who love animals will flock to Colonial Williamsburg's Rare Breeds program, which breeds and cares for animals that would have been living at Williamsburg more than two centuries ago. Colonial Williamsburg also features educational, fun tours and events that allow visitors to see what it was like in colonial times:

  • “Crime and Punishment” is a walking tour that reveals what English law was really like.

  • “A Pirating” is a recreation of the 1727 trial of accused pirates John Vidal and Martha Farley.

  • The “In Defense of Our Liberty” event allows guests to “enlist” as a new recruit in the Continental Army and get a firsthand glimpse into life as an eighteenth-century combatant.

  • “Cry Witch” is a popular drama, whereby guests help settle on guilt or innocence for “The Virginia Witch.” (www.colonialwilliamsburg.com)

  • Just for Parents

    One of the best things for families visiting Colonial Williamsburg is the Colonial Kids Club, an on-site summer program that includes four or eight hours of supervised activities with other kids. The club includes lunch, so parents can sneak off for a whole day of spa services, shopping, golfing, or just to reconnect with each other in the romantic setting of Colonial Williamsburg.

    Savannah, Georgia

    Historic Savannah, Georgia, attracts thousands of visitors to its sites every year. Many Savannah cemeteries are stunning examples of historical architecture all on their own. One of the best ways to see this historic destination is by carriage ride or walking tour, as well as the many “hop-on/hop-off” tours that stop at historic landmarks. Savannah was laid out in a grid of open squares, which still entice lovers of history and architecture to visit year after year. Savannah's many squares are scattered throughout numerous historic neighborhoods.

    Savannah has many museums and historic landmarks relevant to United States history. The old Central of Georgia Railway Passenger Station dates back to the mid 1800s and is home to the Savannah History Museum and visitor's center. Savannah is also home to the Museum of Black History, which preserves African American history and culture, Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, Roundhouse Railroad Museum, and Owens-Thomas House.

    Fast Fact

    War memorials are prevalent in Savannah. There are a multitude of monuments to people who fought in the Civil, Spanish American, and Vietnam Wars. One of the largest Confederate monuments stands in Savannah's Forsyth Park, where soldiers drilled before marching off to war. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, dedicated in 1991, is in Emmet Park and is a beautiful reflecting pool surrounded by marble blocks inscribed with names of local soldiers killed in the war.

    Savannah is home to some of the country's best home cooking, serving the region's southern delicacies. Grits, biscuits and gravy, pies, and seafood dishes are among some of the recipes that are served in Savannah kitchens. (www.visit-historic-savannah.com)

    LODGING NEAR HISTORIC DESTINATIONS OF THE SOUTHEAST

  • America's Best Value Inn (Savannah, Georgia), very reasonable value hotel near Savannah's attractions and local transportation (www.americasbestvalueinn.com)

  • Crowne Plaza Williamsburg Hotel (Williamsburg, Virginia), at Fort Macgruder, pet friendly and located in close proximity to historic Williamsburg (www.cpwilliamsburghotel.com)

  • Inn on Poplar Hill (Orange, Virginia, near Historic Montpelier), bed and breakfast with historic tours and packages (www.innonpoplarhill.com)

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