As full-time travelers, we roadschool our son. This means we are always on the lookout for educational things to do during our travels. As you can imagine, this is never too difficult. The East Coast, however, has more educational activities than almost anywhere we have ever been. More specifically, this area is ripe with opportunities to learn about American history, and that’s just what we did.
During our East Coast trip, our American history knowledge base was expanded by quite a lot, and our son still surprises us with things he picked up during this journey.
So, what are all of these amazing history lessons available on the east side of the country? Below are some of my favorites.
1. National Museum of American History, Washington DC
Let me start by saying that all of the Smithsonian Museums are absolutely incredible. Better yet, they’re free, meaning it’s well worth staying in the DC area for a while in order to see all of these amazing halls of knowledge.
The National Museum of American History was my favorite of the DC museums we saw. It is tons of fun and has super interesting information on subjects such as the history of transportation and the history of food in this country. It even includes an old travel trailer from the early 1900s!
This museum is enormous, so be sure to plan to stay for a full day or come two times during your visit to the city. You’ll be glad you did!
Read before you go: Cartoon History of the United States
2. Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Admission: Fluctuates with season; see here.
This was by far my favorite stop. Plimoth Plantation is a living history museum and is easily the best one we have ever seen. The reenactors take on the roles of actual Pilgrims who built the original settlement of Plymouth, Massachusetts. They can answer questions about their characters’ personal lives as well as the lives of pilgrims in general, and they stay in character the entire time.
The museum also includes a Wampanoag village where you can chat with members of the tribe and learn about their way of life during the early 1600s, as well as some traditional indoor exhibits.
We thoroughly enjoyed our two-day visit to this museum and would recommend it to anyone.
Read to kids before you go: Magic Treehouse #27: Thanksgiving on a Thursday
3. Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia
Admission: $40.99 for adults; $20.49 for kids; 5 and under free; discounted, multi-day, and sampler tickets available.
Most people have at least heard of Colonial Williamsburg, and there’s a reason why it’s so popular. This living history museum focuses on the lives of civilians during the years leading up to the American Revolution. The property is the size of a small town and includes the workshops of a number of craftsmen, as well as taverns, a coffee house, a courthouse, and a few homes.
We purchased the sampler ticket, and really wish we had been able to see more. We ended up catching the trial at the courthouse, which was very interesting and included audience participation. The coffeehouse was also pretty neat, especially for coffee lovers like us.
Read before you go: If You Lived in Williamsburg in Colonial Days
4. Jamestown Settlement, Williamsburg, Virginia
Admission: $17 for adults; $8 for kids; 5 and under free; discounted and combo tickets available.
Jamestown Settlement is focused on life for the earliest American settlers, the people who arrived before the pilgrims to explore the land. It includes a fairly large exhibit hall with all kinds of information on how the settlers would have lived, as well as specific settlers. There is also information on the native tribes who were affected by the settlers, including people like Pocahontas.
Outside of the museum building, the settlers’ ships are docked and available for guest viewing. This was really neat, and the guides on board the ships are quite knowledgeable.
In addition to the ships, both the settlement and a Native American village are also available for people to walk through. Both are neat, and we learned a lot about tanning hides from one reenactor.
Read to kids before you go: The Virginia Mysteries: Shadows at Jamestown
5. American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Yorktown, Virginia
Admission: $12 for adults; $7 for kids; 5 and under free; discounted and combo tickets available.
Like the Jamestown Settlement, this museum has a number of indoor exhibits including a short movie which we enjoyed quite a lot. The exhibits included tons of information on the Revolutionary War. My husband and I really liked this part of the experience, but did involve a lot of reading and wasn’t as hands-on as our kindergartener might have liked.
When you walk out of the museum, you are greeted by the site of a Revolutionary War military camp. There are several tents available for guests to walk through, and a few reenactors available to answer questions. Here, guests can watch a musket demonstration and learn about how the soldiers would have prepared their food.
There is also a recreated tobacco plantation outside. This includes several buildings and plenty of staff to help explain the inner workings of the plantation. Here we learned about the process a tobacco farmer must go through before selling his product.
Read to kids before you go: Magic Treehouse: Revolutionary War on Wednesday
A note for roadschoolers
We visited two of the three Virginia museums above during Homeschool Week. Because of this, we got a really great price on tickets and even had the chance to participate in special tours and classes.
If you are roadschooling I highly recommend you also visit the historical triangle in the Williamsburg area during Homeschool Week, which is always in September. During this week, homeschoolers receive discounted admission to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
Do you know of an amazing East Coast stop for learning about American history? Let us know about it in the comments!