We’ve finished 48 of 48.
Talk about #scheduleinterrupted! When I started looking at our upcoming summer activities this summer, it dawned on me that we’d have to interrupt the end of our school year to go on the trip we’d been planning for this summer. So… it’s been quite here for over a month due to our travels, but we’re ba-ack!
Unbelievably, this was our final trip to visit the contiguous 48 states before our oldest son graduates from high school! When we first made the goal of visiting all 50 states before our children graduate, I honestly doubted that it would actually come true. Now as Stephen enters the Classical Conversations Challenge 1 program this fall, we look forward to visiting the remaining two states, Alaska and Hawaii, sometime during his high school years. As we enter our upcoming year of U.S. history and geography studies, we look forward to sharing a virtual tour of the U.S. and the amazing places and events we’ve experienced firsthand. Until then, I wanted to share our itinerary in case you are traveling this summer with your own family! Note: Because we had visited the mid-eastern states a couple of years ago as a smaller loop, we extended our radius to include the states we missed the first time around. Check out our previous trip here.
Over the course of the next few months, we will write out the details of each state we’ve visited to include in our 50-States-before-They-Graduate posts. But for now we just wanted to share…
The map at the top of this post includes our itinerary backwards. Our original plan was to hit our niece’s graduation in Atlanta before heading out, but we ended up going on our trip first and ending with her graduation. View the first half of the itinerary on Roadtrippers.
Day 1 morning:
Depart (from our farm located about 1 hour east of Nashville)
Day 1 afternoon:
Columbus, OH: Topiary Park in downtown Columbus. We stopped at this seven-acre park in downtown Columbus to get out and stretch. Open from sunrise to sunset, the Topiary Park is a “landscape of a painting of a landscape,” a topiary interpretation of Georges Seurat’s Post-Impressionist painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte.” Great place to picnic.
Arrive Peninsula, OH.
Day 2 morning:
Peninsula, OH (Outside of Cleveland/Akron): Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Lots of beautiful hikes and history here! Brandywine Falls, Ledges Overlook, and Ohio & Erie Towpath Canal Trail, to name a few.
Cleveland, OH. Christmas Story House and Museum. From Cuyahoga, we headed to the Christmas Story House and Museum in Cleveland. This movie is such a tradition in our home that it was definitely a must-see. The museum features original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, (such as toys from the Higbee’s window, Randy’s snowsuit, and the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom), and the house itself is the real place where the movie was filmed. My husband even dug through the FRAGILE box to find the leg lamp.
Day 2 afternoon/evening:
Niagara Falls, NY. Niagara Falls State Park. This beautiful place is America’s oldest state park. (And all these years, I thought Niagara Falls was a national park!)
Day 3 morning:
Le Roy, NY. The Jell-O Gallery Museum. Just a fun stop along our way across New York. Minimal admission fee.
Day 3 afternoon/evening:
Seneca Falls, NY. It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. Beautiful town that inspired the setting for the movie. Great place to stop and picnic beside the river. Free admission.
Syracuse, NY. Erie Canal Museum. America’s last weighlock building. Fantastic and free!
Chittenango, NY. Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. Walk along the canal towpath and view the remnants of stone aqueducts. We picnicked here beside the Erie Canal. (You can also go to the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum.)
Canastota,NY. We drove through this old Canal Town.
Stayed overnight in Saratoga Springs, NY. We were hoping to go up to Fort Ticonderoga to spend a day, but it was not yet open for the season. If you’re in the area, definitely try to add Fort Ticonderoga to your trip!
Day 4 morning:
Pittsford, VT. New England Maple Museum. Neat place that provides some history and science behind the maple syrup industry.
Woodstock, VT. Sugarbush Farm. We don’t recommend stopping here. Although they provided samples of cheese and syrup, the folks here did not seem interested at all in sharing about the maple and cheese farm experience. It was more like a try-the-samples-in-order-to-purchase-something experience. They do have a maple tree walk, but we just weren’t impressed with the hospitality (or lack thereof).
Day 4 afternoon:
Quechee, VT. Simon Pearce Restaurant and Glass-Making Shop. All I can say is, “Wow!” We splurged to go to this “fine-dining” establishment (in quotes because the kids were welcome there, and a kids menu was available – but the adult menu was certainly fine-dining food – and prices!). Afterwards we went downstairs to the glass-blowing area to see them making glassware (which is used in the restaurant). The boys wanted to stay and watch the glass-blowing for hours! Food was wonderful; overall experience was wonderful!
Quechee, VT. Quechee Gorge. Beautiful place with opportunities to hike and picnic.
Day 5 morning:
North Woodstock, NH. Lost River Gorge & Boulder Canyon. An absolute favorite stop for our boys! The trail is laid out very well, and it’s a great place for exploring and adventure! LOVED it!
Day 5 afternoon:
Bretton Woods, NH. Mount Washington Cog Railway. Ride the world’s first mountain climbing cog railway to the top of Mount Washington – the highest peak in New England.
Bangor, ME. Penobscot River Walkway. Nice place to get out and stretch on the way to Acadia National Park.
Arrive in Bar Harbor.
Day 6 – all day:
Bar Harbor, ME. Acadia National Park. Sand Beach, Thunder Hole (the boys’ favorite!), Jordan Pond, historic Rockefeller carriage roads, Cadillac Mountain, Bass Harbor Head Light House, and more. I understand why this is a favorite national park of many people!
Drive to Kittery, ME to visit family.
Day 7 – all day:
Boston, MA. The Freedom Trail. “Walk your way to 17 historic sites.” This 2.5 mile trail through downtown Boston is a must for any history buff! (Click here for a downloadable map!) We started at Boston Commons and followed the red brick road all the way to Bunker Hill. Favorite stops included the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s House, the Old South Meeting House, the Boston Massacre site, and The USS Constitution Museum (which was free and fantastic!). We didn’t realize the Boston Tea Party Museum is not along the freedom trail route. We missed it because we were worn out after carrying a toddler around for 5 miles, but if we ever make it back… the Boston Tea Party Museum is on our bucket list! (As a side note, I was surprised to find that Griffin’s Wharf no longer exists!) We’d also like to go to the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library if we ever make a return trip to Boston.
Lexington, MA. Lexington Green, Buckman Tavern, and Hancock Clarke House. As we drove out of Boston at about suppertime, we headed to Lexington and Concord. We didn’t make it in time to see the Minute Man National Park, but we did see the site where Paul Revere was captured!
We stayed at Best Western Rockland on the way down to Plymouth. It was one of the friendliest places we’ve ever stayed!
Day 8 early morning:
Scituate, MA. Scituate Lighthouse. Because we’ve read the wonderful picture book Sisters of Scituate Light by Stephen Krensky, we had to stop by the site where two sisters protected their town from a British invasion during the War of 1812.Day 8 late morning through afternoon/evening:
Plymouth, MA. Plimouth Plantation. Wonderful living history experience! We sang a hymn with Mr. & Mrs. Miles Standish in their home! (The Mayflower II was in Mystic Seaport, CT for renovation, so we missed it!)
Plymouth, MA. Ate lunch at Wood’ Seafood (and met with CC friends!) at Plymouth Harbor, Plymouth Lobster Crawl (click here for a map of all the lobster statues!), Plymouth Rock (Pilgrim Memorial State Park), National Monument to the Forefathers (a must see!) from the documentary Monumental.
Because Roadtrippers has a limit to the number of waypoints, I had to create a new itinerary for the second half of our trip! View the second half of our itinerary on Roadtrippers.
Day 9 morning – what we did:
From Plymouth, we drove to…
Providence, RI and attempted to visit the Roger Williams Memorial. Our hope was to just visit the monument, but the traffic was too crazy for us to feel comfortable with our active toddler, so we just did a drive by.
Newport, RI. Easton’s Beach and Newport Cliff Walk where you can walk past and tour Newport Mansions such as the Vanderbilt’s The Breakers and Ochre Court. On our way over to Newport, we passed by Clingstone.
Day 9 morning – what I wish we had done:
From Plymouth, I wish we had driven to either…
Pawtucket, RI to visit Slater Mill Historic Site and then over to Newport, or
Fall River, MA to Battleship Cove, approaching Newport from the other direction (which I think would have saved some toll money). If we had gone this route, we probably would have also dropped by Beavertail Lighthouse and/or Stepstone Falls.
Either way, we really enjoyed the Newport Cliff Walk – even without touring mansions (which is not an appealing thought with four boys). It was beautiful!
Day 9 afternoon:
Groton, CT. Submarine Force Museum (USS Nautilus). The only submarine museum operated by the U.S. Navy. Great audio tour of the USS Nautilus, and our boys enjoyed the museum. (free admission)
Drive to NYC and stay with friends in Weehawken, NJ! Weehawken was our home base for a couple of days as we explored NYC.
Day 10 – all day!
Jersey City, NJ. Empty Sky (911 Memorial). This memorial not only gave me chills, it made me cry. So powerful! Then… ferry to Ellis Island and ferry to Statue of Liberty. (By the way, crown tours have to be booked far (months) in advance, and even the pedestal tour was sold out by the time we arrived that morning – in the off season. We didn’t know exactly when we would be here given our long itinerary. If you know in advance, be sure to book your tour tickets well ahead of time!) After Statue of Liberty, we went back to Ellis Island again because we forgot to visit an entire floor! And then… we took the ferry over to the New York side to Battery Park. From there, we walked to the Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial and visited with a volunteer about the Survivor Tree (see the book here). Then on to St. Paul’s Chapel (aka, the Little Chapel that Stood) and Brooklyn Bridge.
Day 11 – all day!
New York City, NY. The southern side of Central Park. (Central Park is so gargantuan that it’s necessary to narrow down which section of Central Park you want to see.) Grand Central Terminal. Top of the Rock (wonderful views of Manhattan and Central Park! LOVED it!). We ate at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, which was FANTASTIC for kids, great atmosphere, friendly wait staff, and really great food! They serve everything “smorgasbord” style on platters to dish out onto separate plates. Be sure to book a reservation in advance!
(Note: There is so much to see in NYC that we had to prioritize and eliminate some places we originally planned to visit like the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, the Empire State Building tour, and the Chrysler Building. On our must-see bucket list, we would like to tour the Tenement Museum. There are minimum age requirements for this museum, which is why we could not tour it on this trip. Also, I just have to thank our friend Sallie for helping us to navigate the intimidating New York City! Thanks to you, Sallie, this was such a wonderful and stress-free trip for us! So thankful!)
Day 12 morning:
East Orange, NJ. Thomas Edison Historical Park.
Edison, NJ. Edison Memorial Tower (and Edison Center) at Menlo Park. This is all that’s left at Menlo Park because Edison’s buildings were moved to the Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village in Detroit, MI.
Day 12 afternoon:
Washington Crossing, PA. Washington Crossing Historic Park. Just so amazing to see the site where Washington and the Continental Army crossed the Delaware, especially after reading When Washington Crossed the Delaware.
Day 13 – all day!
Drive to Ocean City, MD.
Day 14 through 15 – all day!
Ocean City, MD. At this point we needed a break from traveling and decided to stay a few days on the beach. We stayed at Quality Inn Oceanfront Ocean City. Great affordable beachfront hotel. Includes free laundry facilities and an atrium with tropical birds and reptiles.
Day 16 – morning/afternoon:
Chincoteague, VA. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Love the story of the round up and seeing where the wild horses swim across the water – along with the great visitors centers and beaches.
Day 16 – evening:
Cape Charles, VA. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is fun and fascinating to cross! Just a word of warning, though: the toll one way is $14.
Arrive in Williamsburg, VA.
Day 17 – Morning:
Yorktown Battlefield and NPS Visitor Center Saw the Nelson house which still has cannon balls in the walls. The Moore House is the site where the Revolutionary War “ended” (where The Articles of Capitulation, or the terms for the surrender of Cornwallis’s British army, were written).
Day 17 – Afternoon:
American Revolution Museum (aka, Yorktown Victory Center). WONDERFUL living history. The videos were powerful – some of the best we’ve ever seen at any museum – ever!
Day 18 – Morning:
Jamestown Settlement. More wonderful living history.
The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry is a free excursion if your family would like to hop on a ferry to cross the river!
Day 19 – all day!
Met with my friend Laura.
Note about the Historic Triangle (Yorktown-Jamestown-Williambsurg): From our perspective, do the NPS sites Historic Jamestown and Yorktown. These are the real places where the history took place. Jamestown Settlement was nice, but if we had to choose between it and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, we would choose the latter because of the powerful films (which is normally something we would skip out on; so thankful we watched them!). Both Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum were great interactive living history experiences, even more than Colonial Williamsburg. At Colonial Williamsburg, be sure to mention you are a teacher for a discount on tickets. Skip the film. Our favorite places were: the foyer of the governors palace, the brickyard (where we mixed the clay with our feet and helped make bricks), the weaver (really interesting interpreters there), the fife and drum march, the carpenters, and the blacksmith. We wish we could have made it to the mock trials (“order in the court”) and hoped to go on a carriage ride but they only allowed up to 4 on a carriage. Ox-wagon rides are a fourth of the cost of a carriage ride, but the wagons appear to be hard to see over from the outside looking in. There are several activities going on at the art museums but we didn’t make it over there. If we had to choose between Colonial Williamsburg vs. Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, we’d choose the Jamestown/Yorktown combo. The re-enactors were just so much more engaged with us!
Arrive in Apex, NC to visit with friends
Day 20 – all day!
Hang out with our good ole friends, the Ottos.
Day 21 – morning/afternoon
Visit Hawk Manor Falconry. Enjoyed a fascinating presentation about birds of prey. Great group program!
Day 22 – morning
Drive to Charleston, SC.
Day 22 – afternoon
Charleston, SC. Old South Carriage Company tour of Charleston. Wonderful way to visit downtown Charleston!
Day 23 – morning/afternoon
Charleston, SC. Patriot’s Point. Fantastic museum of a destroyer, aircraft carrier (USS Yorktown), and submarine. The Vietnam Experience was one of the best wartime exhibits ever! From Patriot’s Point, we took a ferry over to Fort Sumter National Monument.
Meet/stay with our friend Aspen and her family in Summerville.
Would have loved to take a tour to Boneyard Beach. If we head back to SC, we’d enjoy going on a plantation tour when our toddler is a little bit older!
Day 24 – morning
Johns Island, SC. Angel Oak Park. What an incredible tree!
Yemassee, SC. Old Sheldon Church Ruins. So beautiful and serene. It’s said to have been burned by the Union during General Sherman’s March to the Sea.
Day 24 – afternoon
Arrive in Newnan, Georgia for niece’s graduation.
Day 25 – all day!
Moreland, GA. Hang out with family!
Day 26 – morning
Pine Mountain, GA. Wild Animal Safari. What a crazy place! Had so much fun renting a big-ole-honking van and driving through with our extended family. Lots of fun!
Day 26 – evening
HOME SWEET HOME!!!
There it is! Over 4,500 miles in 26 days.
Stay tuned for further details about the above trip destinations. If you have questions about anything before we’re able to include more details, feel free to leave a comment and let us know!
How do we travel with kids? We listen to Audiobooks!
And let me just say, I was Rush Revered OUT by the time this trip was over! But the boys loved listening to Rush Limbaugh’s time traveler books, and each book tied in directly with our trip. We listened to Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, Rush Revere and the First Patriots, Rush Revere and the American Revolution, Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner, and Rush Revere and the Presidency. (Even though the boys enjoy them, the only one I really liked was the first one.) We also enjoyed With Lee in Virginia (oh, so good!!! Can’t wait to try more of these books by Heirloom Audio!). Finally, we listened to Little House on the Prairie narrated by Cherry Jones (another of our longtime favorites!). Somehow, audiobooks keep us entertained the whole way! We love good stories!
Have you heard about our 50-States-Before-They-Graduate goal? You can read about it here and then join us for all or part of the journey across the nation! Whether you’re visiting 50 states or 5 states, we’d love for you to join us!
If you’re interested in places we’ve visited, you can find each state below (for which I’ve journaled the experience, that is), along with link-ups to other bloggers who are also recording their 50-States-Before-They-Graduate (or their 5-States-Before-They-Graduate) experience. If you’d like to offer suggestions for places to visit in the 50 states, we would love your input! Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for your favorite state(s), or virtually visit the other states we’ve visited to offer your recommendations on those pages! We’d love to read about your own family’s adventures… or to simply know about destinations you’ve enjoyed!
My goal is to write about the other 30+ states that are missing from this list over the next few months to provide a virtual tour of our nation (historically and geographically) as we head into Cycle 3 this fall! Care to join us?