Monday, August 4, 2014

Keep It Local: Antietem National Battlefield

It must be clear by now, but mom and dad have created two little history buffs. Mom finds this hysterical because history has never been her strong suit (remember our drive down to VA and Colonial Williamsburg last year?). It's not for lack of interest, but she just has a finite room to remember things and that's not the stuff that sticks. Fortunately we remember pretty much everything, so we help her out now. In any event, we are both big fans of historical sites -- Kane particularly so with war sites and presidents. And partially because I'm interested myself and mostly because I'm the best little sister in the world, and always like to make Kane happy, I too have taken up an interest in such things.

So we were both excited when mom told us that our spelunking trip was close to Antietem National Battlefield. After we rocked out our trip to the cave and ate lunch, we drove just about 15 minutes away to check out the site of the bloodiest one day battle in American history. While there are more involved guided tours available, we were a bit tired from Crystal Grottoes and so we planed to try for the self-guided driving tour. We went first to the visitor center, which showed a great short movie on the history of the war and the site. The movie wove together on-site reenactments with commentary from historians -- it was really well done and kept our attention (mom loved that we were able to identify actual site locations later on our tour from watching the reenactment -- it really added a nice layer and primer for our imaginations).

After the movie we poked about the small museum at the center, but we didn't spend a lot of time there -- we wanted to get outside. But we made sure first to pick up our Junior ranger packets and our passport books. You might recall from our visit to Fort Washington Park a few years back, that the National Park Service offers two awesome programs for kids:

1. National Park Passport Stamps Program -- in which you can collect in a passport unique stamps from almost all of the 397 national parks; and

2. The Junior Ranger Program -- many national parks offer activities for kids that allow them to earn park badges. Antietem also offered a Junior, Junior packet for kids under 6 years old.

We've been to several National Parks, but had yet to partake in either of these programs. This time, we picked up passports from the gift shop and Junior, Junior Ranger packet from the rangers. We then did the self-guided driving tour around the site, stopping at a handful of important spots to get out and explore. It was a beautiful evening and it was totally amazing to walk out in the fields and imagine the scenes that played out there. Plus, we scored our first Junior Ranger badges.

And as if spelunking and civil war battlefields weren't enough for the day, we decided to make the drive over to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia for dinner. It's a little touristy, but we had a great time and, especially given how unexpectedly close it is to DC, it's definitely somewhere we'll head back to check out further.

Phew. That was a lot of activity for a Sunday!

No comments: