Ships and Shores

After a wonderful time in Connecticut and Rhode Island, we were really looking forward to Massachusetts. Our first stop in the state was Cape Cod. Like all the National Seashores, Cape Cod was beautiful and we loved spending time at the beach. Traffic was kinda crazy because of a large rotary plus the primary road switches from two lanes in each direction down to a single lane in each direction.  So every time we drove anywhere there was lots of traffic and it took longer than we expected. After visiting the cape, I quickly realized why so many people brave the traffic to find a parking spot near the beach.  We loved building sandcastles, watching the seals swim by, and seeing the sailboats. The kids were also able to earn another Junior Ranger Badge and we all learned about the local wildlife at a ranger program about the areas birds.

Now normally I would mention the park we stayed in and put some pictures up, but you might notice that the campgrounds are suspiciously missing from this post. This is because Massachusetts state parks charge an extra $10 per night for anyone from out of state, so since we promote campgrounds we stay in for free and don’t receive any compensation from them I am not even going to mention which ones we stayed in. We did notice that even during peak season all the state parks we stayed in were more than half empty and everyone from out of state was cutting their planned stays short, including us. Massachusetts seems to want to rake out-of-staters over the coals, still I would recommend visiting the state because it is great like all the other states, just be prepared to pay extra.

Our primary destination in every state is the capitol and we were all excited to see Boston. Since we would have a limited amount of time though it was hard to pick just what to see during our stay. So we chose history and spent our first trip in going to the Adams National Historic Sites. They have a trolley that takes you from the visitor center to the birth house and then later the presidents house. You can’t take any pictures inside the houses, but they are full of historic items from four generations and the library has all the presidents books from when he passed away! The guides were a bit rushed, but they knew so much and we all liked seeing the transformation in houses as the Adams became more prosperous. It is definitely worth taking some time to see these historic sites, plus free parking is available with validation. The parking garage was being redone when we visited and was a little crazy to get into and out of, but I will post some links below if you are in the area and want to visit the Adams houses.

When we visited the capitol we decided to just pay for parking below the Boston Commons because then we could walk to so many places. It was by far the most expensive parking we have paid for, but it was under the park and the kids liked walking out of the parking garage directly into the park. We got to see the Make Way For Ducks statues and even managed to take some photos, though I will warn you if you are visiting them all the kids love them and it is hard to get photos without kids in the background. Our kids had read the story and immediately got excited about them and it was worth taking ten or fifteen minutes to snap a few photos. Just walking to the capitol building was great because of all the old buildings. After seeing more than half the capitol buildings in the country we still love going in them. Massachusetts capitol had some unique things to see like the recently added Great Hall with tons of flags from all the cities in the state. The capitols are usually being worked on and unfortunately the senate chamber where you can look up into the dome from was under restoration. We did enjoy taking a short tour around the capitol though and were surprised to find out there isn’t a public drinking fountain in the entire building. Since most government buildings tell you to not bring backpacks, we didn’t have our hydration packs and had to leave to hunt down something to drink for the kids. Sounded like the perfect time to have a picnic in the park on a beautiful day and since the car was parked at the park it was no problem grabbing the lunch bag.

The last place we just had to visit before we headed out was the docks in the former Charleston Navy Yard. The USS Constitution had just undergone a major restoration and we were only able to view it from afar, but it was still worth the visit. The USS Constitution, also known as Old Iron Sides, was one of six original frigates and is the worlds oldest commissioned navy vessel afloat. She launched in 1797 and somehow survived lots of action on the high seas. The navy yard also has the USS Cassin Young a Fletcher-class destroyer that we were able to go onto and walk around. After asking a bunch of questions to a nice volunteer about the Cassin Young, we headed to the USS Constitution Museum. With just the right amount of info for the adults and hands on for the little kids, this museum was absolutely wonderful. The kids enlisted in the Navy and learned about the life of a sailor. The kids even managed to earn their Boston Junior Ranger badge while we were walking around the navy yard. This Junior Ranger badge is for all of the Historic Sites around the Boston area and if you are planning on visiting multiple sites it will be pretty easy. Since we only had the one day left though it was probably one of the hardest programs they have done. Good thing they like a good challenge.

After seeing Boston we were just going to head out of state, but I really wanted to see the Minuteman National Historic site. So we moved closer to the site and spent a day exploring the route that Paul Revere took and the sites of the first shots of the Revolutionary War. I am glad we decided to check it out because it really helped the kids understand the founding of this country to see where the war started. At the Hartwell Tavern, which was built in 1733, the family joined the Minutemen and practiced marching. Then we watched the musket being fired and interviewed the park rangers. It was perfect and between the hiking along the Bay Road, seeing the two visitor centers, filling out Junior Ranger books, and joining the Minuteman it was a full day of fun. We finished at the main Minuteman Visitor Center to watch a unique video experience. It goes over the events that happened using both video and a set with moving parts to it. The closest thing we have seen was the Mormon Battalion Historic Site in San Diego and I hope these new video experiences start showing up in museums around the country. They engage the younger kids and make the history come alive, which I think is important for the future of our country. How can we learn from the past if we don’t learn about it?

Here are some links and more pictures:

Cape Code National Seashore

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Adams National Historic Park

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Parking at the Adams Historic Park: Follow Dimmock Street one block to the intersection of Hancock Street. Turn right onto Hancock Street. The National Park Service Visitor Center, located in the Galleria at President’s Place is two blocks on your left, 1250 Hancock Street. Validated parking is in the garage in the rear of the building, turn left on Saville Avenue just before the building.

Massachusetts State House Tours

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Boston Commons Parking (expensive, but good location)

Boston Commons (America’s oldest public park)

Charleston Navy Yard

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Minute Man National Historic Park

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Want to read about another family’s adventure in Boston? Check out Diapersonaplane’s Visit to Boston

or check out our article about other great Places to See on the East Coast

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