10 Patriotic Sites Off the Beaten Path for the Perfect Fall Getaway
Tan lines from sun-splashed summer fun have faded a bit. The kids are back in school.
But we can’t wait almost a year before hitting the road again, right?
May through July isn’t the only time for family adventure!
Who’s with me?
Why not plan a fall getaway? The weather’s great, the leaves are gorgeous, and you can infuse autumn with fun and patriotic pride!
Liberty Trips are a great way to keep the fun going any time of year while you help your child develop the heart of a patriot. As part of our Restoring Patriotism initiative, our interactive Liberty Trips map has more than a thousand points of interest throughout our nation. Now you can plan the perfect weekend or fall break getaway.
You know about the biggies – Washington, DC, with its national monuments, Smithsonian, Holocaust, and Spy museums. Then there’s Boston’s Freedom Trail and the famed Independence Hall and Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania. Instead of focusing on these favorites, consider these ten out-of-the-way gems. If your area isn’t represented on this list, click on your state on our Liberty Trips mapand make some new discoveries.
Note: These represent a sampling of sites on the Liberty Trip map. They are not ranked by importance or popularity; they are simply a few of the many options. Consider visiting a cluster of several patriotic spots in one region or state, adding variety to your vacation experience.
#1 George Washington Carver National Monument -Missouri
If your family loves the great outdoors, visiting this lush national park may be for you. Experience something like Carver’s walks through the woods, talking to God. He credits the Lord’s leading with his successes, including his pioneering work in discovering more than 300 uses for the lowly peanut. His inventive spirit, scientific knowledge, faith, and practicality saved agriculture in the South. The cotton industry had depleted the land, and farmers were impoverished without crops that could thrive in that climate, soil, and with the treacherous boll weevil.
The George Washington Carver National Monument and Park include nature and contemplative trials, a visitor center, and a museum.1
Fast Fact: We’re talking about George Carver and how the peanut was pivotal in saving Southern farms. There is a most unusual monument to the Boll Weevil in Enterprise, Alabama. Possibly one of the most destructive insects to cotton crops, it played a role in decimating that industry and forced farmers to try something else. Thanks to Carver, planting peanuts brought even more wealth to that area than lucrative cotton ever did. The strange-looking monument, a Greek woman, with hands stretched above her head holding a giant version of the tiny insect, sits in an intersection and reminds Alabamians of the insect that drove its farmers to newfound wealth. 2
#2 Lincoln Home National Historic Site – Illinois
This was the home of our beloved 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, from 1844-1861, before being elected to the highest office in the land. It is the perfect place to tell the story of this American hero to your kids. His life was filled with success, failure, hardship, and hope that changed our nation forever. At the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, you can go to the visitor center and take a guided home tour.3
Not planning to be in Illinois? You can visit the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana. There is a museum, a recreated homestead, a large monument, a living historical farm, and walking trails. Your children can even earn a Junior Ranger Badge by learning more about Lincoln.4
Maybe you’re interested in Lincoln’s wife, the first lady. In Kentucky, you can explore the Mary Todd Lincoln Home to learn more about her early life before she stood beside President Lincoln during a pivotal time in American History.5
#3 Harriet Beecher Stowe Center – Connecticut
This world-changing Christian author penned 30 books. Most famously, her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin shined a light on the atrocities of slavery. It was a runaway success in 1852, selling more than 300,000 copies, and is credited with its stunning impact on public opinion strengthening the abolitionist movement in the US. Many schools today still include the book in modern curriculum. At the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, your family can experience a guided tour and conversation at her home, now a beloved National Landmark.6
#4 Space Lover’s Trio:
– Kennedy Space Flight Center, Florida
– US Space and Rocket Center, Alabama
– Space Center Houston/NASA Johnson Space Center, Texas
The space program in the United States is one of the most iconic achievements in modern history. We’re highlighting a space lover’s trio of destinations to visit if your family is interested in learning more about the space race and future endeavors of the space program.
Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida has a stellar museum, and if you time things right you may be able to witness an actual launch. (We’re looking at you, Artemis I) 7
Remember the famous phrase, “Houston, we have a problem”? You might be surprised to learn that the well-known line, made famous by Hollywood, isn’t historically accurate. The original version of that alert was heard at the NASA Johnson Space Center. 8 Tour Space Center Houston’s visitor center to learn more about the fateful voyage of Apollo 13 and other missions, past and future! 9
The largest of the three is the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In addition to its sprawling campus with rockets, an actual retired space shuttle, and tons of interactive experiences, your family can sign up for Space Camp. That week-long program will give your family a taste of what it’s like to be an astronaut.10
#5 Milton House Museum – Wisconsin
This historic site, originally The Stagecoach Inn in 1844, was part of the underground railroad, the network of people and places that secretly ushered escaped slaves to freedom. When you visit Milton House Museum, your family will hear the stories of lives changed forever by the heroic acts of patriots who were part of this effort. Some guided tours include a walk through the same underground passages used by freedom seekers of old. In the fall and winter, you must make reservations in advance.11
More than 80 other historic sites were part of the underground railroad. A quick internet search will show if there is one in your area.
#6 Mount Rushmore – South Dakota
This iconic site is not really a secret to anyone. Yet, it’s worth a mention because of its impactful presence in South Dakota. If you are within driving distance of this significant American landmark, it is worth planning a long weekend to visit.
Their website describes it as “American history…etched in stone.” It provides the perfect backdrop for your family to learn about the four men represented by these massive carvings: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. If you plan to visit Mount Rushmore, check the calendar to see if you can view the seasonal Evening Lighting Ceremony or other special events.12
#7 US Naval Undersea Museum – Washington
This unique destination will give your family new insight into our nation’s undersea operations. It can be anything from research and salvage to combat and rescue. A brand-new exhibit opens this fall, highlighting the “silent service,” America’s submarine fleet, and the military men and women who protect our nation beneath the waves. It will include a comprehensive look at current forces and the history of submarines.
Walking distance from the Keyport Marina, the US Naval Undersea Museum has 18,000 square feet of interactive experiences for families.13
#8 Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation – Michigan
Named for one of our nation’s most famously successful entrepreneurs, the Henry Ford Museum is about much more than the famous automaker’s legacy. It is an eye-popping collection of exhibits celebrating American invention, history, marketing, and ingenuity. A few of the offerings in this expansive museum: Presidential Vehicles, Agriculture, Fully Furnished (American innovation in furniture), What We Wore (historic clothing), and With Liberty and Justice for All (featuring Rosa Park’s bus). Those are only a few of the onsite exhibits, along with lots of interactive fun for your kids and special events that change frequently. The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation’s 250-acre campus will take more than a day, so plan accordingly.14
More Inventive Fun: The Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Florida have self-guided tours of the inventors’ tropical mansions with botanical gardens and a walking tour. 15
#9 Battleship North Carolina – North Carolina
The North Carolina was the most decorated battleship in World War II, and you can explore and tour this historic vessel on the coast of Wilmington. Various tours and activities include “City at Sea,” which gives an up-close look at what life was like for the 2300 sailors who manned the ship. There are frequent and seasonal special events, so if you plan to visit, find out what’s happening before you go to Battleship North Carolina. 16
Did You Know? Battleship tours and museums are scattered across the country, in Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Texas, New York, Alabama, and more. 17 Our Liberty Trips map will give you the skinny on other options if your family has an interest in our nation’s efforts at sea.
#10 Colonial Williamsburg – Virginia
You’ve probably heard of this one, located a few hours from Washington, DC, however, it is often overlooked by families heading for the plethora of museums and attractions in the Nation’s Capital. Williamsburg offers one of the most authentic and immersive experiences exploring colonial life in America. Historic hotels, dining experiences, carriage rides, art museums, and living history tours are some of the activities you can expect. There are real craftsmen, dramatic reenactments of historical events, and your kids can even have a conversation with “interpreters” (costumed actors who interact with you as historic figures and early Americans). You can access most Colonial Williamsburg attractions and bus transportation with one ticket. This experience is extensive and could fill several days. This one’s a winner if you want to make your fall trip both educational and fun!
There’s so much more.
We didn’t even touch on The Laura Ingalls Wilder House and Museum (Wisconsin), Fort Moultrie (South Carolina), Veteran’s Museum Balboa Park (California), or Trinity Church (Rhode Island). The history of our great nation happened and is happening in every state. Don’t miss the hidden secrets and treasures that may be only a short car ride away. Give your kids the gift of hands-on history as you explore patriotic sites off the beaten path for the perfect fall getaway.
So, where will your patriotic adventure take you next?