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Preserving and Learning from History

Today, more than ever, there are lessons to be learned from the past. With a bounty of historic destinations around the country to choose from, groups will have no shortage of opportunities to honor and learn.

The National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio, along the Scioto River between Franklinton and Downtown Columbus, honors all who have served. Photos, letters and personal effects, multimedia presentations, and interactive exhibits take groups on a journey of stories and shared experiences of Veterans throughout history.

With a history dating to 1736, Adams County and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, played a pivotal role in shaping America. Visitors could tour the site of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, experience powerful stories of local residents at the Adams County Historical Society, see one of the most extensive private collections of war artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History, and more.

Philadelphia, the birthplace of America, is bursting with history! Seeing the Liberty Bell at Liberty Bell Center, gazing upon Washington's Tent at the Museum of the American Revolution, and visiting Ben Franklin's final resting place within Christ Church Burial Ground is only the beginning. Don't leave without admiring Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Plimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is a living history museum offering personal encounters with history built on thorough research about the Wampanoag People and the Colonial English community in the 1600s. Groups could engage with exhibits telling the interwoven story of English and Native American cultures—a compliment to additional programming exploring the 17th century.

What's 2½ miles long and has 16 historically significant sites to visit along the way? Boston's Freedom Trail! Along the way, learn about the people who shaped America while exploring museums, meetinghouses, churches, burying grounds and more—taking in bits of authentic Boston history with every step.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum lets visitors relive the Boston Tea Party of 1773 through live actors, interactive exhibits, and full-scale replica 18th-century sailing vessels. After taking part in a Colonial town meeting with Samuel Adams, visitors could throw tea into the same body of water as the historic event, which took place over 240 years ago. They could even admire the Robinson Tea Chest, the only known surviving tea chest from the Boston Tea Party.

Oswego County, New York, is home to 11 Underground Railroad sites on the National Register of Historic Places. A guided tour of the Fort Ontario State Historic Site sheds light on how officers and soldiers lived during the French and Indian War, American Revolution, and War of 1812. Across the street is Safe Haven Museum and Education Center, previously the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter: the only place in the country to house Jewish refugees of the Nazi Holocaust.

Jamestown Settlement tells the story of 17th-century Virginia through film, gallery exhibits and outdoor living history—including life-size re-creations of the colonists' fort and a Powhatan Indian village. While there, examine the cultures of the Powhatan Indians, Europeans and West Central Africans. Similarly, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown presents groups with a renewed perspective on the meaning and impact of the Revolution through period artifacts and immersive environments, dioramas, interactive exhibits, and short films—transporting groups to the Siege of Yorktown with wind, smoke, and the thunder of cannon fire.

The largest outdoor living museum, Colonial Williamsburg helps groups explore multiple facets of the area's history, ranging from the world of Colonial medicine to working with iron in a blacksmith shop, African American religion and much more. Groups could even enjoy a leisurely horse-drawn carriage or ox wagon ride through the area!

Prince William County, DC's Historic Countryside, is home to Manassas National Battlefield Park and other notable Civil War battlefields. With much to explore in the area, groups could follow the Civil War Heritage Trail spanning 25 sites, among them the Mill House Museum and National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a collection of churches, courthouses, schools, museums, and other landmarks, primarily in Southern states, where activists challenged segregation in the 1950s and 1960s to advance social justice. Sites such as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the National Museum of African American History and Culture offer perspective and learning opportunities.

Texas is brimming with American culture waiting to be discovered. Enjoy interactive tours and reenactments at the Alamo or a stroll through Missions National Historical Park in San Antonio; watch The Fort Worth Herd—the world's only twice-daily cattle drive—at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards; try to spot "Fred" the supposed ghost-in-residence at Arlington Music Hall.

Pikes Peak in Colorado is 14,115 feet of beauty and a national landmark worth exploring. Once home to the Ute Indians and—even earlier—the Clovis Culture, Pikes Peak could now be explored by car. Red Rocks Park, designated in 2015 as Colorado's 25th National Historic Landmark, has fascinated visitors since the 1870s. Today, visitors could see a concert at the amphitheater, admire the fossil fragments of a 40-foot sea serpent, and more.

Santa Fe, New Mexico—the nation's oldest capital city—offers a unique blend of Anglo, Spanish and Native cultures groups will love exploring. Ancient Native American ruins filled with petroglyphs and centuries-old adobe and European-style churches are only the start.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Groups Today.

This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of Groups Today.

Photo courtesy of Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.


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