Civil War Battlefields and Shenandoah National Park
We left our home in New Hampshire to begin a week long tour of civil war battlefields and Shenandoah National Park. After a travel stop for refueling and some Roy Rogers chicken we arrived at our first hotel Crown Plaza in Monroe, New Jersey. Our mode of travel is to have a set list of attractions that we want to see but to travel leisurely stopping when we see fit using and adjusting schedules as a place of interest takes more or less time.
After a night of restful sleep in a clean comfortable hotel we set out for Fort McHenry Natioanl Monument in Baltimore. The visitor center is a must stop and be sure to take in the short film with its impressive flag emphasis. A short walk up to the fort brought us just in time to the flag raising ceremony. We had fun with a self guided tour of the fort as Alex worked on his junior ranger booklet. The single passport cancellation station is in the visitor’s center.
We next drove to Frederick, Maryland where we had lunch at the Beijing Chinese restaurant a typical corner take out location the likes of which you will find in any American city. Monocacy National Battlefield was next on our itinerary. This is touted as the battle that saved Washington. In 1864 the Confederacy made a push into Maryland in an effort to capture the capital. Vastly outnumbered union troops were able to hold off the confederate army until reinforcements arrived. The visitor center has a nice museum describing the battle and this is where you can pick up your junior ranger materials and get your passport stamp. There are some nice walks through the battlefield but there is not much in terms of monuments or infrastructure.
We stayed the night after making our way to West Virginia at the Quality Hotel and Conference Center in Harpers Ferry. The White Horse Tavern attached to the hotel had wonderful meals and drinks. Try the Old Bay chicken wings as an appetizer.
We made our way the next morning to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. We spent the day exploring the park and the preserved old town, this was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. There is a visitor center with passport cancellation station on a bluff above the town, This is where you catch a shuttle bus down into the old town where there are museums, preserved buildings and views of the river.
After a short drive to Front Royal, Virginia we ate at Joe’s Steakhouse and stayed the night at the Quality Inn Skyline Drive. In the morning we headed into Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive. This park raod runs along the ridge of the mountains offering spectacular views at every turn.
The visitor center is close to the start of the drive coming down from Front Royal and is where you get your passport stamped. Keep your eyes open not only for the views but for wildlife as well. The family of bears in the video below was a welcome sight.
We traveled just a few miles on the parkway to get a flavor of it before heading to Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park. There are several buildings on site included the reconstructed McLean house where the surrender was signed by Lee and Grant.
A 4.5 mile walking tour called the History Trail takes you to several historic areas all the while traversing quiet country fields and glens. The passport cancellation location is behind the first building on the site in the bookstore. The hotel for the night was the Winchester Travel Lodge in Winchester, Virginia.
The morning brought us back to Maryland for a visit to Antietam National Battlefield the location of the bloodiest one day battle in the history of America. We were lucky enough to see some re-enactors in full costume. Alex was thrilled to mix with the “soldiers” while wearing his union army hat.
You get your passport stamped at the visitor center, watch the introductory film and tour the exhibits. There is a wonderful driving tour through the park where you can stop at any point of interest and explore at your leisure. A wonderful park to picnic and spend the whole day.
The Weir Farm National Historic Site was our destination in the morning. This is an art centered site that is great for kids. There is an artist in residence and the kids get sketching materials to draw their own “masterpieces.” The junior ranger program is also a great deal of fun as it involves a scavenger hunt as you wonder around the grounds. Ranger Adrian was wonderful working with Alex and it is people like him that make the National Park experience so special.
Last stop, home to New Hampshire. A wonderful trip for all of us and we will be returning to many of these sites for more detailed explorations.