Travel is not always about beast beaches, wild adventures, and sunset cocktails. It can also be a journey of learning and diving deep into culture and history.
One that our family has enjoyed, especially as Australians learning about what makes up the spirit of Americans, is to visit the places and experiences that tell the story of the Revolutionary War.
Ditch the text books, jump in the car and head to the areas along the east coast were the story was born.
Why this is a valuable road trip?
History is the story that has helped create who we are, what we believe in, and shows us what we are capable of. It (hopefully) inspires us to follow in the footsteps of those before us who created greatness, or, warns us to turn back from the path that creates the opposite.
One of the most inspiring stories from America’s history is their fight (and victory) for independence from Britain – something my own country is yet to do.
Before traveling this Revolutionary War road trip in the east, I never could quite comprehend America’s rhetoric over “freedom and liberty” and fascination with war, and seemingly over-the-top patriotism.
Because of this trip, I understood these statements are not necessarily made in ignorance of other countries, but in celebration of how they arrived.
They believe in freedom for all as it’s what drove them to create the life they have now, which is why they are at the forefront of fighting for others to have it (most of the time – everything is mostly!)
We all travel with our own way of looking at the world. Many things we encounter will seem strange and we may be judgmental or overly critical of them.
But once we learn the stories and why they are so important, we can better understand. Our perspective changes and we can connect more deeply to the culture.
It’s also only when we step outside of ourselves (or our own culture) that we can look back and understand ourselves better. (Read more here)
If you want to follow the Revolutionary Tale in order, start in Colonial Williamsburg and head straight to Boston. Then visit Philadelphia and Washington D.C. on your way back down.
Greater Williamsburg, Virginia
Visiting Greater Williamsburg in Virginia gave me a fascinating insight into the birth of the United States, a greater understanding of the American culture, and strangely enough, a better understanding of my own culture.
It’s the perfect starting point for your Revolutionary War Road Trip and will give you a deeper insight into life before the War of Independence, which lead to the unrest and the resulting cause.
For a comprehensive history lesson on America’s Enduring Story, I recommend spending a day at each of the following:
Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne
Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum that tells that story of the English colonist establishing a permanent English colony (and their many almost failures).
Learn about the first settlement and Powhatan and her people’s struggle to accept the foreign invaders.
Historic Jamestowne is the original site of the 1607 Fort and the place where legendary figures John Smith, Pocahontas, John Rolfe and more walked and helped write the beginnings of the USA.
Colonial Williamsburg is where the ideals founding the Constitution began to grow. It’s 18th Century Colonial Virginia brought back to life with live reenactments, noon day cannons, Patriots at Play games and inspiring speeches by George Washington.
The re-enactments and characters roaming the streets give you a profound sense of the evolving American story and help kids understand the ideas and values that crafted the world they live in today.
There are over 35 historical sites and 22 trade sites in Colonial Williamsburg, including the Capitol, where the people’s representatives voted for Independence; the opulent Governor’s Palace; and working trade shops including the apothecary, the shoemaker and more.
Yorktown Battlefield and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
The Yorktown experience is where those hard-fought ideals became reality.
Here, you can walk the Yorktown battlegrounds where the Americans defeated the British, which ultimately led to America’s Independence.
The interactive American Revolution Museum at Yorktown tells the story of the nation’s founding from the twilight of the Colonial period to the dawn of the Constitution. It helps you further understand complicated documents like the Constitution and how it’s relevant to our current lives.
This fascinating learning experience was probably the highlight of my trip to the Greater Williamsburg area.
Although Washington, D.C. did not become the center of American government until 1790, the U.S. capitol is home to various monuments and artifacts of Revolutionary War history, including the Washington Monument and the Declaration of Independence.
You can learn more about the government created because of the Revolutionary War at the Capitol Building and White House.
Nearby is Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington, one of the heroes of the Revolutionary Tale. You can to see where the former general and first President of the United States lived.
The Washington D.C. Sightseeing Pass can save you money on tours and attractions in D.C. Learn more here.
Philadelphia in Pennsylvania is an important stop on the Revolutionary road trip as its where the United States Constitution was written and Declaration of Independence was signed in the Independence Hall.
Philadelphia was the headquarters, if not the official capital, of the colonies during the American Revolutionary War. Philadelphia’s Historic District, the birthplace of the nation and the first World Heritage City in the U.S.
There are many historical sites in Philadelphia that tells the story of the war including The Betsy Ross House, Carpenter’s Hall, Declaration House and Museum of the American Revolution.
You can tour the Constitution Center, see the Liberty Bell, the famous symbol of freedom for the United States during the Revolutionary War and visit the site of Ben Franklin’s home and offices.
About 40 minutes north west of Philadelphia is Valley Forge Historic Park, the site of the third winter encampment of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War between December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778.
Here you’ll find Washington’s Headquarters, a stone house on the Schuylkill River, which was occupied by George Washington.
The park contains historical buildings, recreated encampment structures, memorials, museums, and recreation facilities. It also has 26 miles (42 km) of hiking and biking trails.
The Philadelphia Sightseeing Pass can save you money on tours and attractions in Philadelphia. Learn more here.
Boston, Massachusetts is one of our favorite cities in the US for its European feel and robust sporting culture. It’s full of historical experiences, especially related to the American Revolutionary War.
Boston and the surrounding areas were the settings for various important events including the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. You can also visit Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church, both important Revolutionary landmarks.
One of our favorite tours in the USA (so far) is the guided Freedom trail walking tour. We learned a lot about the Founding Fathers, the Revolutionary War and Independence through historic events and tales, many hilariously told.
Boston is a city of so many firsts, so be sure to read our post below to discover how you can experience them! While in town, why not enjoy a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park, tour Harvard University eat at America’s oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House.
Read More: 17 Legendary things to do in Boston
Lexington Battle Green
About 40 minutes north west of Boston is the Lexington Battle Green, properly known as Lexington Common, is the historic town common of Lexington, Massachusetts where the opening shots of the Battles of Lexington and Concord were fired on April 19, 1775
These were the shots that started the American Revolutionary War. Now a public park, the common is a National Historic Landmark.
West Point & Saratoga
West Point is on the way between Boston and New York, so if traveling through here in either direction it may well be worth putting it on your list.
West Point is now home to the United States Military Academy.
In 1781, George Washington called this area “the most important Post in America,” during the Revolutionary War. Holding West Point meant preventing the British from controlling the Hudson River and dividing the colonies in two.
It’s also the place of Benedict Arnold’s act of treason. The traitor agreed to help the British capture West Point. His plot included capturing Washington while he dined with Arnold at West Point
To add in more Revolutionary experiences and a 2 hour detour to your route between Boston and New York City is Saratoga.
Why not add these destinations and experiences?
One thing I love about planning a road trip around a theme, is you can utlize the time and route to add in other exciting experiences or places that may not fit the theme but pass on through it.
Now that is a unique multi-layering concept.
So why not add in the following:
- Consider taking a peek at the Civil War history with a visit to Gettysburg, which is only 2 hours from DC. It’s a hauntingly spiritual place that tells the story of this great battle and turning point in the Civil War. Read more about the Gettysburg Battlefield Tour and things to do in Gettysburg.
- New York City. It’s so easy to add NYC to this Revolutionary War road trip. You’ll be passing through it and will need somewhere to break up the drive right? We sure did on our Dallas to Boston road trip with my parents. Here is a great starting point with our 3 day NYC itinerary incorporating the top New York attractions.
- New England the Fall. If you are visiting during the Fall, then we highly recommend you spend longer exploring the states above Boston to appreciate the beautiful Fall colors. It’s one of the best regions in the USA for it. We loved our time in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Comment: We’d love to hear your tips on exploring the Revolutionary War history on an East Coast USA road trip? Did we miss any stellar experiences? Are there other places nearby you’d recommend? Share below.