My favorite thing about traveling is uncovering the storied pasts at every destination. While inflight and in my spare time, I love to read -- everything from historical biographies to novels with a romantic twist -- and nothing compares to visiting the places described so vividly by my favorite authors. So, for this month's post, what better way to combine history and romance just in time for Valentine's Day and the long Presidents Day weekend than by outlining my favorite historical hotspots perfect for a family day trip or a romantic getaway? Virginia is not only for lovers but also for history buffs. It also happens to be my home, so let's rewrite history, starting in the Old Dominion and heading up the East Coast.
One of my personal favorite places to visit is the famed Monticello home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson loved European culture and modeled his mountaintop home on the drawings of Italian architect Andrea Palladio. The beloved mansion boasts vast views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the inside holds rich architecture as well as many inventions. President Obama recently hosted French President Francois Hollande at the estate. Located just a half mile below Jefferson's Monticello is the Michie Tavern, the perfect lunch spot to round out your visit with pure Southern hospitality. This landmark hosted travelers for food, drink and lodging more than 200 years ago. Charlottesville is also home to the University of Virginia -- go Cavaliers!
Continue northeast from Charlottesville to the home of James and Dolley Madison in Montpelier, Virginia. The presidential couple was the epitome of true love: Did you know they were married for 42 years? Their mansion is said to be where James Madison imagined the Constitution. Montpelier is also the site of several festivals throughout the year, including Constitution Day, and the Madison home is a prime spot for experiencing it. "Party like it's 1787" is the motto during this fun-filled family day with covered wagon rides, children's games, hot air balloon rides, live music and fireworks. Another fun annual event is the Montpelier Hunt Race Day, complete with tailgating, the steeplechase horse races and fun hat competitions right on the historic grounds of Madison's Montpelier.
Further north, just near Washington, D.C., is Mount Vernon, George Washington's place. While guests can take part in a guided tour of the mansion, they can also visit a dozen original structures, Washington's Tomb, two museums and a collection of heritage breed farm animals. Perfect for the whole family is an exhibit called All the President's Pups, which highlights canine life at Mount Vernon, from the first president's dogs to those living on the compound today. The Garden and Landscape Tour showcases some of the original trees that grew on the property and are still standing. If you're there for Valentine's Day, watch the sunset on the presidential property overlooking the Potomac River. If you can't make it this month, be sure to visit during the Cherry Blossom Festival, which is right around the corner.
Continuing up the East Coast and leaving my beautiful state of Virginia will bring us to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, where our founding fathers came together to launch the nation we know today. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Liberty Bell were all born here. Twenty miles away from the heart of the city is Valley Forge, a national historic park made up of 3,500 acres of land perfect for picnics and cross-country skiing. Guided tours and turn-of-the-century reenactments are educational and fun for the whole family.
Hyde Park, New York is the birthplace of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the place that he considered home. Ninety miles north of New York City is the Springwood Estate, often considered Roosevelt's Summer White House. His connection to the property was deep; one of the most famous quotes from the only president elected to four terms is about the estate: "All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River." Hyde Park is now home to the FDR Presidential Museum and Library.
Boston, much like Philadelphia, is a modern metropolis rich in culture and history. The Charles River runs through the city and in warm weather is crowded with picturesque sailboats and rowers. As far back as 1890, the Charles served as a playground for Bostonians. Courting couples would take their canoe out on the water for a date, and if they were caught kissing they would be fined for not being in control of their vessel -- how romantic! Boston was most notably the launching pad for John F. Kennedy's presidential career and the political and social rule of the entire Kennedy family. Visit the JFK Library just south of Boston or head to the Cape Cod beach town of Hyannisport for a drive by the beautiful Kennedy Compound. If you're staying in the city, a historic walking tour is a must. The cobblestone streets surrounding Faneuil Hall tell stories of the city's past, and the Patriot guided tour along the Freedom Trail is insightful. It wouldn't be a trip to Boston without some fresh seafood and a cold Sam Adams beer, because after all, "Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy," in the wise words of Benjamin Franklin.
The East Coast is rich in history and fortunate enough to be preserved by historians for our enjoyment and education today. It also happens to be home to many JetBlue destinations, allowing for the most convenient travel. Ditch the retail sales this weekend and take your loved ones to any of these landmarks for an experience that is sure to go down in your personal history books.
What are some of your favorite storied spots across the country? Send me your thoughts on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy).
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