When my friends and I get on the topic of family vacations, many of them wax poetic on their trips to the beach or Disneyland. Once it's my turn to chime in, I usually offer up something like, "I had a really good time when the power went out at Martin Van Buren's home in Kinderhook, New York," or, "Have I ever told you the one about how I got kicked out of the Rockefeller home for dropping rocks in the stairwell? GET IT? Rocks? Rockefeller?!" I usually then dissolve into a fit of giggles and my companions probably second-guess their judgment in befriending me.
My family's historically-slanted vacations brought me to more tours of historic homes, battlefields, cemeteries and villages than I could count. From Jamestown to Hyannis Port, I've traveled the east coast and beyond with my family, taking my fill of reenactors, historic markers and velvet-roped house tours.
Maybe to outsiders, my childhood seems a little bit warped. I had a penchant for those fluffy white colonial hats women in Williamsburg wore. (See G. Family albums for photographic evidence.) My American Girl doll Samantha and I wore matching outfits while visiting Biltmore, and my Princess Barbie dream bedroom was Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt's oval seafront bedroom at the Breakers estate in Newport, RI. I also distinctly recall deriving serious joy from a hoop and stick in a motel parking lot.
Before my junior year of high school, my family took a trip to Gettysburg and Antietam that lives vividly in my mind today. After junior year, we hit up Emily Dickinson's home in Amherst where I took a photo of myself with a pizza box, which was a nerdy joke between my English teacher Mrs. Powell and I. Two years ago we spent my mom's birthday at the living history Pleasant Hill Shaker Village where some of the old Shaker family dwellings have been converted into individual hotel suites (with, I might add, the best TempurPedic cushy beds you'll ever sleep on).
I loved these vacations, even the ones where we spent significant time in the icy March Midwestern winds visiting ancestral grave sites. Maybe it’s the fall air or the political mood I’ve been in lately (you may have noticed that I’ve had politics and history on the brain), but I haven’t been able to stop considering all the little history vacation hot stops I’d love to make if I could get away right now. For your consideration, I’ve compiled a few below. Anywhere else I should keep in mind for future nerdy getaways?
The Mount: Edith Wharton’s Estate
I may or may not be a huge fan of The Age of Innocence. We’ll let that lie and just say that I’d love to visit Wharton’s home where she did a lot her writing. Even better is the fact she designed the home herself. How awesome is that? The Mount is facing foreclosure, however, so I hope that this spot makes it through these hard times. [http://www.edithwharton.org/]
Like I said, I’ve already visited the Biltmore estate while wearing this dress, but whatever. I wanna go again. This time, maybe without wearing that dress. This place is freaking awesome, and it was just a SUMMER HOME. A 175,000 sq. ft., 255-room SUMMER HOME with grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. No biggie.[http://www.biltmore.com/]
Abraham Lincoln Presidential
It is a travesty I live in Lincoln’s state and have not visited the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. This trip is on my short list because I think I should be able to make it down in a day. Of course, if I do go, I am absolutely positively visiting the Lincoln home and tomb. I will probably cry while I’m there cause that’s what I’ve been doing lately whenever anyone brings Lincoln up to me. (I’m talking to you, Obama!)
I have only been to California once, but if I can make it out there again and be anywhere near San Simeon, I’m going to Hearst Castle. One of my friends told me it’s like being in a haunted, abandoned, lonely place, and I think that sounds fantastic. I can also fantasize about Cary Grant swimming in the pool here. [http://www.hearstcastle.org/]
Heaven is a place on earth, and it’s here in Washington, D.C. I really can’t explain it, but this place has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m itching to get back there and just soak in as much smelly, moldy paper as possible. [http://www.archives.org]