Just call me a National Park Geek

I love National Parks. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but I have a National Park Passport and someday, when I’m old & gray, I hope to have that baby filled with stamps from parks all over this country. If we’re taking a vacation, it’s almost certain to involve a stop at a National Park.

We’ve visited Abraham Lincoln’s home & museum in Illinois. And have gone on walks with park rangers through at least four different Civil War battlefields in the past few years. The kids are becoming very familiar with this period in history. So when we knew we could add a day to our Niagara adventure, we decided to head due south and take them to the granddaddy Civil War battlefield of them all: Gettysburg.

We were all expecting our normal battlefield experience. Find the visitor’s center. Talk to a park ranger. Pick up the book for the kids to complete to become junior park rangers. Grab a map and start driving around to key spots, hoping to have good timing and hear a few ranger speeches along the way.

What we found was completely different. We found a visitor’s center (built in 2008) that pays tribute to this battlefield in a whole new way. We watched a very well-done movie about the battle. Spent time in a “cyclorama” – which is a fancy word for a very big circular diorama – which sounds totally dorky, but was actually very interesting. We spent hours in their museum. We took a two hour narrated bus tour all around the battlefield (and it is a large battlefield).

We also found some of our Indiana friends who were vacationing in the same area. That was fun for all of us 🙂

I think my kids were somewhat dreading the thought of a hot & sweaty day hiking around a battlefield. Instead they were immersed in the experience and had a great time – we spent nearly 7 hours there and easily could have gone back out on our own to see a few more of the monuments and memorials.

This is from J’s favorite spot in the park: Little Round Top. If you know us, feel free to ask him why it was so important in the battle of Gettysburg. He has quite the explanation about being able to see so much of the field and what the soldiers were doing on top vs what the soldiers were doing at the bottom. This will come back to him in a history class someday 🙂

If you’ve been to Gettysburg in years past, it’s worth a revisit. What a great National Park experience!

Believe it or not, we squeezed in one more stop on this four-day tour of Western New York and Pennsylvania. It was one of those side trips that some people in the car might have had doubts about but ended up totally worth the drive. We toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater home. It’s a house built over & around a waterfall. You can hear the waterfall from every room. The rooms are so open with glass that you almost feel as if you’re outside in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountain forest.

The architecture was so different and just crazy enough that the kids were all fascinated for the entire hour tour. And my oldest, who has been confused for years about just what architects do has decided that she just might want to do that when she grows up. Was it worth the extra half hour to & from the interstate? You bet it was.


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