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Our East Coast Road Trip of US History

I like to take pictures and make videos of our family vacations and share them.

In 2008, my husband decided that he wanted to take a road trip up the east coast, with the kids in our Chevy Aveo. I thought he was crazy, but what do I know? I ended up loving the trip, however the kids, not so much.

Since it was summertime and very hot, combined with the fact that most of the trip required walking, the kids were miserable and complained the entire time.

We first visited Washington DC, then we went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and made our last stop New York City.

The Lincoln Memorial, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty were among the historic sites  that we visited.

The Lincoln Memorial, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty were among the historic sites that we visited.

First Stop: Washington DC

If you have never visited Washington DC, you are missing out. There is so much history and so many things to see and do. The best part is that most of the galleries, museums and tours are free of charge. We have been there twice and still missed a lot of things. I see a third trip sometime in the future.

Some of the things we did on our trip in 2008:

  • Capitol Building Tour
  • The National Archives
  • The War Memorials
  • Arlington National Cemetery
  • The Lincoln Memorial
  • The National Gallery of Art
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Shots of the family around DC. Pictured in front of the White House, the capitol and the National Mall.

Shots of the family around DC. Pictured in front of the White House, the capitol and the National Mall.

Touring the Capitol Building

We didn't do the White House tour, I can't remember why, we just took a picture outside. But we did do the Capitol building tour.

Touring this building was my favorite. The history, the architecture and the artwork are all just incredible. We have been back since and they now have a visitor center, so the tour is different than it was. We got to see a lot more of the building on our visit in 2008.

Photo of me and my daughter coming down the stairs. Closer view on the right.

Photo of me and my daughter coming down the stairs. Closer view on the right.

The difference in 2008 was not the tour itself, it was where we exited the building. They brought us out to where they do the presidential inaugurations, facing the National Mall and the Washington Monument.

For inaugural addresses, they build a platform so it looks different, but the doors we exited are the very doors that newly elected presidents exit to take their oath of office.

I can not detail everything here, there is so much to see in the building alone. I made the slideshow of our tour many years ago and have provided it below. You can see where we exit the building at 1:43.

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The National Archives

The National Archives

When we went inside it was very dark. They keep it almost completely dark in the area where they keep our founding documents. They do this because the light fades the words on the paper. You can barely see what they say because they are already so faded.

They told us before we went in that we could use cameras, but not flash. Taking pictures in the dark is tough without flash, so pretty much my photos weren't any good. I did take a picture at the entrance and had accidentally forgotten to turn the flash off. I got reprimanded for doing so. Even that photo came out grainy because it was too dark to get anything clearly other than the foreground.

Photo on the left with my accidental flash and photo on the right without flash.

Photo on the left with my accidental flash and photo on the right without flash.

This is a photo of the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives website. As you can see it looks like a blank sheet of paper.

This is a photo of the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives website. As you can see it looks like a blank sheet of paper.

Arlington National Cemetery

We visited Arlington National Cemetery which is not actually in DC it is across the Potomac, right outside DC. Visiting this cemetery is a very solemn experience. The white gravestones on the green grass seem to be never-ending. It really makes you think about our country's history and the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

We also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the changing of the guards, another solemn experience.

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The War Memorials

If you are strolling about the National Mall you will see several war memorials. The Korean War Memorial Wall is really interesting. It is a super thin sheet of granite, that is very shiny so it reflects the soldier statues, but when you get in front of it, all of a sudden you see soldiers, kind of ghosted into the stone.

The Korean War Memorial

The Korean War Memorial

(Left) The WW II Memorial (Right) Three Soldiers at the Vietnam War Memorial

(Left) The WW II Memorial (Right) Three Soldiers at the Vietnam War Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

There are several other memorials, however we had yet to get to Philadelphia and New York. It was impossible to see everything, even on a normal trip. What we didn't see, would have to wait for our second visit.

The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

Museums and Art Galleries

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

DC is loaded with museums and galleries. The Smithsonian has several and admission is free. On this trip we visited the National Museum of Natural History.

This was my youngest daughter's favorite. In fact, when she got a little bit older, I was talking about how the kids hated our trip and she interrupted me to tell me that she loved it. She was the youngest and got carried around most of the time, so that probably had something to do with it. In any case, it was nice to hear.

Photos from our visit.

Photos from our visit.

The National Gallery of Art houses many famous paintings, including one of the very few paintings by Leonardo de Vinci. The photos below are ones that I took at the gallery. They offer audio tours and the best part is it's free.

(Top Left) Vincent van Gogh - Self-Portrait -1889 (Top Right) Leonardo da Vinci - Ginevra de' Benci -  c. 1474/1478 (Bottom) Paul Cézanne - Still Life with Apples and Peaches - c. 1905

(Top Left) Vincent van Gogh - Self-Portrait -1889 (Top Right) Leonardo da Vinci - Ginevra de' Benci - c. 1474/1478 (Bottom) Paul Cézanne - Still Life with Apples and Peaches - c. 1905

Next Stop Philadelphia

When I was in the 5th grade, I went on a school field trip to Philadelphia. I remembered many of the things from the trip and was as excited for my children to go as I was.

A few of the historic sites we visited:

  • Independence Hall
  • The Liberty Bell
  • Old City Hall
  • Benjamin Franklin's Burial Place
  • The Betsy Ross House
  • Fireman's Hall Museum
  • Elfreth’s Alley
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Some things that stood out to me from my childhood field trip were the red brick buildings and the horse-drawn carriages going down the streets. It really felt like I went back in time.

The slideshow below is from our visit to Philadelphia. I go into more detail about some of the places that we visited after.

Independence Hall

Shown below is the building where our nation was born. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both drafted inside the walls of that structure. Unfortunately, I can not find my photos from inside the walls. It seems I am missing a lot of photos from this trip and I am not sure why.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell once hung in the bell tower of the Pennsylvania State House which is now Independence Hall. It was used to call lawmakers to their meetings and to summon the people for any news.

The Liberty Bell and the infamous crack, pictured in 2008.

The Liberty Bell and the infamous crack, pictured in 2008.

(Left) My family with the Liberty Bell. (Right) My children and I with the statue of Commodore Barry - Father of the US Navy. Independence Hall in the background.

(Left) My family with the Liberty Bell. (Right) My children and I with the statue of Commodore Barry - Father of the US Navy. Independence Hall in the background.

Plaque on the statue.

Plaque on the statue.

Old City Hall

The photo below is from inside the Old City Hall, which was the home of the early Supreme Court (1791–1800).

  • From the court's official website:
    "Initially, the Court met in the Merchants Exchange Building in NYC. When the National Capital moved to Philadelphia in 1790, the Court moved with it, establishing Chambers first in the State House (Independence Hall) and later in the City Hall."
Inside Old City Hall

Inside Old City Hall

Benjamin Franklin's Burial Place

Ben Franklin is everywhere in Philadelphia. As we all know, he wore a lot of hats, including that furry one. We visited his burial place, shown in the photos below.

His gravesite was covered in pennies and I wasn't sure why, so I had to look it up. I found a couple of things. First, I read that he came up with the phrase, "A penny saved, is a penny earned," so visitors throw pennies on his grave for good luck. Then I read that he never actually said that. I guess people believe the story and continue to throw pennies for good luck? I don't know.

The photo of his gravesite on the right came out terrible, so I cropped it in order to show the pennies.

The photo of his gravesite on the right came out terrible, so I cropped it in order to show the pennies.

Betsy Ross' House

Betsy Ross was an upholsterer and is credited for making the first flag of The United States. I guess there is some debate about this among historians, but nevertheless, this is what I was taught on my school field trip when I first toured the home.

I especially remember the tiny little staircases, they seemed even smaller this time around. Unfortunately, I can't find the pictures from inside.

Betsy Ross House sign outside.

Betsy Ross House sign outside.

A plaque in front of the house and of course a flag.

A plaque in front of the house and of course a flag.

Betsy Ross House Philadelphia

Betsy Ross House Philadelphia

The photo above is of my daughter and I on the steps at the front door of the house. I am looking off half smiling, because I was watching what was going on in next photo.


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You will see a number historic interpreters, throughout Philadelphia. The photo below was one, playing an instrument. I can't remember what it was called, but my daughter was loving it.

Historic Philadelphia 2008

Historic Philadelphia 2008

Elfreth’s Alley

Elfreth's Alley is a 300 year old residential road with homes just as old, running down each side. My husband thought it would be weird to take a picture outside someone's home, I told him people obviously do it all of the time. So he took a picture. Not sure whos house this is, but thanks for letting us sit your stoop for a photo.

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Fireman's Hall Museum

We visited the Fireman's Hall Museum which was interesting to my husband as well, because he is a fireman himself. They had all kinds of old firefighting equipment, including the hats that they wore.

We found Ben Franklin there too. Apparently, fireman was on his long list of jobs as well.

Outside Fireman's Hall

Outside Fireman's Hall

They have cute photo cutouts and gear you can dress up in.

They have cute photo cutouts and gear you can dress up in.

Firefighter hats over the years.

Firefighter hats over the years.

Some old fire trucks.

Some old fire trucks.

Ben Franklin the Firefighter

Believe it or not the plaque below has words underneath the part where it says, Firefighter Franklin. The glare was so bad you cant see any of it. I edited the photo to retrieve the words. It isn't pretty, but it is legible.

Below is the words I retrieved from the plaque.

Below is the words I retrieved from the plaque.

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Last Stop: New York

Going to New York was very exciting for me because that is where I was born and lived for almost 14 years of my life. Over the years we have visited my in-laws upstate and gone to the Bronx to visit some of my relatives, but this time we were going to Long Island. The last time I was back on the Island was winter break Dec.1989 - Jan, 1990 if my memory is right. My Aunt Patsy and Uncle Vinnie had driven down to Florida to pick me up so I could spend the holidays with them.

We first visited Yaphank, the town that I lived in before I moved to Florida. Then we went to NYC. Some of the places we visited were:

  • Shea Stadium
  • Ellis Island National Immigration Museum
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • The Empire State Building
  • The Museum of Natural History
  • The FDNY Tribute Wall

New York

Historic Yaphank - Long Island

The town I lived in most of my childhood was Yaphank. I say most because we moved around quite a lot, but we always ended up back in Yaphank. Yaphank has a lot of historic homes going all they way back to the late 1700's. It also has a dark history during the 30's and 40's. This is a more detailed story and I don't want to get too off track, so I will save that for another day.

Yaphank Lake, where we would swim in the summer and ice skate in the winter. The bridge railing, we would jump from into the water.

Yaphank Lake, where we would swim in the summer and ice skate in the winter. The bridge railing, we would jump from into the water.

My brother had lived in Florida for several years and when he turned 18, he moved back to Long Island. We had been living in a one bedroom apartment at the time and it was very cramped. My brother started a business and rented a house that we could all live in together. I still dream about this house.

It doesn't look that big from the front view, but this was the biggest house I had ever lived in.

Rooms

  • 5 Bedrooms
  • 4 Bathrooms
  • Mudroom
  • Sunroom
  • Foyer
  • 2 dining rooms
  • Living room
  • Kitchen
The second story was my brother's. 2 bedrooms, a bathroom & hallway. The 3 windows below the dormer were to my mother's room. Behind her room room was the living room.

The second story was my brother's. 2 bedrooms, a bathroom & hallway. The 3 windows below the dormer were to my mother's room. Behind her room room was the living room.

The house also had a plaque on the outside that read: 1776 Circa. It was so old you could see the nails in the floor were made by hand, they were thick and uneven. It also had a basement and down there was what looked like shaved tree trunks as support beams, I am guessing?

The funny thing about the house was that 3 of the 4 bathrooms were in the bedrooms and the one upstairs was between the hall and the bedroom. So you had to go through the bathroom to get to the bedroom.

When we visited, the house was looking rough. It had pealing paint and the yard was overgrown. Also, they had removed the balcony from the second story window. It was all done up in buntings though, I assume for the 4th of July. I wanted to knock on the door and ask if I could go inside, but my husband said it would be weird.

The Hawking's House

The town itself has many historic homes. Some of them have been turned into museums, the Hawking's house was one of them. I participated in a school play, on the porch of the Hawking's house when I was in elementary school.

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We would practice the play on the porch as well. There was no transportation for practice so the entire class and our teacher would walk there straight from school.

My house happen to be on the way to the Hawking's house. One day when passing by my house, my teacher asked if the class could come in and get a tour. I asked if it was okay and then proceeded to give a tour of my own house to my class.

I did a street search on Google Maps and took some snapshots of it more recently. I also got another angle of the house. Photos shown below.

The window in the back was a bedroom my sister and I shared, until I moved into my own. The section with all of the windows was the sun room. In-between the bedroom and the sun room was the foyer.

The window in the back was a bedroom my sister and I shared, until I moved into my own. The section with all of the windows was the sun room. In-between the bedroom and the sun room was the foyer.

The shorter section is the windows to the small dining room, the kitchen window and door. Further back Behind that is the mud room and a bedroom. The last smaller section was the big dining room.

The shorter section is the windows to the small dining room, the kitchen window and door. Further back Behind that is the mud room and a bedroom. The last smaller section was the big dining room.

Baseball History

The last stop was New York City. I grew up on Long Island and visited relatives in the city but I never went to Manhattan, that I can remember anyway. I also never went to see the Statue of Liberty. I did go on a field trip to the UN as a kid but that's about it.

We stayed in a hotel in Queens, near Shea Stadium and took the train to and from Manhattan everyday. In 2008 they were also in the process of building Citi Field and Shea Stadium was about to become history itself. I was a huge Mets fan as a child and into my adulthood, so this was sad to me. My brother brought my sister and I to a couple of games at Shea when we were young. I wanted to go to one last game, it was right before the All-Star break and the last game before the break was that day.

(Right) If I remember correctly that is Jose Reyes or the back of his head anyway. (Left) Argenis Reyes signing autographs.

(Right) If I remember correctly that is Jose Reyes or the back of his head anyway. (Left) Argenis Reyes signing autographs.

We went over to Shea to check out ticket prices and while my husband was doing that, I stayed outside looking for players to show up. I got a couple photos. They aren't the best, I have better photos from spring training games in Florida and lots of them.

My husband and I were considering going to the game but my oldest daughter is afraid of heights. She wouldn't even step on an escalator unless it had walls on the sides of it. I am also afraid of heights and when I went to Shea as a kid, we got the "nose bleed seats" behind home plate. All the way up in the last row of the upper deck, overlooking the parking lot. I was so nervous that I got on my hands and knees and crawled up the stairs. So I knew, there was no way my daughter would ever have climbed the stairs. So we decided not to go.

We did go to the All-Star Parade and that was fun. We got to see Gary Carter of the 1986 Mets and many other Hall of Famers.

NYPD marching band at the All-Star Parade in New York City 2008.

NYPD marching band at the All-Star Parade in New York City 2008.

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(Above) Gary Carter - Catcher for the 1986 World Series Champions the New York Mets. (Below) Whitey Ford and the infamous Yogi Berra from the New York Yankees at the 2008 All-Star parade in NYC.


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When we visited NYC we did all of the things we could in the time that we had remaining on our trip. I wanted to go to all of the art museums but my kids were not having it.

We almost sat in the audience for the recording of the Colbert Report. I was so excited until they told us that the kids cant go in because they were not 18. That was a serious bummer.

The Colbert Report studio, 2008.

The Colbert Report studio, 2008.

The Museum of Natural History, 2008.

The Museum of Natural History, 2008.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building was another site that I had never visited as a child. As I mentioned, I do not like heights but there was no way I was leaving New York City without checking it out. Turns out, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

My daughter and I on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

My daughter and I on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

View from the Empire State Building.

View from the Empire State Building.

Some movie props from inside the Empire State Building.

Some movie props from inside the Empire State Building.

Inside the Empire State Building.

Inside the Empire State Building.

Battery Park

On our way to the ferry we came across the World Trade Center Sphere. The artwork stood in the World Trade Center Plaza, between the North and South towers, and was damaged in the attack on September 11th. When we were in NY in 2008, they had it on display in Battery Park. The piece has since been moved back to the original location.

The Sphere 2008.

The Sphere 2008.

Before we got on the ferry we were met by Lady Liberty impersonators at Battery Park. There were a few of them, I thought it was pretty neat. They must have been so hot though. It was the middle of July and their costumes looked thick and heavy.

Statue of Liberty impersonators 2008.

Statue of Liberty impersonators 2008.

On the ferry heading over to Ellis Island & Liberty Island.

On the ferry heading over to Ellis Island & Liberty Island.

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

During our tour of Ellis Island, we visited the National Museum of Immigration. While we were there, I got a call from my cousin in the Bronx. She wanted to give me the location of my great-grandmother's name on the Wall of Honor. When I found it I took a picture of it.

Since I have been writing this, I started getting a little confused about the photo that I took back in 2008. Did I photograph the right section of the wall? Is that my great-grandmother's name or someone else's?

Rabbit Holes

My great-grandmother's maiden name was Mullins and it changed twice after she came to the United States.

Once she was here, she married my great-grandfather and took his name, Duffy. He passed away at the young age of 39 and she remarried years later, then changing her name to Butler. This was the name she had for the rest of her life.

The name on the wall in the photo I took was Butler. I wasn't sure if it was correct because that wasn't the name she had when she originally immigrated. I can't publish a picture of my great-grandmother's name on the Wall of Honor and it be the wrong person. So I started digging.

My great-grandmother's name on the Ellis Island Wall of Honor.

My great-grandmother's name on the Ellis Island Wall of Honor.

I looked through my ancestry and went to the museum's website to look through passenger lists trying to figure it out.

Ultimately, I asked my cousin if the name in the photo I took was the correct one and it is. It was that simple. I am not sure who had the name added to the wall, but Butler is the name they chose to use.

I wasn't even going to write about any of this confusion but I figured I would because I did find some neat stuff during my search. It wasn't all a waste of time.

My great-grandmother, Margaret Mullins sailed from Liverpool to Ellis Island aboard the RMS Celtic. The arrival date was August 6, 1923. In addition to that information, I found a photograph of the actual ship.

The date that the photo of the ship was taken is unclear. The National Archive states that it was published between 1920 and 1925. Where the photo was taken is also unclear. There is no information provided on whether it was Ellis Island, Liverpool or somewhere else altogether. But it is the Celtic, and she was aboard in August of 1923.

Below is a photo of the ship that carried my great-grandmother from Liverpool to Ellis Island.

The Museum

We went through the museum and looked at various immigration related artifacts and such. My photos from inside have the sun beating in so they are all washed out. I did however get some pictures of a cool flag that was on display. It was an American flag that revealed photos of immigrants as you walked past it.

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

The Statue of Liberty

We visited the Statue of Liberty but we didn't go inside. I can't remember why, they may have been doing some work on it or something. Still, it was really cool to see her up close and in person.

The Statue of Liberty 2008.

The Statue of Liberty 2008.

My girls with Lady Liberty 2008.

My girls with Lady Liberty 2008.

The World Trade Center

In 2008, One World Trade Center was not built yet. In fact, I am not sure if they were still going through the rubble or if they were in the process of building. We couldn't see much because the entire area was blocked off.

Heading to ground zero 2008.

Heading to ground zero 2008.

Heading to ground zero 2008.

Heading to ground zero 2008.

WTC 2008.

WTC 2008.

WTC 2008.

WTC 2008.

The FDNY Memorial Wall

We did see the FDNY Memorial Wall. I think they were doing work on the building or something because it was difficult to get pictures. There where scaffolding bars blocking it, creating a kind of tunnel. I couldn't get the whole thing from a distance because of the metal bars. That is why the photos are at an angle.

WTC visitor center 2008.

WTC visitor center 2008.

FDNY Memorial Wall 2008.

FDNY Memorial Wall 2008.