Best American Landmarks to Visit with Kids: Lexington, Massachusetts, and Patriots’ Day
America’s historic and natural landmarks may not be as ancient as those found in other parts of the world, but their more recent origins add a tangible quality that may inspire a child’s learning. Whether seeing firsthand the documents our nation was built on, or gazing in awe at the beauty found in our national parks, visits to these places are an opportunity for memorable family bonding and can bring history to life for a powerful learning experience. This series includes tips and educational resources for visiting some of the most amazing landmarks our country has to offer with your kids. Some may be in your back yard, while others require a longer trip, but all are well worth a visit.
Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, two towns northwest of Boston, are great places to visit any time of the year. But for the full effect, consider visiting the third Monday in April. That’s Patriots’ Day in Middlesex County—a tribute to the patriots who lost their lives at Lexington Green during the American Revolutionary War. It’s a day filled with reenactments, parades, marches, speeches, music, musket fire, and cheering.
Patriots’ Day provides the opportunity to experience a bit of history—including guided tours and patriotic speeches—and the chance to learn about the American Revolution while doing some myth-busting along the way.
For example, many believe that Paul Revere was the only rider who rode ahead to warn the Minutemen of the arrival of the British. Although his name might have been most poetic to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who immortalized the night with his poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and the phrase “one if by land and two if by sea,” Revere was not alone in warning locals of the British invaders.
William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott also rode ahead of the British over different roads shouting, not “The British are coming!” but rather, “The Regulars are out!” It should also be noted that Revere, in fact, never completed his ride all the way to Concord. He was actually captured and escaped, but lost his horse along the way.
The exchange at the Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first shots fired in the pursuit of liberty for the colonies, and the losses on both sides were keenly felt. “The shot heard round the world” was not a singular event, but several important events that were the start of the American Revolution.
Before heading to New England, don’t forget to brush up on the history. Check your library for books like Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley and Let it Begin Here! Lexington and Concord: First Battles of the American Revolution by Dennis Brindell Fradin.
Amazingly, many of the original taverns and homes that were standing on that famous day in 1775 still stand today, including the Buckman Tavern (built 1710) in Lexington, where several Minutemen gathered to await the arrival of the British.
Other sites not to be missed include Lexington Battle Green (and Lexington Minuteman statue), the Old North Bridge in Concord (site of the first American victory), Minuteman National Park, the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord (home to the graves of Nathanial Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau).
History buffs and literature buffs will want to take in a glimpse of Walden Pond, but for nature and bird watching, also consider hiking the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge along the Concord and Sudbury Rivers. If you do intend to view the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington, plan to arrive early. That event takes place at 5:30 AM on Monday.
Originally observed April 19, Patriots’ Day has been part of a three-day weekend since 1969. The Monday holiday coincides with the running of the Boston Marathon—the 26-mile race from the western suburb of Hopkinton to Boston. It’s also traditional for the Boston Red Sox to begin play at 11 AM that day, enabling fans to exit the park and catch the conclusion of the marathon as runners pass through nearby Kenmore Square.
Lori Beverage is senior manager of national community and family support for K12. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary and special education from UMaine at Farmington, a Master of Arts degree from Emerson College in theater education, and a decade of experience in the brick-and-mortar classroom as a special educator. She also has 17 years of experience homeschooling her four children using K12 and other curricula.