Vacations are a wonderful way to make lifelong memories and more. As a child our family took summer vacations throughout the U.S. I remember geography and history lessons in grade school as boring. What was not boring was actually visiting historic places.
Our first driving vacation to the East Coast was to Washington D.C. My folks mapped out our trips using something called Triptiks. They were given out by the various oil companies – ours from Mobil Oil. Think AAA, but free. While helpful, it didn’t ensure we stayed of the designated route.
One day while driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we took a wrong turn. My folks didn’t know it until we ended up in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That was long before it was “discovered” and a tourist trap. What a fun stop.
Our destination that day was Williamsburg, Virginia. That wrong turn meant we arrived too late to get the room my family had reserved at the Williamsburg Inn. Instead, the Inn put us up in one of Williamsburg’s original houses, “the Quarter House,” owned by the hotel.
I have vivid memories of carefully winding my way up the narrow staircase to the third floor bedroom. My brother and I slept on narrow twin beds with the eaves barely allowing us to sit up without hitting our heads on the ceiling. Staying there is one of my favorite childhood memories.
Back in the 1950s, you didn’t pay an admission fee to visit “Colonial Williamsburg” — as if it is an extension of Disney World or Williamsburg’s own Busch Gardens. Tourists parked on the main street and walked around mingling and visiting with re-actors in period costume. For an eight-year-old, it was easy to imagine living there in the 1700s.
I remember Washington D.C. as interesting, but really as an historic blur. I probably expected too much because my parents were so excited. We took the Capitol tour, visited the National Archives Building to see the original Declaration of Independence, plus spent time at the Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington monuments. What I remember best was our stay at the Mayflower Hotel. I thought it was the prettiest place I’d ever seen.
My funniest memory of our visit was the many circles in the middle D.C’.s streets. Dad got so frustrated as he tried to figure out where we were supposed to go. My favorite place in Washington was the Natural History Museum. It is probably why I was excited to take my own children there when we moved in the East Coast in the 1970s. I hope they weren’t disappointed!
It is special to see, feel and learn about a place when visiting that makes a lasting impression, especially for a child.
Some vacations are strictly for the pleasure of being there. That is why I will be away for the next few weeks. My blog will return when I get back from vacation.
The Takeaway: Life is full of vivid memories, some good and some we’d rather forget. What memories do you have from childhood – especially ones from travel experiences – to share with us? Let’s remember together. Please include your name and email address or phone number so I may contact you for clarification or if I have a question. I will not publish your name. Contact me at [email protected]