Since moving to the East Coast, we’re living our best lives and experiencing “seasons” once again. But after experiencing my first real winter in 20+ years, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for spring. Oh spring, where are you spring? Come out come out, wherever you are.
Cabin fever is a real thing. Lucky for us, living and traveling around New England is convenient and easy. Groton, while not the most exciting city on the eastern seaboard, is the perfect launch pad for weekend adventures and nearby day trips. Lucky for me, I married a history nerd who loves his national historic sites and stamps. I laugh about it, but it’s become a really fun hobby of ours to take off for the day and check off these interesting sites. No surprise New England is full of history.
Here are three fun and easy day trips from Groton:
Hyde Park, New York
Distance: 2.5 hours one way; 140 miles
This trip logs the most miles, but it’s by far our favorite. In one day you can visit three national historic sites, all of which are family-friendly and interesting in their own right.
Your first stop must be the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I should preface this by saying if you’re going to any of these sites, this is the one to go to. Purchase a ticket for a special tour of his home and presidential library (the first ever in the country). You learn so much about the Roosevelt family, with artifacts from his infamous bird collection and his wheelchairs to the intricate details (and efforts he took) to hide his disability from the world. Don’t overlook the presidential library – we were shocked at the number of exhibits. You could spend all day in there.
Drive a few short miles for a far more understated, but beautiful Eleanor Roosevelt Historic Site. As the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady, Val-Kill was Mrs. Roosevelt’s cottage, tucked away on a beautiful, private estate. As you walk around the grounds and take in the natural beauty, you can understand why the couple ran away to to this place to “escape the mob.” The Roosevelt’s hosted many parties and picnics on the sprawling grounds for friends and foreign dignitaries. Fun fact? Winston Churchill swam in the pool at Val-Kill and famously did cannon balls. You can walk right by it.
OK – now you need some sustenance at Hyde Park Brewing Company. This brewery is no joke – the food is incredible, the beer is incredible. Like, James-was-contemplating-buying-a-growler-because-they-didn’t-have-cans-incredible. After lunch warm up with coffee and a buttery, delicious chocolate chip cookie at Cranberry’s Cafe.
Your final stop is the Vanderbilt Mansion. Admittedly, after visiting Hearst Castle in California, this did not stack up. But the tour was fascinating and I enjoyed learning more about the family’s history, and the lifestyles of the rich and famous of the Gilded Age. It’s absolutely worth a stop! Some serious Gatsby vibes.
Distance: 1 hour, 40 minutes one way; 104 miles
National Historic Sites give you such a feeling of place. It’s one thing to walk through a museum and stare at an artifact behind glass. It’s an entirely different experience to walk the grounds of a famous site, knowing that someone or something took place there. And there’s no better place to do that than Minute Man National Historic Park.
The park commemorates the opening battle in the American Revolutionary War, where the first gunshots took place on April 19, 1775. Minute Man offers a variety of experiences, from the Visitor Center exhibits to the Battle Road Trail, a five mile trail that connects the historic sites and follows the remnants of the fighters. A short walk takes you to the North Bridge, the site of “the shot heard ’round the world.” The restored 19th century landscape features the famous Minute Man statue.
The property is stunning with acres of farming fields, wetlands, streams and forests. You can also tour historic homes on the property, including a tavern. Minute Man also hosts special events throughout the year, including reenactments, musical performances and story-telling.
Distance: 1 hour, 23 minutes one way; 75 miles
OK, this site is not for everybody. Essentially, it is a building full of guns. But the Springfield Armory National Historic Site is very interesting, especially for any wartime history buffs. The Springfield Armory commemorates the critical role as the nation’s first armory by preserving the world’s largest historic U.S. military small arms collection. The armory was the first major arsenal under the authority of General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Yeah, it’s that old.
The self-guided museum walks you through the technological advances over our nation’s history and how that’s manifested into the weapons we use today. The most dramatic exhibit is the “Organ of Muskets,” which was originally one of the many double racks built in the early 1830’s by Armory craftsmen.
If you’re a basketball fan, stop by the National Basketball Hall of Fame, located just down the street (random, I know).
Have you ever been to a National Historic Site? To find a site near you, visit https://www.nps.gov/Nr.