Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Fort McHenry with 5 Older Kids
My youngest is 12 and my oldest is 21, and this was a fun outing. If you live in this area or are planning a trip to this area, it can be a nice, short experience. Our trip was a total of 2 hours including travel time from my house, which is about 25 minutes without traffic. We made it through the visitors' center (including a 15 minute movie) in about 25 minutes, then spent about an hour exploring the fort. As for the driving, I went with no prior experience and I found the the brown national park signs adequate to get me there, but I still keep an ADC map with me at all times to supplement whatever directions I find on the web. I think that helped with the one turn where the sign really could be pointing to either of two possible left turns and you have to be able to see the name of the tiny little street sign to be sure you are turning correctly.
Because of the historical significance of Fort McHenry, I would venture to say that this could be on every American's Life List of Places to Visit. It was my first in-person visit and it was well-worth it. Growing up around here, it was always in my consciousness-I'd seen the giant flag down at the Smithsonian, I'd heard the story, I felt that "Baltimore Pride" about the National Anthem, knew the significance, etc. and let that suffice for a long time. Visiting the fort itself brought all that to life in a very immediate, emotional way. The fort was interesting, with many areas opened up to the public and nicely maintained exhibits showing life at the fort, including living quarters, munitions storage, and good signs all around. The kids really liked the views of the Baltimore Harbor, the cannons, and reading about how they have different sizes of flags and change the flag based on the current weather conditions. (Big flags need a lot of wind.)
Our docent was an older gentleman who showed genuine emotion about the role of Fort McHenry in our nation's history. His presentation was the highlight for me. As Corinne said in her post about it, surviving the war of 1812 was a close shave, and I really enjoyed learning more of the details about that.
So, I highly recommend this as a great place for families to visit. It is mere minutes from the Baltimore Inner Harbor and could easily be combined with an afternoon visit to the MD Science Center or the National Aquarium in Baltimore. In fact, my kids asked if we could go do something in the inner harbor. We had other plans for the afternoon, but I wish I'd planned better because they are so close.