- Category: Local Adventures Activities
- Published Date
- Written by Bryan
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This is a unique activity that many people do not know about. It is an outstanding way to learn together and get some exercise at the same time. We recently completed the Benjamin Franklin Historical Trail in center city Philadelphia. This was a brilliant time where we visited several historical sites and learned an enormous amount about America's colonial history.
Finding a Historical Trail
Depending on your location, you may have a treasure trove of these nearby. Finding historical trails in your area may require a little effort. It is easiest to simply check with your local historical society to see what they have set up already. If you are within a day's drive of a major city, I recommend that you plan a family excursion to the city in order to take in the history. Cities like Boston and Philadelphia which are rich with historical trails and sites are worth the extra time to visit.
Other sources to check:
Guidebooks. Check your local libraries or book retailers for family guidebooks. You can also find these at book retailers on the internet.
Internet searches. These are not always very reliable as many of these trails have not made their way onto the information highway.
Family Capers Hiking Page. Check out our Hiking section as it has several ideas on how to find trails, many of which may be historical.
National & State Parks. The offices for these can be contacted directly or researched on the internet. They often have activity sheets for kids that can be done while visiting.
Commercial Tours. There are several companies that provide tours around major cities. These can even be different from your typical guided trip with ghost tours and weird site tours.
Make Your Own
If you cannot find anything nearby or you think the local ones are boring, do not be deterred. Simply make your own. This will not only provide your family with an enjoyable hiking experience, it will also provide an in depth learning experience that will make your family the experts on local history. There are several ways to go about this. The best way is to simply become explorers of your local area. Become curious about everything you see and ask questions about when, how and why. Take notes then put together a questionnaire that leads from one landmark to the next. This is not as hard as it sounds. When you are finished, share it with your local chamber of commerce or historical society so other families can benefit from your efforts. For some other ideas and a different twist on this, check the Family Capers Local Town Mystery Section.
The safety tips for this activity are fundamentally the same as the Hiking and the Local Mystery sections. Here is a brief summary of these safety tips.
Stay together always, especially in big cities.
Teach children about what they should do if they ever get separated or lost.
Use sunscreen and bug spray as needed.
Be aware of blisters before they become an issue.
Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Stay alert to your situation and surroundings.
Respect other people's privacy both with information and property.
What to Bring
- Map(s) of local area. Be sure to locate safe areas if in a city. Also, plan for bathroom locations as typically these are not easily found.
- Pencil for each person.
- Clipboard for each person who is writing.
- Camera to capture all the sites and fun moments.
- Guidebooks or historical brochures. Referring to additional information while touring can greatly enhance the experience.
- Compass. Many of the trail questionnaires refer to compass directions which are not difficult if you are already familiar with the area. If you are not familiar with the area, a compass can be very valuable. If you have a handheld GPS, this can be a great substitute.
- Extra water and snacks. Check out our GORP recipe which is the best hiking snack ever!
- Mobile Device with internet access. We have found this invaluable while trying to answer questions along a trail using mobile searches.
- Clothes to match weather.
- Picnic or brown bag lunch. If your budget permits, you can even make reservations at a restaurant along the trail. Some areas like Philadelphia, even have restaurants that operate in period garb and with menus that reflect the time.