Revolution and Revolt on the Historic Trail - Page 3

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Mount Vernon
A Founding Father's Home: Mount Vernon, where George Washington lived—and died  (Photodisc)

Day 5: Daytrip: Mount Vernon, VA (14 Miles)
Mount Vernon (703.780.2000;, George Washington's home on the Potomac, makes for a fantastic day trip from the DC area, and one of the easiest and most pleasant ways to reach this scenic local is aboard the Spirit of Washington II (866.211.3811; Round-trip excursions to George Washington's plantation depart from Pier 4 in Southwest DC.

A visit here provides a look at first president's personal life as well as insight on the 18th century. While the mansion and its furniture may leave kids lukewarm, the grounds will interest children, especially summer's Hands-On Tent. Here kids can try on colonial-style clothing, piece together pottery shards similar to those found on the estate by archeologists, and play colonial games such as sticks and hoops. Browse the gardens, see the burial grounds of the slaves, visit Washington's tomb, and visit the Pioneer Farmer exhibit. From April to October kids can crack corn, craft a fishnet, hoe the fields, and look at the animals in the 16-sided "round" barn.

Mount Vernon has both a Food Court Pavilion and the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant.

Day 6-7: Washington, DC, to Harpers Ferry, WV (65 Miles)

Break camp and drive about 70 miles northwest to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (304.535.6029;, which occupies the lower portion of the town of Harpers Ferry. The buildings' facades in town appear as they did in 1859 when John Brown led his band of 18 men on an abolitionist-inspired raid of the city. He hoped to gain access to stored munitions, thinking that the act would spark a nationwide anti-slavery movement. John Brown and some of his band were captured by Robert E. Lee, convicted of murder, treason, and conspiracy, then hanged. Their actions foreshadowed the Civil War.

Outside of the historical facades, it may take a bit of imagination to envision John Brown's era while touring the park as many of the town's buildings have been turned into souvenir and craft shops. Some are interesting and some are kitschy. During the summer, historical, ranger-led tours focus on such topics as the raid, the Civil War, and camp life. Be sure to visit the Information Center and the John Brown Museum (304.535.6298; to learn more about the era and the events.

Stalk the nighttime streets with Ghost Tours (304.535.6298; in search of some of Harpers Ferry's spirits while learning a bit of history. Find out about Dangerfield Newby, a freedom fighter and the first man killed in the botched raid. The residents mutilated Newby's body, then left it in Hogs Alley where the animals feasted upon his corpse. No wonder he's said to haunt the town.

Harpers Ferry, at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, is also home to whitewater rafting and tubing. Go for the class II-III rapids on the Potomac or float on the flat water of the Shenandoah. River Riders (800.326.7238; offers both trips. The city also lays claim to the HQ of the Appalachian Trail (304.535.6331;, the epic 2,174-mile hiking trail that stretches from Maine to Georgia. Copious day-hike and overnight options abound for those looking to stretch their legs.

After all that work, you'll also be comforted to know that Harpers Ferry has a number of restaurants, among them the Mountain House Cafe (304.535.2339), which serves sandwiches and salads for lunch.

At night, bed down at Harpers Ferry KOA Campground (800.562.9497; The site has tent and RV sites as well as one and two-bedroom cabins and is close to the town's historic region.

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