Edit ModuleShow Tags

A Family Afar: An Underwhelming History Lesson in Cape Cod

When columnist Jon Bailey takes his family to New England, the educational aspect becomes diluted


Published:

Illustration by Daniel Zalkus

Given the recent election and all the “teachable moments” that came with it, we thought it was a good time for a family sojourn to the Northeast to visit those patriotic places from which our great country sprang. New England, its colonies, our Founding Fathers... “It’ll be way better than those history lessons in school,” we told the kids. “A trip to Boston and its surrounds will bring the story of our nation to life before your very eyes!”

Those very eyes rolled at the thought of an “educational” vacation.

After some quick thinking on our part, the trip was rebranded as a Cape Cod beach adventure, with a few notable sights thrown in for good measure. Sandy white beaches and warm water seemed alluring as we showed the girls photos of lighthouses and sand dunes dotted with picket fences. The eye rolling turned to bright smiles as thoughts of bikini shopping and saltwater taffy danced through their heads.

Determined to hit the points of interest in between lazy beach days, bicycle rides, homemade ice cream, and daily lobster rolls, Triton and I found ingenious ways to weave history into the fun. For example, we took a drive to the other coast one day “to see if the ocean was different on that side of the cape,” and just so happened upon Plymouth Rock. Surprise!

And what a surprise it was. I grew up imagining Plymouth Rock as one of those hyper-historical, must-see points of interest. This rock signifies the touchstone of what would become our great nation, and its story is one we have all been told since we were wee tykes.

Having said that, visiting it in person is pretty underwhelming. Plymouth Rock is, in fact, about the size of a sleeping cow—hardly the epic Rock of Gibraltar monolith I was expecting. It was so small that Sophia and Ava gave it a passing nod, peering down with a mere glance on their way to the concessions stand. And frankly, it screams out for more. I guess we just like things big in America.

Plymouth Rock is, in fact, about the size of a sleeping cow—hardly the epic Rock of Gibraltar monolith I was expecting.

Another point of interest that didn’t quite meet expectations was the Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the original vessel that carried our famous Pilgrims to the New World. And man, was it tiny—no windows, no toilets, cramped sleeping quarters. We couldn’t quite believe this was the same size ship that carried 132 Pilgrims and all their earthly belongings 2,750 miles across the Atlantic. It would have had any modern-day traveler gasping for air. This, the girls joked, was the colonial equivalent of flying on Southwest.

Yet we still felt a surge of patriotism as we posed for touristy photos with the ship in the background.

By the time we forged on to Boston, our sneaky history lessons became more obvious. We loved walking the streets where battles were fought, American leaders were made famous, and there was evidently some ruckus about a bunch of tea.

Back on a tiny boat in Boston Harbor, we witnessed a historical reenactment of the Boston Tea Party with actors playing some of the meatier parts. It was fun to get caught up in the significance of these places and points in history—even the kids commented with excitement, “Oh, I remember this from school. It didn’t sound like any tea party I’d ever been to!”

And in that moment, all was right with the world. A real-life experience in New England had been connected to a history lesson back in San Diego, complete with factual recall and some color commentary thrown in.

Maybe you don’t need to label something educational in order to learn from it, after all.


Jon Bailey pens the travel blog 2dadswithbaggage.com. jonjonbailey

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Postcard from Italy: 8 Ways to Experience the European Country

San Diego Magazine art director Sydnie Goodwin recently traveled to Rome, Florence, and the Amalfi Coast

Where to Eat, Drink, Stay, and Explore in Kaua‘i

In this lush landscape, island time is for real. Unwind at rustic plantation towns, wild coastal trails, and locavore meals served under thatched roofs.

A Family Afar: The Benefits of Staying Close to Home

Our travel blogger dad celebrates a family milestone with a staycation—and realizes you don't have to journey far to reap the benefits of travel
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    Dig into the 260 winners defining San Diego’s food scene in 2018
  2. San Diego's Best Restaurant of 2018: The Finalists
    San Diego Magazine's Best Restaurants issue comes out in June. Here are food critic Troy Johnson's finalists for the best of the best.
  3. The Coolest Things Happening in San Diego Beer Right Now
    A dive into the new, notable, and lesser-known in our city’s beer scene
  4. Good Night, Cafe Chloe
    San Diego’s beloved French bistro is closing due to California’s unfair labor laws
  5. Pacific Gate: Downtown Living at its Finest
    Bosa Development brings Super Prime luxury to Downtown San Diego
  6. 5 Hot San Diego Pools That Are Open to the Public
    Where to go for lounging, sipping, dipping, or attending a grown-up pool party
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Vote Now for Your Orangetheory Winner!

Winners will be announced at our Sweat event on May 12

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags