Showing posts with label Military History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Military History. Show all posts

Friday, March 16, 2018

Colonial National Historical Park: Yorktown Battlefield

Date of Visit: March 15, 2018

Visiting Jamestown/Yorktown has been something we've been wanting to do ever since we moved to Virginia almost four years ago. We didn't have time to do both this time, so I choose Yorktown since that seemed to be at least Dad's preference.

We started our visit with the ~15 minute movie at the visitor center. The movie was a pretty good overview of the battle. Mik wasn't a fan of how they had wheelchair spots at the back, but we had to sit in the row in front of him, but it isn't bad.

The visitor center also has a small museum. We all thought it was pretty cool that they had some of Washington's original tents in it. The ship walkthrough exhibit is also really well done, although it was almost too narrow to get through with the wheelchair and Mik freaked out about Dad taking him in it.

Mik's favorite part of the Visitor Center was the Lafayette Cannon.

After exploring the visitor center we decided to walk into the town and have some lunch and then check out the stuff we missed on our way back to the truck parked at the visitor center. The only place there was a sidewalk was along the riverwalk, but the traffic was light and walking in the street wasn't a big problem, although it is quite a hill to go down/up from the victory monument to the riverwalk. There is parking by the riverwalk, though, so the hill can be avoided.

We enjoyed lunch at the Yorktown Pub. It had two steps up to the main entrance, so we just took Mik up them and into the place. We found out when we were leaving that they do have a back entrance we could've used, but it really wasn't that difficult to just go out the front.

After lunch we walked along the riverwalk to where there was a bookstore. No luck finding any books we wanted, but it was surprisingly accessible for a used bookstore and Mik could actually browse through much of it.

On the way back to the visitor center, we stopped at the Yorktown Victory Monument. We ended up not exploring the stuff on Main Street because Mik was getting cold.

Since we didn't want to get home too late, we then decided to do just the Battlefield Tour drive. Mik stayed in the truck at most of the stops because there really wasn't much accessible to see. In fact, he only got out at the last stop at Surrender Field, which has an accessible trail.

Destination Info:
Colonial National Historical Park - Yorktown Battlefield
Accessibility page on their website
1000 Colonial Parkway
Yorktown, VA 23690

Friday, July 14, 2017

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Date of Visit: July 13, 2017

We spent most of our visit to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in the Visitor Center. Mom saw the movie, but Mik again wasn’t interested. Instead, we enjoyed the exhibit area.

We found the exhibit to be a good size in that it has a lot of information about the site and events along with artifacts while still being not that large of an exhibit overall.

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit was the wall of windows that look outside to where they have put up some silhouette soldiers kind of as if the battle was going on.

We also walked some of the trails near the visitor center. The trails seem to be mostly paved paths and we certainly would’ve done a lot more of it including the other stops on the driving tour if it hadn’t been so hot and humid.

Monument Row behind the visitor center was the main part of the trail we checked out.

Mik also liked when we went into the woods behind the parking lot while waiting for Mom to finish checking out at the store. The trail didn’t have anything specific to see as far as we went (first sign, which really wasn’t far at all), but we liked that it did have information signs to read like when we did the Henry Hill Loop Trail at Manassas.

Destination Info:
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
2332 New Garden Road
Greensboro, NC 27410

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Manassas National Battlefield Park: Stone Bridge Trail

Date of Visit: June 18, 2017

The Stone Bridge Trail is one of the accessible trails (or at least partly accessible) at Manassas National Battlefield Park. It is also one of the stops on the driving tour, so it has a parking lot next to it.

The Stone Bridge Trail is a rather short trail that is mostly a paved path that goes up to the Stone Bridge. The trail is only considered accessible up to the bridge.

Right before the bridge there is a bump to go over and the bridge is not technically accessible due to the slope, but it's not that difficult to go across the bridge. The trails on the other side of the bridge are where it really is no longer accessible partly due to it being a stepped trail down. While not much of a trail, Mik still found it interesting to be able to check out the bridge.

Destination Info:
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas, VA

Manassas National Battlefield Park: Henry Hill Loop Trail

Date of Visit: June 18, 2017

The park actually does have some wheelchair accessible trails, but we ended up not getting around to checking them out except Stone Bridge Trail because we wore Mik out doing the Henry Hill Loop Trail. I am glad we ventured out on this trail first, though, as it was an interesting overview of the battle and while not technically accessible it was quite doable (amazing what a difference the new wheelchair makes as it would've been hard to impossible with his last chair except maybe with the freewheel).

The Henry Hill Loop Trail focuses on the history of the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run), which mostly took place around the hill. The trail is mostly through low grass, although some parts are more dirt and gravel and there are definitely uneven pothole parts.

The first main stop on the trail is the Henry House, which was destroyed during the battle and rebuilt after the war. There is an exhibit with a movie and history on the house inside, but it is a huge step to get inside that has a big rock as a step making it not really doable to get inside with Mik. If it has just been regular two or three steps, we might've taken Mik inside because once inside it seems you can easily roll through and he would've found it interesting.

Even not being able to go inside the house this part of the trail has several things to see as there is a family cemetery where the only civilian casualty of the battle is buried and an 1865 monument.

Most of the bad parts are past the Henry House as you loop over to the Southern line cannons. You could probably easily skip the worst parts of the loop, which included a steep hill down and right back up, and still get a feel for the whole trail if you went to the Henry House, back to the Visitor Center, and then over to the Jackson statue and Southern line instead of following the whole loop trail.

Following the loop we went past some of the Southern line marked with cannons and over to the Jackson statue that commemorates where he got the Stonewall nickname.

Destination Info:
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas, VA

Manassas National Battlefield Park: Henry Hill Visitor Center

Date of Visit: June 18, 2017

For Father's Day, I wanted to do an outing with Dad and we were originally going to go without Mik to Shenandoah National Park since I've been wanting to do Ranger Dan photos there. When I was looking at the map to see if there were any other National Park units nearby to also do I was reminded that Manassas National Battlefield was close to us. It was also somewhere Mik was interested in visiting as long as it was accessible, which we found after a quick look at the Manassas National Battlefield Park website led us to their accessibility page that has good details on what areas of the park have wheelchair accessible parts.

As usual for a National Park, we started our visit at the Visitor Center. We were impressed with the parking layout here as it laid out so that the middle walkway up to the visitor center has handicap parking on both sides in every row. Thus, you have the opportunity to avoid taking a spot close to the building when all you need is the extra room for loading/unloading.

The visitor center is accessible via a ramp to the side of the entrance and the double doors have a button to open them automatically.

There is also a ramp from the back entrance to go out to the Henry Hill Loop Trail or just view the area from the patio if you don't want to trek out on the grassy trail. There is also a ramp on the back side accessed from around the front that leads down to the basement level where the bathrooms are located.

The visitor center has a small museum, a gift shop, and a theater. We didn't end up seeing the movie because it is shown on the hour and both before and after doing the Henry Hill Loop Trail we would've had to wait 20 to 30 minutes for it to start (and Mik wasn't sure about watching a 45 minute movie).

Destination Info:
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas, VA

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

National Museum of American History: World War I and Ella Fitzgerald exhibits

Date of Visit: April 18, 2017

We had been meaning to check out the new exhibits at the National Museum of American History for a few weeks now, but we haven't been motivated to really go anywhere since Mik's manual wheelchair had gotten to the point of barely functioning and he just never has gotten into using his power chair (and our current home ramp situation doesn't make it much of an option). Friday we finally managed to not only find a place to get him a new manual wheelchair, but actually lucked out that they had a returned one that worked out for him. Thus, today we headed to the National Museum of American History to not only check out the new exhibits, but also go for a decent walk to really test out the new chair.

The new exhibits we were interested in seeing were related to World War I (Gen. John J. Pershing and World War I, 1917-1918 and Uniformed Women and the Great War). Mik was disappointed in the exhibits because they were all just one or two small displays in the hallways/atriums to the main exhibits. I thought they were interesting, but I agree they were small. It would be nice if they had a real temporary exhibit instead of all these little ones, although I now realize a few of them were perhaps just finishing off the third floor wing as they are currently indefinite rather than temporary. However, I am still a fan of how they do the wall exhibits (Modern Medicine and the Great War and Advertising War,) and how they slowly rotate out to regularly be something different to see.

"The First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald at 100" was an exhibit we didn't originally intend to see, but decided to wander over and check out since it was another recently opened temporary exhibit. It is also small, but it feels more like a true exhibit, I guess, because it is in it's own little space. Also, it had video playing along with artifacts to give more of an immersive experience.

While the museum was sort of a bust this time, the new chair is thankfully not. Not only was his last chair hard to use because it was falling apart, but we never really liked it because even new it couldn't handle minor sidewalk cracks. Thus, we really enjoyed that we not only didn't have worry about the little bumps that we used to, but we could actually go on the National Mall's dirt paths and it didn't even seem like any extra effort.

Destination Info:
National Museum of American History
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington DC

Metro Accessibility Note: Closest metro station is Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver). Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver) is often also recommended as nearby for this museum and if you take the escalator exit it probably is closer or same distance as Federal Triangle, but the elevator is several blocks further, so Federal Triangle is definitely closest if you are exiting Metro via elevator. We used to just use Archives (Yellow/Green) since it was a shorter train ride for us to take Yellow instead of Blue into D.C. and it's only a little more walking. Now that we live in the District, though, we just walk since it's free as well as usually faster.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fort Smith National Historic Site

Date of Visit: November 3, 2016

I had already been to Fort Smith, but I wanted to the Centennial stamp since we were pretty much driving right by it. I remember the museum being worthwhile, but let Mik decide what we do. He just wanted to visit the bookstore and walk around the outside exhibits (mainly to get the Poke Stops).

There are several parking areas around the Fort. The one closest to the building is just a few spots right off the road. Since the one handicap spot was already taken, we parked in the biggest one, which is on the other side of the Gallows. The handicap spots here are the furthest away and mostly work except they are currently doing work on the gazebo and blocking the sidewalk meaning it's confusing to find a path to the Visitor Center with a ramp up to the sidewalk (it's near the street).

Mik enjoyed walking around the fort, although the gazebo project also blocked the path down to the Trail of Tears overlook, so we couldn't quite fully explore the grounds.

Mik also liked that the Visitor Center entrance has buttons to open the doors. There was also a family restroom.

Destination Info:
Fort Smith NHS
301 Parker Avenue
Fort Smith, AR 72901

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial

Date of Visit: September 15, 2016

After a hot and humid summer, it was nice to finally have a Thursday forecast that was clear and with a high below 80. We mainly had been waiting for a Thursday to go with Dad to get the rest of the NPS Centennial stamps on the National Mall, but we decided to also finally do Arlington House since we decided to take the metro to Arlington Cemetery and walk down the mall from that end.

The hill at Arlington Cemetery makes it quite a trek to get to the various sites, especially with Arlington House being at the top. The real annoying part, though, is the signage at Arlington Cemetery is horrible. It does have signs to the Kennedy gravesite and to the Tomb of the Unknown, but no where does it point which roads to take to get to Arlington House. Also, depending on where you are at the signs to the Tomb of the Unknown are pointing to the inaccessible stepped Crook Walk to it. Luckily, Dad had grabbed a map and we were able to figure out the most direct way to Arlington House (Mik wasn't up for the extra time to trek to the Tomb of the Unknown).

On the way to Arlington House, we stopped at the Kennedy gravesite. The stepped path up to the eternal flame is still not ideal and it is annoying that there is no ramp to get to the other part of the memorial, but at least it wasn't raining like last time we visited, so it wasn't slippery.

 We also checked out the Civil War Unknown Monument, which was on the path we discovered we needed to take to be able to get up to the Arlington House as the more obvious direct path is steps by the tour bus stop.

The paths around Arlington House and the other buildings are dirt/gravel, which Mik didn't particularly like, but for the most part they were packed down enough to be easy enough to push him through.

To visit the house there is a ramp up to the porch. The ramp up to the front door is a little awkward. Dad asked me to hold it open and I'm glad I noticed it had a stopper you could put down to hold it open because there really isn't room to stand to hold it open without getting run over.

The house is a self-guided tour and there are no signs to give any information (at least not on the first floor), but there is a ranger that you could ask for information. On the first floor there are three rooms to see and then you end up at the conservatory, which has steps down to it, so we turned around and went back out the way we came in. I think there is also a second floor and basement to tour, but since Mik couldn't access them, none of us visited them.

On the grounds, there is two slave quarters buildings, a flower garden, a kitchen garden, and a museum. The slave quarters buildings and the museum are all level with the path making them more accessible to enjoy. The slave quarters buildings just have the doors open. The museum has an automatic door button, although it wasn't working. The museum is small, but it provides a good timeline of Robert E. Lee's life and a little on the Custis family.

Our favorite part of Arlington House was L'Enfant's grave and the view overlooking D.C.

Destination Info:
Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial
Arlington Cemetery
Arlington, VA

Related Posts

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Date of Visit: August 25, 2016

Fort McHenry has been our list to revisit since 2014 when we considered going to the Star Spangled Banner Bicentennial. Since we are trying to collect the National Park Passport Centennial Stamps this year, it seemed like a good time to finally go and it just happened to work out that our first free Thursday was the actual National Park Centennial.

Usually Mik is into the military history sites we visit, but neither of us found this all that great of a visit. At least the site is mostly accessible as the main part Mik couldn't access was the walkways up around the edge of the fort. I think it mostly wasn't enjoyable because it suddenly got crowded when we started to explore it, but it was also because there wasn't really any signage to help direct where to explore (the pamphlet also didn't even have a map of the park) and very oddly there wasn't a single park ranger (or even a volunteer) to be found except back in the visitor center.

Another area Mik couldn't access was the bombproofs, but he did enjoy that he could still look down in there. Most of the other exhibits were in the buildings in the fort with ramps added to the entrances/exits as needed.

Destination Info:
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
2400 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21230

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Date of Visit: February 14, 2015

I have been to the Newseum a few times including when it used to be in Rosslyn and the day it opened on Pennsylvania Avenue, but Mik had never been. While I knew it was a well-done museum, the tickets are kind of expensive, so it kept getting pushed down on our list to do. The opening of a temporary exhibit about Lincoln, though, quickly moved it to the top because Mik particularly likes Civil War history.

We enjoyed the whole museum and found it to be well designed to go through. It's mainly designed that you go down one level, then go to the top floor (6th), and work your way back down. There's elevators on both ends of the building (the three in the middle only go to Concourse and 6th) that make it efficient to go through the museum without backtracking much, although we did find ourselves going backwards through some exhibits.

Mik's favorite part was the Berlin Wall Gallery, which I remember as always being an impressive thing to see. He liked seeing the wall pieces and guard tower, but it was the whole experience with the videos about the wall and how news played a role in that period that really made it a history come to life kind of thing that captivated him.

It was too cold to enjoy the Greenspan Terrace from outside, but Mik did like that you could read the signs from inside (or at least you could because no one else was up to venturing outside to block them). The timeline history of the avenue is pretty interesting and with the walls of windows you can enjoy most of the great view of some of the major landmarks in D.C. from the climate controlled indoors, too.

The "President Lincoln is Dead" exhibit was another highlight. It was interesting to see the different editions of the New York Herald that provided new information as the story of Lincoln being assassinated and the hunt for Booth evolved. In particular, we found it fascinating that all editions said assassination and at that time the word only meant a secret attack and not that he was necessarily killed (in fact, he was still alive during the first couple editions). It wasn't until after Lincoln that the word became known as we think of it today.

Mostly Mik wasn't interested in the NBC News Interactive Room, but I convinced him to try out one of the touchscreen stations (they have several with no seats for wheelchairs to roll into) and he actually had fun with the trivia game.

Overall a fun museum to explore at least once, but it still is on the pricey side and not likely to go back anytime soon even though the upcoming Reporting Vietnam exhibit does appeal to Mik (kind of wished we waited for it to be open since the Lincoln one is through January 2016). Only exhibit Mik found disappointing with the FBI one, as it didn't seem to really tie in the news influence into it as well as the other exhibits.

Destination Info:

555 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20001

555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001 - See more at:
555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001 - See more at:

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Titan Missile Museum

Date of Visit: May 3, 2014

Despite living in Tucson for almost 20 years the Titan Missile Museum was one of the few places neither Mik or I had been to before.  Considering Mik's fascination with military history it is rather surprising we never even thought about visiting before.

We arrived a few minutes after the noon tour began and decided to join it and miss a few minutes of the movie rather than wait for the next tour at 1 p.m.  The movie is interesting about the history of the silo and launch center, but I don't feel we missed out on anything since you get some plus more info while touring the silo and the tour guides seem to be quite capable of fielding questions.

After the movie ended, the tour heads outside to go down to the launch center.  Before heading down we stopped to hear them sound the siren, which was not a regular thing.  It is very loud, but surprisingly Mik didn't freak out too much, although that was mainly because they gave a clear warning that it was happening.

There are 55 steps down to the entrance of the control center and for those that cannot do stairs they use what originally was more for freight use.  When going up and down the tour guide made sure we knew when the bell was going to sound for the closing and opening above the elevator shaft. The sound was really nothing after the siren, but still Mik can be sensitive to sound and really appreciated having warning.

The rest of the tour is all on the same level and involves going through the blast doors, doing a simulated launch in the control center, and going over to see the Titan II Missile in the silo.  We found the tour to be interesting.  The only part Mik did not really like was the bumpy metal ground in the hallway down to the missile silo, but his comment was just that he was glad he did not have that flooring in his house.

Back up top the tour ends, but you can then wander around up top before heading back out through the museum building.  Mik did not want to spend too much time wandering around in that he did not want us to stop in read every sign, which I agreed was unnecessary with the tour giving all that info already.  Walking over to the top of the silo and going up the platform they have built over it to allow you to look down at the missile was worthwhile.

Destination Info:
Titan Missile Museum
1580 W Duval Mine Rd
Sahuarita, Arizona