An Urban Oasis

Visiting state capital’s and national parks has become a huge part of our lives in the last year.  So what could be better for us than combining these two things into one great experience? While visiting the capital city of Maryland we stayed in Greenbelt National Park, which has an awesome location.  It is also a great place to camp right near the city.  We are still amazed at how many cool places there are to go and see in this country, no matter where we go there seems to be an endless amount of places we want to check out.  State capitol buildings provide opportunities to learn about history while national parks provide us with experiences in nature.  What I like about these places is that they are free or very inexpensive to visit.  So read on and I will tell you about our family’s adventure to the wonderful capital city of Maryland.

Greenbelt National park is referred to as an urban oasis and for good reason.  It is so close to Washington DC, Annapolis, and Baltimore that we were sure it would be noisy with sounds of cars and city constantly in the background, but this was not so.  It is actually rather hidden away and could easily be missed (we actually did miss it and had to turn around our first time driving in).  Once you get into the park you have to drive toward the middle to get to the campground so you barely hear any road noise at all.  There are no hook-ups here, but they have water and a dump station available.  There are also free showers available which are good sized and hot.  It was a short walk to get to the Metro station from the campground and they had all the information available in the visitor’s center.  The ranger was great and gave a wonderful campfire program about the deer in the park while we were there (we got to see plenty of them during our stay).  It has a couple of picnic areas, a playground, and several trails running through which are very nice and well maintained.  It was nice to walk on the trail and enjoy nature; the kids can always find a good tree to climb!  The drive to Annapolis was short and it is also very close to the Washington DC area.  The sites are spaced out pretty well with plenty of trees and squirrels which make you feel far from the city, even though you’re not.  The location of this park is really awesome and makes for a great and inexpensive place to stay while visiting the area.  We would definitely stay at Greenbelt again if we are ever in the area!

Every state has a story to tell about someone or something.  A state capitol building is a great place to go to learn more about a state.  Annapolis was not what I expected it to be, not that I had any real expectations, but it was surprising.  It was a beautiful city with a lot of history mixed with modernity.  The capitol building itself was small (at least the part open to the public), but so well done.  I enjoyed walking through the rooms which had so many paintings of important historical figures I could never remember all of them, but there was one that stood out to me.  It was a painting of George Washington with his aid, Tench Tilghman, in this painting Tilghman is wearing two swords on his sides, and next to the painting they have the actual swords he was wearing in the painting framed and on display.  It was so cool and unique.  I also enjoyed walking through the room where George Washington gave up his control of the Army after the Revolutionary War.  It was a great moment in history and they had the room decorated as it would have looked back then, complete with a statue of Washington standing in the exact spot he stood on that day.  The red room was also very well done, I was impressed with it, it was redone to look like it did historically when it was used for stately events like dinners and other important matters.  We were able to see up into the dome which is always fun and although not as impressive as some we have seen it was beautiful and elegant, it belonged there.  I always love visiting the state capitol building not just for the history, but it gives a good indication of the pride a state has in its history and its people.

After touring the capitol building we walked over to the Banneker Douglass museum.  It wasn’t far and we got a chance to see some of the city.  The museum is housed in an old church that has some history of its own.  It was in pretty bad shape when the museum took it over, having all but one of the windows broken, so it was pretty cool that someone had taken pieces from those stained glass windows and made them into a beautiful mosaic that now hangs on the wall.  The exhibits are mostly upstairs, but for being small it really had a lot of information.  They even had some cool stuff for the kids to do including a box they could climb into to get a feel of how a slave might have smuggled themselves to get to freedom.  There were many displays about how African Americans have helped to improve our American way of life.  Some of these things we had no idea about like one man that had improved the sugar refining process and another who had invented the gas mask.  There was also an informative display about Thurgood Marshall and his fight for equality in education.  The staff was also really nice and helpful, there was a scavenger hunt for the kids to do and they each got a gold medal for completing it.  After we left the museum we wandered around some of the downtown shops and even left with a few things that were a good deal.

History really is fun to learn about when you can be in a spot where a historical event took place or something important happened.  It makes it more real and less abstract to be there.  I love visiting historical sites with my children.  I am always amazed at how much they can remember and it is interesting to hear what they take away from these experiences.  I am also grateful for how much time they spend outdoors.  They learn so much from our visits to national parks and I am proud of them every time they earn a new Junior Ranger badge because I know it means they have learned something new or built onto their previous knowledge.  It is so great getting to take them to so many interesting places and allowing them to learn at their own ace and about what interests them.  I am already looking forward to our next adventure!

Here are links to the places we visited and some more pictures:

Banneker-Douglass Museum (Free)

http://bdmuseum.maryland.gov/

The Maryland State House (Free)

http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdstatehouse/html/tours.html

     

Greenbelt Park (camping $20 per night)

https://www.nps.gov/gree/index.htm

 

Around Town

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