Beliefnet
The Pop Culture Road Trip


As we approach our Nation’s 234th birthday this weekend, I thought I’d share five more favorite places around the country that let one get close to the heart and soul of American history… have you ever been to…

Independence Hall 
Philadelphia

In this park, you’re sharing a space with our forefathers” who created the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution here. We take so many freedoms for granted — but this place puts into perspective what was at stake. They were writing our future.” Home also to the Liberty Bell — “the most important artifact related to our freedom. 215-965-2305; nps.gov/inde

The National Archives
Washington

Of the National Archives hall housing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the room housing the Declaration of Independence is one of the most humbling places in the world to be in. Viewers can see the original, handwritten documents, though under tight security and archival glass to preserve the delicate parchment. It will never cease to amaze me that human hands wrote that — the writing is so royal. 866-272-6272; archives.gov

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine 
Baltimore

During a British attack on this star-shaped fort in 1814, Francis Scott Key penned our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, here. Not only is it an impressive fort, but because the song was written during the battle, it depicts exactly what was happening during that War of 1812 battle. Visitors can see and talk to the Fort McHenry Guard, period-costumed volunteers re-creating life as it was in 19th-century Baltimore. 410-962-4290; nps.gov/fomc

American History Museum 
Washington

Through Sept. 4, 2006, visitors to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum can watch conservators restore the original Star-Spangled Banner that Francis Scott Key was watching and writing about. It’s very high-tech. There are close-circuit cameras showing the laboratory where scientists have been painstakingly restoring the flag since 1998. It’s like the Liberty Bell, a tangible thing that makes history all the more real when you see it. 202-633-1000; americanhistory.si.edu

Betsy Ross House 
Philadelphia

Though many historians dispute whether Betsy Ross really sewed the first American flag after George Washington visited her in June 1776, this house is an important landmark because of the degree she has entered the American psyche. Daily programs at one of Philadelphia’s most visited landmarks offer vis- itors a glimpse of 18th-century life, including spinning wool and craft making, swordplay and storytelling.215-686-1252; betsyrosshouse.org

Yorktown Battlefield
Yorktown, Va.

Site of the last major battle in America’s Revolutionary War in 1781, this is where George Washington teamed up with the French to defeat Gen. Charles Cornwallis’ British army. If you went to where it started, the North Bridge, this is a fitting bookend to that. They’ve done a great job of preserving the battlefield and what’s left of Yorktown Village after the battle (and, later, the Civil War.) 757-898-2410; nps.gov/colo

Have a wonderful Fourth of July, all – I thought I’d share a piece of the film that will play, as it always does, in our household on that day.

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