Take a Hamilton History Road Trip This Summer
We are OBSESSED with this Hamilton History Road Trip idea, and contributor Holly Ellis Spiegel has the lowdown (complete with a Google map!) that will delight Hamilton devotees of all ages. With historic sites from NYC to Philly (and beyond!), you can wed your pop culture obsession with American history and enjoy some much needed family time, too.
We’re pretty sure if your kids have listened to the Hamilton soundtrack once, they listen to it Non. Stop. What better way to teach your child to appreciate Revolutionary War history than with something they already love? Since we are in the, um, region where it happened, we’ve designed a Hamilton History Road Trip (with a handy Google map) for NYC- and Philly-area parents looking for an unforgettable spring break. So pack up the kids, fire-up the Hamilton Mixtape, and do not throw away your shot.
Upstate New York:
Angelica, Eliza and Peggy – the Schuyler sisters – grew up in this home in Albany. The family called the home The Pastures, but now it’s known simply as the Schuyler Mansion. Alexander and Eliza were married in the parlor in 1780, and this is the place to which Eliza and Angelica pleaded with Alexander to take a break, while he worked madly to get his plan through Congress. After your tour here, don’t miss Albany’s New York State Capitol.
As Washington’s aide-de-camp, Hamilton helped plan the winning strategy at Fort Stony Point. With Washington, he visited the fort the following day to congratulate Major Wayne on the victory.
Hamilton did not fight at Saratoga, where the Americans ended the British hopes of squelching the rebellion in 1777, but Saratoga National Park is beautifully preserved and you can almost hear the British cannons go BOOM as you stand on the sloping fields.
Pay your respects at Hamilton’s gravesite outside Trinity Church, where his family also worshiped for several years. Then, stroll down Wall Street, tipping your hat at the site of the original Bank of New York building, founded by Hamilton in 1784, and stop at Federal Hall, America’s first capitol, where Hamilton practiced law (he practically perfected it) and presented legislation as Treasury Secretary. An historical tour of Lower Manhattan would not be complete without stopping in for a pint and a hearty meal at Fraunces Tavern, where General Washington dined with his officers at the end of the Revolution, including Colonel Hamilton.
Next, make your way uptown (it’s quiet uptown) to Hamilton Grange, Alexander’s family home built in 1802, just two years before he died. Then, walk north and east to Jumel Terrace, where you’ll find the Morris-Jumel Mansion Manhattan’s oldest home and onetime home to Aaron Burr (his second wife, Eliza Jumel, kept the house after their divorce, just 3 years after the marriage began). The mansion now serves as a museum and artistic retreat where Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a great deal of the musical.
While you’re in the greatest city in the world, put your skin in the game to win lottery tickets to the show. If you win, your family will never stop telling the story of tonight.
Just across the George Washington Bridge, make a stop in Weehawken to linger on the site of Hamilton’s infamous 1804 duel with Aaron Burr. Remember that the Weehawken Dueling Grounds were also the tragic site of Hamilton’s son Phillip’s death in 1801. Then, the Liberty Hall home and museum in Union, NJ is well worth its own visit. In addition to being a fascinating tribute to nearly 200 years of American history, it’s also where Hamilton lived while he was a student at Elizabethtown Academy in Elizabeth, NJ and he likely continued to visit here throughout his life.
Valley Forge is a must see on any Revolutionary War tour, but it’s especially powerful to stay there remembering that it was from these barracks in the winter of 1777-78 that Hamilton, as Gen. Washington’s aide-de-camp, wrote to Congress that the soldiers had “resorted to eating [their] horses.” This grueling winter ended with the United States’ formal alliance with France (as brokered by Hamilton’s drinking buddy, Marquis du Lafayette), as well as the appointment of Baron von Steuben to acting inspector general of Washington’s army (as negotiated by Hamilton and General Nathanial Greene). These two combined factors dramatically turned the tide of the War.
Of course, no lesson on American history is complete without a visit to Philadelphia, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Continental Congress. At 226 Walnut Street, you can view a plaque where the private home that the Hamilton family rented while Alexander served as America’s first Treasury Secretary once stood. At Independence Hall, pace the same floor Hamilton once did as he helped define and ratify the Constitution of the United States, working non-stop to write the Federalist Papers, which is still used as the basis for nearly all Constitutional interpretations. Also included in your Independence Hall tour is the site of Hamilton’s offices as Treasury Secretary at 100 South 3rd Street. There he created, among other things, the US Mint, the Coast Guard and the First Bank of the United States, whose building remains, just next door.
To ensure you hit every Hamilton haunt on the Philly streets, download this walking tour app for Apple and Android (another one for NYC is in the works!). Each stop on the tour links to a song from the show, so you won’t want to say no to this.
So there you have it: just some of the ways your family can follow in the footsteps of the ten-dollar Founding Father and discover America’s rich and complicated history.
Holly Ellis Spiegel is a writer and freelance film and video producer based in Brooklyn. She’s produced four feature films including the Sundance-selected Prairie Love and countless videos for parents and families on CafeMom and other outlets. She is also a new mom. See her work at hollylynnellis.com.