George Washington’s childhood home, Fredericksburg was also the site of five Civil War battles.
The legends of Washington’s cherry tree and his silver dollar throw across the Rappahannock River are a few of the stories at Ferry Farm, where our first president lived as a young boy until early manhood. Recently unearthed by archaeologists, the site includes a visitors center and walking tour of the property.
“Kenmore, an elegant Colonial mansion and home to Washington’s sister, features ornate plaster ceilings and beautiful gardens,” said Lura Hill, manager of tourism sales for the Fredericksburg Regional Tourism Partnership.
“Rising Sun Tavern, once Washington’s brother’s home, later operated as a tavern complete with wenches and male indentured servants, and today operates like that 18th-century watering hole. Groups feel like they’ve just stepped off a stagecoach when they walk through the door,” Hill said.
James Monroe began his law practice in Fredericksburg, and the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library contains a collection of his personal possessions, furnishings and papers.
Four battlefields operated by the National Park Service commemorate the area’s Civil War history.
“Because of the sesquicentennial commemorations from now through 2015, groups can expect to see lots of events,” said Hill.
Last, visitors can spend endless hours in Old Town Fredericksburg, where the architecture of 350 buildings spans three centuries. “You won’t find any chain stores here,” said Hill. “From antiques to boutiques to eateries, these are all independently owned.”
For under a year in 1692, the scenic seaside town of Salem became enveloped in fear and paranoia.
“The Salem witch trials represent a tragic period in our history. During that period of time, at least 100 people were imprisoned, 19 men and women were hung, and one man was pressed to death,” said Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem.
Groups can witness this chilling slice of history at the Witch Dungeon Museum, where a reenactment of a witch trial takes place in an authentic dungeon; the Witch House, home to one of the judges; the Salem Wax Museum, with London-made wax figures of trial participants; and the Salem Witch Museum, which depicts not only the trials but the history of witchcraft.
“This museum [Salem Witch Museum] makes the connection between the 1600s and contemporary times. Visitors learn that we’ve had social witch hunts of our own in recent times, like McCarthyism in the 1950s or the fear of AIDs that rocked this country in past decades,” said Fox.
Fox also suggested that groups not miss a production at Gordon College, “Cry Innocent: The People Versus Bridget Bishop,” a chilling show that places the audience in the Puritan jury.
Salem’s rich maritime history is also on display at a variety of venues, including the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, a waterfront park featuring tall ships and historic buildings, and the House of the Seven Gables, the oldest surviving 17th-century wooden mansion in New England and the inspiration behind Nathaniel Hawthorne’s legendary novel of the same name.