I’m a big fan of exposing kids to local history as young as possible. They may not always fully understand it but my hope is that as my children get older they will develop an appreciation for history and cultivate a love of learning. My family made a recent day trip up to Fort Ticonderoga, about 2 hours north of Albany. The drive up to Fort Ticonderoga is stunning as you drive through some of the Adirondack high peaks and pass numerous lakes before reaching the Fort on Lake Champlain.
Fort Ticonderoga History: Two Wars One Fort
Fort Ticonderoga was originally built by the French between 1754 and 1757 and called Fort Carillion to defend the French’s Canadian colonial land holdings against the British. The Fort also played a major role during the American Revolution when it was captured by the American colonists in a surprise attack led by Benedict Arnold (before he gained the turncoat status) and Ethan Allen. The Fort traded hands several times between the British and colonists and by 1781 all military action ended leaving the Fort abandoned. By the early 19th century the Fort became a tourist attraction and people traveled by train to see what remained of the Revolutionary War site. Today the Fort is world class living history museum and research center.
A Great Place for a Family Day Trip
As soon as we entered the Fort the Bean (nearly 5) and the Dude (nearly 2) were enthralled with the cannons, and there are lots of them. The outer wall of the Fort is lined with cannons dating back to the 18th century facing out towards Lake Champlain. The Fort is a living history museum with interpreters detailing life at the Fort in 1775. Visiting Fort Ticonderoga gives you an authentic experience through one of the best interpretive programs in the country. It’s obvious to any visitor that the interpretive staff at the Fort have a true passion for the history, trades and lives of those who served at the Fort. Staff spend extensive time researching in the Fort’s archival and objects collection to provide visitors with a high quality, meaningful experience.
We visited a reproduction of a tailor shop at the Fort. All historical interpretive staff wear clothing made at the Fort by the same painstaking methods used over 200 years ago. The staff encourage kids to explore the areas, touch the fabrics and clothing and even climb on the furnishings. They are eager to answer all of your questions about the Fort and enthusiastically describe what they are working on. It was about 90 degrees when we visited and the staff, largely wearing wool garments, kept true to providing visitors with a real portrayal of life at the Fort at the time of the American Revolution.
Throughout the day there are demonstrations and hands-on activities that kids can take part in. Tip – make sure you get a schedule of the daily activities when you enter the Fort at the Welcome Center. We listened to the Fife and Drum Corps which is comprised of area high school students. The students go through a rigorous training and are required to not only understand music, but also 18thcentury culture and the Fort’s history. These young musicians are paired with professional interpretive staff so that they can learn trades and interpretive techniques.
Another impressive daily activity that I highly recommend is the musket demo. A half dozen men, led by the Director of Interpretation, demonstrate and explain in great historical detail the precision that was involved with positioning soldiers during an attack. This was very educational, and again done with extreme care and attention to detail which is a tribute to the high quality staff at the Fort.
The King’s Gardens
A visit to Fort Ticonderoga would not be complete without a visit to the Kings Gardens. You can walk from the Fort or drive, which we had to do in order to avoid extreme toddler melt down on the very hot day we visited. The term “King’s Gardens” was used on Fort Ticonderoga maps to mark the garrison gardens. Today,the Gardens include a historical horticulture tour with a fully functioning vegetable and herb garden. Adjacent to this is the walled pleasure garden that surrounded the former Pell Estate. William Ferris Pell was the first private owner of the Fort Ticonderoga land holding and created an exquisite pleasure garden and arboretum. The estate was used as a hotel from 1840 through 1900 and the manicured lines of the formal gardens are in contrast to the harsh realities of the neighboring Fort. In Fort Ticonderoga’s dedication to families, budding young historians can look for the numerous statutes that are part of a scavenger hunt for kids.
The Mars Education Center
Housed within a restored section of the Fort is the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. The Center is a state of the art space which includes the newest exhibit at the Fort, Bullets and Blades: the Weapons of America’s Colonial War and Revolution. Also within the Center is the exhibition space which currently includes 50 pieces from the Fort’s historic collection. I enjoyed watching my daughter experience this space as I didn’t think she would really appreciate the work. She ended up spending a lot of time in the museum and asked interesting questions about some of the art work. Makes this momma proud.
According to Beth Hill, Executive Director at Fort Ticonderoga, plans are underway to further build on the Fort’s family destination status. Fort Ticonderoga is working on developing a recreational trail on the French Lines (Carillon Battlefield), more hands-on exhibits, additional scavenger hunts that will cover the entire landscape of the Fort as well as other potential opportunities with a water-way program.
Upcoming 2013 Events at Fort Ticonderoga
Mark you calendars for some of the fun family friendly events coming up at the Fort:
- July 20 -21 – 1758 Battle of Carillon Re-enactment
- July 27 – Fife and Drum Corps Muster – food and fun for the whole family
- September 28 – Heritage Harvest and Horse Festival – There will be vendors selling locally grown items, fun family games, demonstrations with horses, and plenty of family fun!
- August 15 Heroic Corn Maze Opens – 6 acre corn maze cut out in the shape of the Fort.
A big thank you to Fort Ticonderoga for providing complimentary admission!
Go Visit!Fort Ticonderoga 30 Fort Ti Road Ticonderoga, NY 12883 (518) 585-2821
General Admission May through October