My family has been on a National Parks “tour” this summer (we’ve been to seven different spots in less than two months), and unintentionally, have been learning a lot about the “birth” of America at each location.. It was only fitting, then, when we drove to upstate New York this week to visit our best friends that we make a stop at Fort Stanwix National Monument. Commissioned by General Stanwix and built in 1758 by the British, with the permission of the Oneida Indians, the fort became known as "the fort that never surrendered." Fort Stanwix also has the honor of being the first historic park in the country. I highly recommend exploring the fort for a couple of hours. Your children will most enjoy:
The Visitor’s Center: Start your exploration in this building, which has:
- Two short films about the time period
- A display of everyday items used by Native Americans, including tools, utensils, and weapons
- A building table to recreate the fort using wooden blocks
- A children’s table to color worksheets about the fort
- A rug delineating the timeline American history (even my nine year old loved “jumping” from one year to the next)
Don’t forget to get your (six!) passport stamps and have your child(ren) grab a Junior Ranger book to earn their badge(s).
The Fort: Children will love the walk over the bridge into the fort (bring the stroller for the baby), and exploring the various buildings, including:
- A replica refugee camp for the families of lower ranking soldiers. (There was barely enough room for the soldiers inside the camp and only the highest ranking soldiers were allowed to have their families stay with them.)
- The Gregg Barrack with a model of the fort labeled with technical terms, dress up period costumes, and a theater with a 17 minute film about battles that took place around the fort.
- Reproductions of the commander's quarters, officer’s bunks, and “sutter” (the name for a civilian trader, and a room where soldiers and their families could purchase items like food, rum, and tobacco).
- A bombproof storeroom and make shift hospital. Note: You must travel down a very dark path to get to the storeroom.
- Cannon firing demonstration in the middle of the fort. My kids quickly volunteered to be part of the crew led by a ranger who explained with step-by-step instructions. The best part? No actual firing, or loud noises, so no need for children to be afraid.
Notes: Have your crew wear sneakers to avoid getting bare feet dirty from the sandy path. One nice element of the fort is that there are only two areas where you can climb a short flight of stairs to the top to explore secured areas to walk around, so I consider it safer than other forts we have visited. Most forts are completely open on top so it’s very difficult to keep children (really, anyone) safe.
There is a 45 minute ranger led tour offered twice a day, which starts inside the Visitor Center and then continues inside the fort at the Gregg Barrack. We learned A LOT of American history in that short time frame, and while interesting to the adults on the tour with us, my children grew restless pretty quickly, as there was not much interaction on the tour. They enjoyed exploring the fort itself much more; your children might agree.