Archive | June, 2012
June 29, 2012

Kentucky – “The Bluegrass State”

Kentucky map

 

Just the Facts…

bird – cardinal
flower – goldenrod
tree – yellow poplar
capital – Frankfort
union – 15th on June 1, 1792
population – about 4 million

 

 

 

The Basics 

Kentucky is officially known as “The Commonwealth of Kentucky.”  It was part of Virginia until 1792, when it broke off to form its own state.  The name “Kentucky” is thought to have Native American origins.  One possibility is that it comes from the Iroquois word “Ken-tah-ten,” which means “land of tomorrow.”

Two of the nation’s biggest rivers make up part of its borders – the Ohio River forms the northern boundary with Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and the Mississippi River forms the western boundary with Missouri.  Some say Kentucky has more miles of navigable rivers than any other state.  And, those waterways have contributed to its economy over the years.

Kentucky’s landscape is very diverse, with mountain ranges, rolling hills and lush valleys.  The northern part of Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass Region and there are coal fields in both the western and eastern part of Kentucky.  The Pennyroyal region in the south contains The Barrens – a rocky area that has no trees.

 

Its Claim to Fame

Kentucky is horse country!  The world’s best thoroughbred horse farms are located in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.  Some of the world’s most expensive horses are bred and raised in Kentucky.  The National Horse Center is located at the Kentucky Horse Park, which is also headquarters for many of the organizations and associations involved in horse breeding, riding, and racing.

The Kentucky Derby is a big tradition in Kentucky and has been held every year since 1875!  Sometimes it is called “the fastest two minutes in sports” and other times it is called the “run for the roses.”  Meriweather Lewis (of the Lewis & Clark Expedition) formed the Louisville Jockey Club after visiting England and France and watching their famous horse races.  The Jockey Club raised the money necessary to build a racetrack – luckily the land was donated by the Churchill brothers (thus the name “Churchill Downs”).  Now, there is an annual Kentucky Derby Festival that is held for the two weeks prior to the race.  “Thunder Over Louisville” kicks off the Festival and is one of the largest fireworks displays in America.

 

What Makes it Tick

The first colonists to cross the Appalachian Mountains into Kentucky came in search of land to farm, and they found it in central Kentucky.  Farming is still important to Kentucky today.  About one-half of the land within Kentucky is farmland – horse farms, cattle farms, and traditional crop-growing farms.

Like most border states, Kentucky was an important player in the Civil War.  It was officially neutral at the beginning of the War and remained in the Union.  Many people believed in the Confederacy, however, and as a result Kentucky soldiers fought on both sides of the War.  Some families were ripped apart as brothers fought against brothers. Interestingly, two of the most important Civil War leaders were born in Kentucky – Abraham Lincoln (President of the Union) and Jefferson Davis (President of the  Confederacy).

The country’s most productive coal mines are in Kentucky.  Coal was discovered in Kentucky around 1750 and the first commercial mine began operations in 1820.  Kentucky has been a leader in coal production ever since.  Coal helped to fuel the growth of our country in the 19th Century – it powered factories, machines and train engines; it was used to produce the iron and steel needed for large buildings; and it warmed the homes of people all across the country.

Early on, most coal miners and their families lived in “coal patch” towns established by the companies that owned the mines.  These towns were different from most in America because they were not independently governed by elected officials.  The coal company owned and controlled the town – it decided whether there would be electricity, running water, windows and doors in the houses, and how much the workers would have to pay for their food and housing.

If You Visited

If you visited Kentucky, you might go to Mammoth Cave National Park in the Green River Valley of Kentucky.  Mammoth Cave is part of the world’s longest cave system.  Over 350 miles of caves were made over thousands of years.  The caves were made by ground water trickling through the land’s porous limestone and sandstone.  The holes made by the water grew bigger and bigger over time until they became underground caves and passageways.  New parts of the huge cave system are still being discovered and mapped today!

Calling all baseball lovers – the biggest baseball bat in the world is located in Kentucky!   It is six stories high and leans against the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.   The museum has replicas of bats used by famous players through the years – you head to the batting cage with a replica of Babe Ruth’s bat!  Or you could tour the factory and see how a baseball bat is made.  The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is located in Louisville, Kentucky and has been making baseball bats the same way for over 100 years!

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Kentucky? Or, maybe you have visited Kentucky?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Kentucky?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Kentucky to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Kentucky.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://kyhorsepark.com/

http://www.kentuckytourism.com/

http://www.coaleducation.org/

http://www.nps.gov/maca/index.htm

June 28, 2012

Vermont – “the Green Mountain State”

 

Vermont map

 

Just the Facts…

 

bird – hermit thrush
flower – red clover
tree – sugar maple
capital – Montpelier
union – 14th state on March 4, 1791
population – about 600,000 (not even a million!)

 

 

The Basics 

Vermont was the first state to join America that was not part of the original 13 colonies.    The name “Vermont” probably comes from the French name for Green Mountains – “les Verts Monts.”   Montpelier, Vermont’s capital, is the smallest capital city of any state in the country with less than 10,000 people!

Vermont is the only New England state that does not border the Atlantic Ocean.   The Green Mountains run right down the middle of the state.  Most of the state is covered in forests.  Lake Champlain forms much of its western border – it is the 6th largest lake in America, just behind the Great Lakes.  The Connecticut River forms the eastern border between Vermont and New Hampshire.

 

Its Claim to Fame

Vermont was originally owned by the French, which lost the land to England in the French and Indian War (which ended in 1763).  For over 10 years, the surrounding colonies argued over who controlled Vermont.  The colony of New Hampshire even formed a militia called the Green Mountain Boys to protect its settlers in Vermont from those people coming in from New York and trying to claim the land.

Finally, in 1777, Vermont declared itself independent.  Its leaders drafted a Constitution for the Vermont Republic, which was one of the first Constitutions written in America.  It was a progressive Constitution that abolished slavery within its borders, established a public school system, and gave every man the right to vote.  The Vermont Republic was an independent nation for about 15 years until it applied for statehood and became the 14th state.

 

What Makes it Tick

Historically, Vermont has produced most of the milk consumed in New England.  Dairy farms dotted the countryside, with cows grazing peacefully in the pasture and beautiful barns.  While the dairy industry has declined somewhat within Vermont, it still supplies New England with a significant amount of its milk. And, it produces many other dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and ice cream.  Have you ever had Vermont cheddar cheese? It is delicious!

Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup in the nation.  It produces over 1/2 million gallons per year.  Spring in Vermont means the maple harvest – people knows its arrival by a sweet smell throughout the air!  Vermont has a rich history of sugarhouses, providing New England with its primary source of sugar during the Colonial times.  Vermont maple syrup is still made the old fashioned way -  maple trees are tapped once the weather grows warm enough to catch the “sap run” (usually the end of February or beginning of March).  To tap a tree, a sugarmaker will drill a 2 1/2 inch hole in the trunk and place a “spile” in the hole, which allows the sap to drip into a bucket below.  Most taps will provide about 10 gallons of sap, which is boiled down for hours and hours to about one quart of maple syrup.

If You Lived There

Vermont’s rugged mountains are built for winter sports – you may go to one of its many resorts for a ski vacation.  Calling all snowboarders!  Did you know that the snowboard was invented in Vermont?  “Nordic” or cross country skiing is also popular in Vermont, with miles and miles of trails to explore.  Some people in Vermont even go “snow golfing”!

Or, you might tour the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory – yum!  The founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were childhood friends.   At the factory, you will be treated to a movie about the history of Ben & Jerry’s, watch the actual production of ice cream and sample the flavor of the day.  The very first Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlor is still open in Burlington and free cones area are available every May 28 – the anniversary of its opening.

 

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Vermont? Or, maybe you have visited Vermont?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Vermont?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Vermont to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Vermont.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.sec.state.vt.us/kids/

http://www.vermontvacation.com/

http://www.kidsvt.com/

http://www.vermontmaple.org/

June 27, 2012

Rhode Island – “the Ocean State”

Rhode Island map

 

 

Just the Facts…

bird – Rhode Island red
flower – violet
tree – long leaf pine
capital – Providence
union – 13th on May 29, 1790
population – about 1 million

 

 

 

The Basics 

Rhode Island is the smallest state in America – it is 37 miles wide and 48 miles long – that is smaller than many metropolitan areas!  Interestingly enough, most of Rhode Island isn’t really an “island” at all.  It is part of America’s mainland and has many bays and inlets along its coast.  Narrangassett Bay (which is Rhode Island’s largest bay) has more than 30 islands in its waters!

Rhode Island’s name is officially the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”  This arises from the fact that there were originally two colonies that joined together to form a state -  “Rhode Island” colony was near present day Newport and “Providence Plantations” colony was in present day Providence.

 

Its Claim to Fame

People from Massachusetts who were looking for more religious and political freedom formed the first settlement in Rhode Island.  When the colony finally received its official charter from King Charles, that charter guaranteed more religious freedom and self-governing ability than was given to any other colony.

This spirit of independence and tolerance has defined Rhode Island ever since!  For example, Rhode Island was one of the first colonial governments to officially declare itself independent from England (on May 4, two months before the colonies’ collective Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776).

In addition, it was the last of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution – the people in Rhode Island insisted that individual rights and liberties be guaranteed under the Constitution.  They finally approved the Constitution once the Bill of Rights was written and included as the first 10 amendments.

 

What Makes it Tick

At one time, Rhode Island’s many ports were a stop on the “slave trade triangle.”   Ships brought molasses from the West Indies, which was made into rum in Rhode Island.   The rum was then shipped to Africa to trade for slaves.  The ships then brought the slaves to the West Indies and the trade triangle stated all over again.  Even though Rhode Island was part of the slave trade, it did not actually allow slavery within its colony.  In 1652, Rhode Island became the first colony to prohibit slavery.

Pawtucket, Rhode Island was home to the first water-powered textile mill.  Samuel Slater secretly came to America from England and brought his knowledge of the textile industry with him.  He built his first mill in 1793, nearly 100 years before the Industrial Revolution transformed America.  Slatersville was one of the first company-owned mill villages, where families that worked at the mill lived in company housing, shopped at the company store, and attended the company churches and schools.

The American jewelry industry was born in Providence, Rhode Island.  In 1794, Nehemiah Dodge developed a system to “plate,” or cover, a base metal with pure gold.  Prior to this, jewelry was made entirely out of a precious metal (like gold), making it very expensive.  Because of this invention, jewelry could be made more cheaply and sold at lower prices.  Providence’s jewelry district developed and has been the center for jewelry manufacturing in America ever since.  Today, there are more than 1,000 manufacturers of fine jewelry and costume jewelry in Rhode Island.  Alongside the jewelry industry grew the silverware industry – the silverware you use at every meal may have been made in Rhode Island!

 

If You Visited

With over 400 miles of coastline, Rhode Island is bound to have a beach that you like!  After making sandcastles, you might want to take a whale watching boat ride.  There are quite a few different kinds whales off the Rhode Island coast, including humpback whales – there are also sea turtles and lots and lots of fish!

If you visited Rhode Island, you might also tour The Breakers, a famous mansion located in Newport.  Many wealthy families on the East Coast built humongous “summer cottages” in Newport during the “Gilded Age.”  The Breakers has its own children’s playhouse, which is huge – it might be as big as your house!

The Gilded Age was a time of major growth and change in American history – it started after the Civil War and continued until around 1900.  It was a time of huge economic growth, great inventions, large factories, new transportation and communication systems, and the creation of our modern cities.  The leaders of the Gilded Age became known for their extreme wealth and extravagance, but are also credited with the the rise of philanthropy in America.  And, Newport was their summer playground.

About 10 mansions in Newport are national historic sites and open to the general public.    After touring some of the houses, you might want to take a look a the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Or visit the Green Animals Topiary Garden (plants that have been sculpted into the shape of animals, including a giraffe!).

 

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Rhode Island? Or, maybe you have visited Rhode Island?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Rhode Island?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Rhode Island to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Rhode Island.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.visitrhodeisland.com/what-to-do/childrens-activities/

June 26, 2012

North Carolina – “The Tar Heel State”

North Carolina map

 

 

Just the Facts…

bird – cardinal
flower – dogwood
tree – long leaf pine
capital – Raleigh
union – 12th state on November 21, 1789
population – about 9 1/2 million

 

 

The Basics 

North Carolina is in the South Atlantic part of the country and was named after King Charles of England (remember – during South Carolina we learned that “Charles” is “Carolus” in Latin?).  It is in between Virginia and South Carolina.  North Carolina has a diverse landscape, with the Appalachian mountains in the western portion of the state and the Atlantic coastal plain in the east.

There are actually four specific mountain ranges within the Appalachians in North Carolina – Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, and the Black Mountains.  North Carolina is home to the highest mountain east of the Mississippi – Mount Mitchell.  The mountains get quite a bit of snowfall and cold temperatures.  Part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the wettest places east of the Mississippi – it receives more rain each year than anywhere else on the East Coast.

The weather in the eastern part of North Carolina is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean.  The ocean makes the coastal region more temperate – the summer is cooler and the winter is warmer than inland.

 

Its Claim to Fame

Even though North Carolina was the last state to secede from the Union during the Civil War, it provided more troops to the Confederate Army than any other confederate state.  The coastal region had a long history of plantation life that included slavery – tobacco was a big crop and the primary source of income for many people.  Most of the battles in North Carolina took place along the coast and the port of Wilmington was key for providing the Confederacy with supplies.

Have you heard of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina?  This is where the first airplane took flight!   The Wright Brothers accomplished their life dream in December 1903.  Orville Wright took off from a hill overlooking the beach and flew for 12 seconds.  The Wright Brothers actually took three more flights that day – each time they flew longer and longer until the last flight was almost a minute!  The Wright Brothers had been working on the idea of flight for a number of years, and they just didn’t give up.  They started with kites and studied how they worked – how they moved with the wind   Then, they built a glider to study and perfect wing control.  They used fabric for the wings, much like a kite.  Finally, they researched how an airplane could be powered and came up with the idea of a propeller that was attached to a motor.  The modern airplane was born!

North Carolina is known for its Outer Banks – a string of sandy islands just off the coast.  These islands form a barrier between the North Carolina shore and the Atlantic Ocean.  There are two large waterways are between the Outer Banks and the mainland.  Cape Hatteras is located at the very tip of the Outer Banks and has the tallest lighthouse in the United States.  It has earned the nickname the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” because so many ships have sunk off its shore (over a thousand since the 1500s).  There are two main reasons for all the shipwrecks over the years – (1) the water is very turbulent because two major ocean currents meet each other here, and (2) the water is very shallow with a lot of sandbars.

 

What Makes it Tick

The vast pine forests of North Carolina provided the colonists with their first export – tar.   Tar was used to coat the bottom of wooden ships to make them waterproof.  North Carolina supplied the British Navy with most of the tar needed for its ships – barrels and barrels of tar were sent to England during the Colonial period.  At one point, North Carolina made over 70% of the tar that was exported from the Colonies.  It is possible that the English ships used in the Revolutionary War were made with North Carolina tar!

The forests of North Carolina also provided carpenters with a variety of wood to use in making furniture.  The furniture industry really took off in North Carolina after the Civil War and remains an important part of its economy today.  All furniture was made by hand before to the invention of automated machinery.  After the Industrial Revolution, however, large factories sprung up in North Carolina to meet America’s demand for furniture and cabinets.  From 1940-1980, North Carolina produced more furniture than any other state.

Now, North Carolina is a leader in manufacturing fabric and bricks.  Do you have bricks on the outside of your house? Or around your fireplace? Maybe they were made in North Carolina!  Agriculture is also important to North Carolina – especially sweet potatoes and turkeys.  So the next time you have a turkey sandwich or order sweet potato fries, think about North Carolina!

 

If You Lived There

If you visited North Carolina, you might tour the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  It is the largest private house (mansion!) in the world and was built by George Vanderbilt during America’s Gilded Age.  It looks like a French castle – it has 250 rooms and sits on 800 acres of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

You might go to the Lexington Barbecue Festival in October.  Lexington calls itself the barbecue capital of the world!  No matter how you like it, there is a barbecue dish for everyone in Lexington – served with hush puppies, cole slaw and sweet tea.  Barbecue doesn’t get any better than this!

Or you might visit historic Halifax, North Carolina.  North Carolina was the first colony to officially suggest the idea of independence from England.  On April 12, 1776, its government passed the Halifax Resolves – a few months earlier than the famous Declaration of Independence.  Halifax Day is celebrated every April 12.   Another county in North Carolina claims to have declared independence from England over a year before that – Mecklenburg county issued a declaration stating that English laws were no longer in effect in its borders!

 

Want to Know More? 

Did you know that we have more information the the state scrapbook?  It contains an industry map, symbols of the state, and a sample of the information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism of each state.  Check it out!

Do you live in North Carolina? Or, maybe you have visited North Carolina?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about North Carolina?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of North Carolinato share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about North Carolina.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.ncgov.com/1225,1225,Kids_Page,Kids_Page.html

http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/kidspg/

http://www.governor.state.nc.us/NCkids/learn/

http://www.visitnc.com/journeys/highlights/just-for-kids

 

June 25, 2012

New York – “the Empire State”

New York map

 

Just the Facts….

bird – bluebird
flower – rose
tree – sugar maple
capital – Albany
union – 11th on July 26, 1788
population – almost 20 million

 

 

 

 

The Basics 

The Dutch originally settled New York – its first name was “New Netherland”!  Once the British took over the colony, it was renamed “New York” in honor of the Duke of York, who eventually became King George of England.   New York saw a lot of action in the Revolutionary War – about one-third of all the battles were fought on New York soil.

New York is home to two main mountain regions – the Adirondacks in the northeast, and the Catskills and Kittatinny Mountain Ridge in the south (which are part of the Appalachian Highlands).  A big huge valley runs between the two upland regions, which has fertile soil and many lakes and rivers. Western New York is part of the Great Lakes Plain, which is one of the snowiest places in America.

 

Its Claim to Fame

New York City – the Big Apple!  New York City is at the center of American culture and finance.  It is also an important international city.  For example, the United Nations is headquartered in the City.  New York City was also the biggest point of entry for immigrants.  Most people who came to America in search of a new life stopped first on Ellis Island.  Over 12 million immigrants went through Ellis Island!  There are 8 million people in New York City alone – that is more people than the population of some states!

The Statue of Liberty stands proudly in New York Harbor, welcoming all who come to America’s shore.   It was a gift from the people of France to the people of America.  The Statue was designed to commemorate America’s 100th birthday by expressing the ideals that were important to both people – freedom, liberty, and peace.  The Statue of Liberty was the largest structure in New York City at the time.  It was a collaboration of art, architecture, and engineering -  August Bartholdi (a French sculptor) designed the outside of the Statue; Gustav Eiffel (a French engineer) designed the inside structure of the Statue; and Richard Hunt (an American architect) designed the pedestal on which the Statue sits.

Niagara Falls is the largest waterfall in America.  It is located where the Niagara River flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and is part of the border between America and Canada.  It was formed when the glaciers melted and excess water from the Great Lakes made its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  There are two main waterfalls at Niagara – the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.  At its peak, over 150,000 gallons of water flow over the American falls per second (600,000 gallons over the Horseshoe Falls)!  Believe it or not, geologists consider Niagara Falls to be relatively “young” – only about 12,000 years old.

 

What Makes it Tick

Wall Street.  New York City is the center of finance in America.  And, the center of finance in New York City is Wall Street.  Wall Street is an actual street in lower Manhatten.  Its name came from the fact that it went along the northern wall of New Amsterdam, which was the first settlement on the very tip of Manhattan.  George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in the federal building that was located on Wall Street.  And, the New York Stock Exchange was started about the same time.

The Erie Canal runs between the Hudson River and Lake Erie, in effect connecting New England with the Great Lakes.  The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 was a major milestone because it allowed people and goods to travel beyond the Appalachian Mountains.  For the first time, farmers and mills outside of New England could ship their products to New York City.  It also became the major route for people moving west to places like Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.

 

If You Visited

If you visited New York, you might go into the City to see a play on Broadway.  But, don’t be surprised if the theater is not actually on Broadway Street!  “Broadway” is a term used for the theater district in New York City, which has about 40 professional theaters.  Broadway is the birthplace of the “musical,” which tells a story through song and dance.  Modern Broadway was born when the lightbulb was invented – street lights made it safer to travel home after dark.  As a result, more people came to the theater, the number of theaters increased, and performances could run later into the night.

Or, you might spend a weekend in the nation’s largest state park – Adirondack Park.  The Adirondack Park covers over 6 million acres – which is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon Parks combined.  Although some of it is privately owned, state law protects all of it.  There are many golf courses and resorts located within the park, as well as thousands of lakes and streams.  Lake Placid is a town within the Park that hosted the Winter Olympics in 1980!

 

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in New York? Or, maybe you have visited New York?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about New York?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

 

Do you have any photos of New York to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about New York.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.dos.ny.gov/kids_room/

http://visitadirondacks.com/

http://www.niagara-usa.com/

 

 

June 22, 2012

Virginia – “Old Dominion State”

 

Virginia map

 

Just the Facts…

 
bird -  cardinal
flower – dogwood
tree – flowering dogwood
capital – Richmond
union – 10th on June 25, 1788
population – about 8 million

 

 

 

The Basics 

The Virginia area was the first to be explored in the New World.  Queen Elizabeth asked Walter Raleigh to explore the New World on behalf of England. He landed in Virginia in 1584 and some think he named the area after Queen Elizabeth (since she was sometimes called “The Virgin Queen” because she never married).  Virginia’s official name is “The Commonwealth of Virginia.”  This name was designated by its state legislature, the General Assembly (which happens to be the oldest state legislature in America).

Much of western Virginia is part of the Appalachian mountain range – the Blue Ridge Mountains run diagonally through the state.  The land starts to flatten out as you head east, towards the ocean.  Much of Virginia’s coastline opens into the Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia’s local government system is unique.  Places within Virginia are either part of a county or part of an independent city, but not both.  As a result, local governments do not overlap at all.  The idea is similar to Washington DC, which is independent of Maryland and Virginia.  Or like the Vatican, which is an independent state within the city of Rome.  This is different from most other states, which divide their land up into counties.  Cities form within those counties, so that most areas have two layers of local government.

 

Its Claim to Fame

The first permanent settlement of the New World was established in Virginia, which was called Jamestown (named after King James – do you see a theme here?).  It was a hard life, but Jamestown eventually created its own economy from a crop introduced to them by the Native Americans – tobacco.  The demand in Europe for tobacco grew so quickly that there were not enough colonists to work the fields.  As early as 1619, Africans were brought to Jamestown to help work the tobacco fields.

Virginia’s leaders were very influential in the Revolutionary War and the founding of our country – we are talking about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson!  George Washington led the American army during the Revolutionary War and then was our very first President.  His home is called Mount Vernon and is near Alexandria, Virginia.  Thomas Jefferson was critical to the Constitutional Convention – he had strong opinions regarding the structure of the federal government and wrote most of the Constitution.  And, he was our third President.  He designed his home, which is called Monticello and is located near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Virginia played a big role in the Civil War.  After it seceded from the Union, Richmond became the capital of the Confederate States of America.  There was a large portion of northwestern Virginia that wanted to stay in the Union, however.  And so West Virginia was born.  Those counties that did not want to secede from the Union were recognized as a new state by the federal government.  Many Civil War battles took place in Virginia, partly because the Confederacy felt the need to protect its capital, Richmond.  In addition, Virginia’s own Robert E. Lee led the Confederate troops in those battles.  In fact, Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia, which led to the end of the Civil War.

 

What Makes it Tick

Virginia gave the federal government land to create Washington DC (the rest of the land was donated by Maryland).  And, the federal government has been a big part of life in northern Virginia ever since.  Many warships were built along the Virginia coast and our entire defense department is operated from Virginia.  The Pentagon isn’t even in Washington DC – its in Arlington, Virginia!    Speaking of the Pentagon, did you know that it is one of the largest office buildings in the world?

For a long time, tobacco was king in Virginia.  The tobacco plant thrived in the sandy soil of eastern Virginia and plantations dotted the landscape.  In the western hills, coal was the king.  Now, Virginia has the highest number of technology workers of any state in America and its largest export is computer chips.  It also has many data centers – a lot of the information that you read on the internet may be stored on computers in Virginia!

 

If You Lived There

If you lived in Virginia, your favorite food may be its special country ham or the crunchy Virginia peanuts.  “Virginia ham” can only be made in the town of Smithfield and must meet the requirements stated in Virginia law (it must be salt cured, smoked, and then aged according to specification).   “Virginia” peanuts are actually a variety of peanut – they are some of the largest peanuts grown and are usually roasted in small batches and sold whole (no peanut butter here!).

You may visit the Assateague Island just of the Virginia coast, which is home to a rare breed of wild horses!  Assateague Island is entirely owned by various state and federal  agencies – the whole island is a protected wildlife refuge and park land.  It is accessible from both Maryland and Virginia.  In fact, there is a fence along the border to separate Maryland’s wild horses (called the Assateague Horse) from Virginia’s wild horses (called the Chincoteague Pony).  On Pony Penning Day every July, some of the Chincoteague Ponies are led across a shallow portion of the bay from Assateague Island to Virginia, where they are sold.  This helps to keep the population under control, so the horses don’t take over the whole island!

 

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Virginia? Or, maybe you have visited Virginia?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • Where is your favorite thing about your state?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Virginia to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Virginia.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.virginia.org/

http://www.virginiatouristsguide.com/

http://www.mountvernon.org/

http://www.monticello.org/

http://www.virtualjamestown.org/

June 21, 2012

New Hampshire – “The Granite State”

 

New Hampshire summary

 

Just the Facts…

 
bird -  purple finch
flower – purple lilac
tree – paper birch
capital – Concord
union – 9th on June 21, 1788
population – about 1 1/2 million

 

 

 

 

The Basics 

New Hampshire is located in New England and has many mountains.  There is barely a place you can go in New Hampshire and not see at least one mountain!  The White Mountains are in the northern part of the state and claim to have the “world’s worst weather,” with winds reaching hurricane speed on a regular basis.  In addition, New Hampshire can have some huge snowfalls, especially if a Nor-easter winter storm hits it.

New Hampshire has the shortest ocean coastline of any state – only 18 miles!   Historically, this small seacoast has been a bustle of activity – ships were built in the shipyards, goods manufactured in northern New Hampshire were stored in warehouses and eventually loaded on ships, and fishermen brought in their daily catch to sell to the locals.

New Hampshire was named after a county located in southern England – “Hampshire.”  The Connecticut River defines the border between New Hampshire and both Canada and Vermont, and the valley surrounding the Connecticut River has fertile soil and lots of farms.  In fact, the very first potato was planted in New Hampshire!

New Hampshire has the largest population of French Canadians of any state!  Many of these people originally came down from Canada to work in the mills of New Hampshire.   Some communities, like Little Canada in Manchester, still retain their French-Canadian flavor.

 

Its Claim to Fame

For a long time, New Hampshire was home to a famous mountain – “The Old Man on the Mountain.”  It was a mountain that had several ledges jutting out – they were arranged in such a way that looked like the profile of an old man.  How did it happen?   Did someone carve it?  Nope – nature did it!  The huge glaciers that moved over the land thousands of years ago shaped the Old Man on the Mountain.  It was a favorite landmark in New Hampshire until, unfortunately, it collapsed in 2003.  People were so upset that they brought flowers to the site in memory of the Old Man!

New Hampshire was the first state to sign the Declaration of Independence.  In fact, New Hampshire declared itself independent from England even before that!  Later, it was the ninth state to approve the Constitution.  Two-thirds of the Colonies needed to approve the Constitution before it became the “law of the land.”  New Hampshire’s approval satisfied this requirement – our federal government was created!

 

What Makes it Tick

For many years, New Hampshire’s economy was similar to other New England states.   Small mills and factories lined the rivers that flowed down from the mountains.  Textiles, leather products like shoes, and lumber were produced in those small mills.  New Hampshire was also known for making ships – shipyards in Portsmouth have been making ships since the Colonial times! Now, they build and repair submarines.

Since New Hampshire is home to quaint New England towns and breath-taking landscape, it has developed a thriving tourism industry.  There are still some farms in New Hampshire, growing mostly apples, dairy products and eggs.  The southwestern tip of New Hampshire is home to quite a few high-tech companies, since it is so close to Boston.

 

If You Visit

If you visited New Hampshire, you would probably spend quite a bit of time outside enjoying the beauty around you – whether it is fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, or skiing – you can do it all in New Hampshire.  You might even go on a dog-sled ride in the mountains!   You could also go rock hunting.  You would probably find a lot of granite (it is the Granite State, after all).  But, you would find more than granite – there are more than 200 different kinds of rocks and minerals in New Hampshire!

While you are traveling through New Hampshire, you may see a covered bridge here and there.  New Hampshire is home to 54 covered bridges, including some of the longest and oldest ones in America.   At one point there were more than 10,000 covered bridges in New England!  They were indispensable to early American communities – connecting people that otherwise would have to travel to a ferry, and then cross the river, to visit each other.  Many covered bridges were very narrow and intended only for horse drawn carriages.  Most were not designed to support the weight of cars so they became obsolete and many were torn down.  New Hampshire state law protects the remaining covered bridges as historical sites.

In the summer, you might take a boat cruise out to the Isle of Shoals to watch harbor seals play in the ocean. The Isle of Shoals which are a group of islands off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine – half of the islands are part of New Hampshire, and the other half are part of Maine!

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in New Hampshire? Or, maybe you have visited New Hampshire?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • Where is your favorite thing about your state?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of New Hampshire to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about New Hampshire.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.nhtourguide.com/

http://www.visitnh.gov/

June 20, 2012

South Carolina – “The Palmetto State”

South Carolina

 

 Just the Facts…

bird – Great Carolina Wren
flower – yellow jessamine
tree – palmetto
capital – Columbia
union – 8th on May 23, 1788
population – about 4  1/2 million

 

 

 

 

The Basics 

The Carolinas were named after King Charles of England.  “Carolina” is based on the Latin word for Charles – which is “Carolus.”   North and South Carolina started as one colony.  In 1719, South Carolina received its own royal charter.  No one knows exactly why the split occurred – most people attribute it to disagreements between the noblemen who owned the land.

South Carolina is shaped a little bit like a triangle and is between North Carolina, Georgia, and the Atlantic Ocean.  Like many other mid-Atlantic states, the northwestern part of South Carolina is mountainous, which flattens to the Lowlands near the Atlantic Ocean.  In between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the coastline lies the Sandhills region.  Many years ago, the Atlantic Ocean was higher than it is now and the Sandhills were part of the beach – they were giant sand dunes along the coast!

For much of South Carolina’s history, a majority of its population was African American.  But that is no longer the case.  Demographics changed drastically after the “Great Migration” that occurred at the beginning of the 20th Century.  At that time, thousands of African Americans left the South to find work in the factories of the northern states.  Now, about 30% of South Carolina’s population is African American.

 

Its Claim to Fame

South Carolina was a big player in the Civil War.  It was the first state to secede from the Union.  And, the first battle of the Civil War was fought within its borders at Fort Sumpter in Charleston Bay.

In fact, South Carolina still makes the news today regarding its affection for the Confederate flag.  The flag of the Confederate States of America was raised on top of the Statehouse dome in 1962.  The NAACP fought for years to have the flag removed, even organizing economic boycotts of the state.  Business leaders within the state got involved as well.  Finally, the flag was taken down from the Statehouse dome in 2000 and re-located to a monument honoring Confederate soldiers.  Even today, emotions run high about the issue.

South Carolina is home to many Gullah communities.  The Gullah are African Americans that live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia.   The first Gullah were slaves that worked in the rice fields.  Many were brought from a region in West Africa that also had rice fields.  As a result, the Gullah have created a culture and language based on their common traditions and African heritage.  Popular dishes from the Gullah culture are red rice and okra soup.  Gullah have been hand-making baskets out of sweetgrass for over 300 years – a long time ago, the baskets were used to plant and harvest rice.   The Gullah also have a strong history of storytelling – stories have been passed down orally from generation to generation.  Some of them have been recorded – have you heard of Brer Rabbit? It is originally a Gullah story!

 

What Makes it Tick

Plantations once dominated the landscape in South Carolina, growing tobacco, cotton, rice, and indigo.  Slaves imported from Africa taught the plantation owners how to grow rice and indigo.  By the American Revolution (and up until the Civil War), there were more slaves in South Carolina than white colonists.

After the Civil War, South Carolina’s economy had to change (it could no longer rely on the plantation model).  As a result, textile, lumber and paper mills grew in importance.  These mills relied on power provided by the rivers flowing down from the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The textile mills processed the cotton grown in the region, and the lumber mills took advantage of the acres and acres of forest.

Agriculture is still an important part of South Carolina’s economy.  Now, a wide variety of crops are grown there – cotton, tobacco, peaches, chickens and dairy.

 

If You Visited

South Carolina has miles and miles of sandy white beaches! If you visited South Carolina, you might travel to the coast for a weekend getaway.  You might build a sandcastle on Myrtle Beach.  Or, you might kayak around Hilton Head Island and search for loggerhead turtles.  If you spotted one you would be very lucky – they are an endangered species.  Loggerhead turtles can live to be 80 years old and grow to be more than 400 pounds!

 

You might take a horse drawn carriage ride in historic Charleston.  Or you might visit the Magnolia Plantation in Charleston – it has the oldest garden in America!  The Magnolia plantation is over 300 years old, one of the oldest plantations still standing in the South.  The first part of its garden was planted shortly after the mansion was completed and has been expanded many times over the years.  Magnolia Plantation has been owned by the same family since it was built – that is 15 generations!  After the Civil War, the family rebuilt the plantation mansion and opened the gardens to the public.

 

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in South Carolina? Have you visited South Carolina recently?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • Where is your favorite thing about your state?
  • What is your favorite beach?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of South Carolina to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about South Carolina.  Visit these websites to learn more:

www.sciway.net

www.discoversouthcarolina.com

www.scstatehouse.gov

 

 

June 19, 2012

Maryland – “The Old Line State”

Maryland map

Just the Facts…

 
bird – Baltimore Oriole
flower – black eyed susan
tree – white oak
capital – Annapolis
union – 7th on April 28, 1788
population – about 5 1/2  million

 

 

 

The Basics 

In Maryland, it’s all about “the Bay.”  The Chesapeake Bay runs down the middle of Maryland and is the center of the state, both geographically and culturally.   Both the east and west shores of the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay are in Maryland – that is over 7,000 miles of coastline!

Interestingly enough, Maryland has no natural lakes!  It has some man-made lakes and natural ponds and marshes, but the glaciers did not move far enough south to carve lakes out of the land.  This absence of ancient glacial activity also affects Maryland’s soil, which has more sand, silt and clay than areas further north.

In 1791, Maryland gave the federal government nearly 70 square miles to use for the nation’s capital, Washington DC.  Virginia gave the federal government the other 30 square miles, making 100 square miles total for the nation’s capital.  Maryland was a border state in the Civil War – it was originally a slave state but ultimately sided with the Union and tried to remain neutral.

Maryland was named in honor of Henrietta Marie, the wife of King Charles of England.  It was founded for a specific purpose – to provide a safe haven for people of Roman Catholic faith (there were times in England when it was illegal to be Catholic).  Both the first Catholic university and the first Catholic cathedral in America were established in Maryland.

Its Claim to Fame

Our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner was written in Maryland!  Francis Scott Key was on a British ship in the Chesapeake Bay when he watched the attack of Fort Henry in Baltimore.  Mr. Key was negotiating for the release of American prisoners of war and the battle began while he was on board.  Mr. Key was not allowed to leave until the battle was over, for fear that he had learned too much information about the British forces.  The battle waged overnight.  In the morning, Mr. Key saw that the American flag was still standing, meaning that Fort Henry did not fall! He wrote a poem about his experience while traveling back to Baltimore, which became our national anthem.  Do you know the words to the Star Spangled Banner? It is sung at the beginning of every baseball game!

Maryland is rich in African American heritage.  Harriet Tubman was born in Maryland to slave parents.  From the time Harriet was a little girl she would find ways to resist the unfair and cruel way she was treated, through running away and wearing layers and layers of clothing to protect her from beatings.   In 1849, Harriet escaped slavery by walking nearly 90 miles to Philadelphia.  She was helped and protected along the way by members of the Underground Railroad.  After reaching Philadelphia, Harriet missed her family and returned to Maryland to help them escape as well.   Over the course of her life, Harriet returned to Maryland 13 times to lead more than 70 slaves to freedom.

What Makes it Tick

The Chesapeake Bay is the heart of Maryland – it provides people with weekend fun as well as jobs during the week.  The Chesapeake is the largest freshwater estuary in America.  An estuary is a transition zone between a body of freshwater (like a river) and an ocean. It is partially enclosed, which allows for the co-mingling of freshwater and saltwater and creates a unique marine environment.  The Chesapeake is very shallow – most of it is under 20 feet!

Commercial fishing is a big deal in Maryland – thousands of pounds of blue crab, clams and oysters are caught in the Chesapeake Bay each year.  In fact, more crab are caught in Maryland than any other state!  The crabbers and oystermen are called “watermen.” Have you eaten a Maryland crab before? It is a tricky activity – you have to use a mallet to crack the hard shell and reach the delicious meat inside.  It is probably the only time you can use a hammer at the dinner table!

If You Visited

If you visited Maryland, you might visit the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.  The whole campus is a National Historic Landmark and was founded in 1845 to educate officers of the Navy.  If you want to attend, you need a Congressman or the President to nominate you!   After, you may eat some of Maryland’s famous seafood – steamed blue crabs, crab cakes, or crab soup!  Or, you may watch one of the many sailing regattas on the Chesapeake Bay.

You might participate in the US Lighthouse Society’s annual Maryland Lighthouse Challenge in September.  The challenge is to visit nine historic lighthouses along Maryland’s coast as well as the lightship “Chesapeake,” which is docked in Baltimore.  A lightship, you may ask?  Yes!  Before beacons were placed in the open water to direct boats, the Coast Guard used lightships to perform that function.  The lightships would be anchored in areas that were too shallow for boats.  They would have a light on the tallest mast to alert ships of the dangerous waters.  Lightships were used on the Atlantic coast for over 150 years (the last lightship off Nantucket was decommissioned in 1983).

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Maryland? Have you visited Maryland recently?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • Where is your favorite thing about your state?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

 

Do you have any photos of Maryland to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Maryland.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://visitmaryland.org/Pages/MarylandHome.aspx

http://www.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx

June 18, 2012

Massachusetts – “The Bay State”

Massachusetts Map

 Just the Facts….

bird – chickadee
flower – mayflower
tree – American elm
capital – Boston
union – 6th on February 6, 1788 
population – about 6 1/2 million
 
 
 
 
 

The Basics 

Massachusetts is officially known as the “Commonwealth of Massachusetts” (rather than a state) – and some people just refer to it as “the Commonwealth.”  It is named for a Native American tribe that inhabited the land a long time ago and means “a large hill place.”  Most of its residents live within a 60-mile radius of Boston, the largest city in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has an extensive coastline with a number of bays, the largest being Cape Cod Bay.  It also boasts a number of islands, including Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

The Berkshires and Appalachian Mountains cover the western portion of Massachusetts with rolling hills and forests.  The eastern portion flattens out as it heads to the Atlantic coast.   Massachusetts experiences all four seasons, with hot, humid summers and cold, blustery winters.

Its Claim to Fame

The Pilgrims were the first to settle in the Massachusetts colony in 1620.  They traveled on the Mayflower, a ship that sailed for America from Plymouth, England.  When the Pilgrims landed on what is now Cape Cod, they named their colony New Plymouth!  Eventually the “New” was dropped and Plymouth Rock became famous as marking the site where the Pilgrims landed in the New World.  Plymouth Rock has actually been relocated within the town of Plymouth a number of times and even split into two. It is now understood that the Pilgrims landed closer to Provincetown and not at Plymouth at all.  But that doesn’t matter for purposes of Plymouth Rock – it is still a much-loved part of our heritage!

Harvard University was founded in 1636 as the first institute of higher education (college or university) in America.  At first it was just called “New College.”  But, it was renamed “Harvard College” after John Harvard gave the college his library of over 400 books.  Harvard was modeled after the universities in England – Cambridge University was probably the most influential since many prominent men in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were educated there.

Boston is sometimes called the “cradle of liberty.”  It was a hotbed of rebellion and action during the American Revolution.  Events like the Boston Tea Party and Boston Massacre brought the Colonies closer to declaring independence and the Revolutionary War.  The Colonists held many town meetings in Boston to discuss the way they were being treated by the British.  In addition, the road from Boston to Lexington is where Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride took place, alerting residents “the British are coming.”  Finally, some of the first battles of the Revolution took place in Massachusetts – the Battles of Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill.  In fact, the very first shots of the Revolution were fired at Lexington.  The list of ways that Boston influenced the American Revolution goes on and on.

What Makes it Tick

With all those miles of Atlantic coastline, it should come as no surprise that there is a lot of commercial fishing in Massachusetts.  What do you think Cape Cod is named after?  Thats right – Atlantic Cod, which is plentiful off the coast of Massachusetts.  Another very important catch is lobster… mmm… delicious!  Believe it or not, whaling was a big industry in Massachusetts – about 1/2 of the whaling ships that sailed the seas in the 1840s left from New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Before that (when the ships were smaller), Nantucket was the whaling capital of the New World.  Back then, whales were hunted for their blubber – the blubber could be reduced to oil.  Whale oil was used for lamps, candles, soap, and medicines.

Massachusetts grows more cranberries than almost any other state.  Cranberries are a unique fruit – there are very few places that can grow cranberries successfully.  They naturally grow on a vine in bogs and need lots of sand and fresh water.  In the fall at harvest time, the bogs are flooded to help pick all the berries off the vines and float them towards the processing facility.  Cranberries have been grown on Cape Cod since Colonial times – some of the cranberry vines are over 150 years old.  Do you like Craisins? Maybe the cranberries used to make them grew in Massachusetts!

If You Visited

If you visited Massachusetts, you might visit Gloucester, a historic town and one of America’s oldest fishing ports.  Or you might visit one of the historical whaling centers – the New Bedford Whaling Museum or the Island of Nantucket.  Or, you might want to tour some of Massachusetts’ lighthouses – some of them are the oldest lighthouses in the country.  In the evening, you might have a clambake on the beach, complete with Boston baked beans or New England clam chowder and Boston cream pie.   Or a hot dog may be more your style – but don’t be surprised if your bun is split from the top rather than sliced sideways – its a New England thing!

Or you may follow the Freedom Trail in Boston – it is actually a red path painted on the sidewalks of Boston!  There are 16 major Revolutionary War sites along the Freedom Trail.  If you follow the Freedom Trail, you will stand in the Patriots shoes, so to speak.  You will walk the same path taken by those rebels who didn’t like the way they were being treated and wanted to do something about it!  After following the Freedom Trail, you may go the annual re-enactment of Paul Revere’s ride.  It takes place in Lexington at 11:30 pm on Patriot’s Day (which is April 16).

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Massachusetts? Have you visited Massachusetts recently?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • Where is your favorite thing about your state?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Massachusetts to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKidsOur tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Massachusetts.  Visit these websites to learn more great things about Massachusetts:

http://www.massvacation.com/

http://www.cityofboston.gov/visitors/ 

http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/

http://www.whalingmuseum.org/