Bring History to Life

Article excerpt

Your kids can soak up the Spanish and Native-American influence in Santa Fe, stroll the cobblestone streets of Colonial Williamsburg or kick back in covered wagons in Amish country- and learn with every adventure, BY MELINDA DODD

Explore Hidden Dwellings SANTA FE, NM

Long before it became a center of Southwestern art, Santa Fe played host to a wild cast of characters, including Pueblo Indians, Spanish colonists, Mexican politicians and American traders - and their influence is everywhere. Experience it Walking into the San Miguel Mission, a church erected for the poor in i6io, inspires awe. The shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at El Santuario de Guadalupe mesmerizes. So do intricate works of iron, tin, silver and bone at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, where kids can enjoy treasure hunts and craft projects. Gape at serpentine-design bowls at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, then hear Native-American tales at the nearby Wheelwright Museum. Stroll around the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary, where foxes, rabbits and bobcats dart through the bush. Just a half hour away, climb ladders into Pueblo cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument, in Los Alamos. Have fun Visit the Santa Fe School of Cooking, where they make salsa and three different kinds of tamales. At Kakawa Chocolate House, taste the Aztec Warrior Elixir, a "drinking chocolate" with spices, herbs, chili - even flowers! Stop by the Santa Fe Children's Museum for face painting and giant-bubble blowing, or romp around Shidoni Foundry's eight-acre sculpture garden, a five-minute drive. Relax at the Old Santa Fe Inn, where kiva-style fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs welcome guests. Rooms from $109 (800-734-9910, oldsantafeinn.com). Contact 800-777-2489, santafe.org.

* Meet the Founding Fathers

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, VA Perhaps no other place epitomizes the birth of our nation and its lofty ambitions as well as Williamsburg. Once the capital of Virginia, it's where Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and George Washington ignited the legislature and strategized during the American Revolution. Today, the cobblestone streets of this reconstructed town bustle with costumed cooks, blacksmiths, plantation owners, soldiers and bewigged politicians, providing a glimpse of life as it was. Experience it There's a lot for all to see in this 301-acre area, so take the 30-minute Children's Orientation Walk, where guides point out activities best suited to kids. Dress up in period costume and tour the grounds via horse-drawn carriage to make your family feel like part of the action, then journey on to Benjamin Powell House to experience colonial games and chores. In Revolutionary City, history-book figures chat with children and participate in Q&As. Before you go, be sure to lock the kids in the pillories for a picture. Have fun Let little ones dip candles and wonder at the colorful molten wax at the insanely popular Yankee Candle flagship in Williamsburg; the Holiday Park inside the store boasts year-round snow and visits by Santa. Busch Gardens' Europeanthemed rides (such as the Loch Ness Monster) would horrify colonists but make today's kids go wild with delight. Don't miss a 4-D dinosaur movie at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Relax at the Williamsburg Lodge, offering family packages and a sweet spa. Rooms from $159 (757-253-2277, colonialwilliamsburgresort.com). Contact 800-HISTORY, colonial williamsburg.com.

Ride with the Amish LANCASTER COUNTY, PA

Glimpses of men with beards and girls in white caps from this lovely region have long piqued children's curiosity about the Amish and other Pennsylvania Dutch. Here, kids can get a true taste of Amish and Mennonite life. …