Have Twins, Will Travel

USS Constitution & Museum

Charlestown, Massachusetts – Twins and I kicked off research for the new edition of Lonely Planet New England with a trip to the Charlestown Navy Yard, home of Old Ironsides. Everyone knows that the USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the country, but I didn’t think this would really impress the twins (who don’t know what a warship is, and don’t care if anything is old).

Instead, I told them we were going on a ship that used to fight against pirates. This is technically true, as one of her first engagements was the Battle of Tripoli Harbor during the First Barbary War, which was incited by Barbary corsairs demanding tribute from American merchant ships. We didn’t get into the details of the Barbary Wars with the twins, but they were very excited about the prospect of going on a ship that fought against pirates (though I think they might have preferred to go on the pirate ship itself).
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Our first stop was the USS Constitution, which is still operated by the US Navy and is free to visit. You can wander around the top deck by yourself, but you need to go on a guided tour to go below deck. The tours are done by Navy personnel and I definitely recommend it for most visitors, but not for toddlers. Mainly, the twins got a kick out of climbing the stairs, tugging on ropes and running up and down the ramp on and off the boat. Twin V asked several times where the ship was going to go, so I think they may have been a tad bit disappointed that we weren’t actually going out for a sail. (I tried to explain that the Constitution keeps its commissioned status by going out once a year on the 4th of July, but this fun fact was lost on them.)
After our “tour” of the ship, we went next door to the USS Constitution Museum, which is a gem. First of all, admission is by donation, and the suggested donation is $5 for adults, $2 for children age four and up. Bargain! Downstairs, there are a few history exhibits and lots of model ships, including an impressive model of the Constitution itself. One large room explores the causes and consequences of the War of 1812 (when Old Ironsides earned her nickname). There’s also an interesting exhibit on the Barbary Wars (the young United States’ first navel battle), which is where I learned all that stuff about the pirates.
02324b1But on this visit, we skipped all that and went straight to the good stuff. The entire second floor is dedicated to an interactive exhibit about the life of a 19th-century sailor. The twins got to dress up like a sailor, scrub the deck, haul a goat on board and swing in a hammock.
We also watched a multimedia presentation about the battle USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere, a turning-point battle in the War of 1812. It was violent, bloody and probably not appropriate for 3-year-olds (I realized when they quoted a sailor describing the bloody skulls and brains that were strewn about the deck after the battle). Fortunately (hopefully) I don’t think the twins really understood what was going on – and certainly not about the brains. They were just happy to be watching a “movie”, and as we exited the theater, Twin S jubilantly exclaimed “That was fun!”
After the museum, I was really feeling on top of my game, so we went to have lunch at Sorelle Bakery & Cafe (as restaurant reviews are also part of my job). While I was waiting for the food, the twins were engaged in science experiments with their milk, which ended up all over the table and floor. One thing led to another, and Sorelle got to witness a double meltdown. That was an ugly but realistic end to an otherwise delightful outing.
On that note, let’s review tip #348 of successful travel with kids: always always quit while you’re ahead.

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