A group of Kanab and Valley students recently had the opportunity to travel to the east coast and tour Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and other surrounding areas. We would like to thank each of our advisors who made the week so enjoyable! We especially appreciate Gene Drake for all of the hard work he put into making this trip a memorable experience for us. Thank you so much!

We flew from Las Vegas to Philadelphia on Thursday, March 21, where we checked into our motel for a good night’s rest before starting our adventure.

The next day we loaded the bus and traveled to the beautiful Amish/Mennonite country in central Pennsylvania. We first watched a film about their beliefs and lifestyle, and then toured the area with a step-on guide. The people were so friendly and kind. After our tour, we were able to eat at the Amish Bird-In-Hand Restaurant for a delicious buffet lunch, and try their delicious pretzels!

We traveled on to Baltimore to the scenic Inner Harbor area, visiting the National Aquarium.  We learned why the aquarium is said to be one of our nation’s best.  We especially enjoyed the dolphin show.

Our wake-up call came early on Saturday morning because we had a full day scheduled! Our first stop was Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote the words of our National Anthem as he watched the shelling of the fort from the deck of a British war ship. I’m sure we will sing the Star Spangled Banner with a new feeling of appreciation from now on. 

We next visited the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. We enjoyed this tour as we learned why the Academy has such a fine tradition and history of learning and training.

We continued on into Washington D.C., to visit the Capitol Building, Library of Congress, U.S. Supreme Court Building, Union Station, the Lincoln, Vietnam, and Korean Memorials, and the White House, where we made a photo stop. 

On Sunday we were able to get the full “riding the metro” experience. It was fun to learn how the system worked and to be able to travel like that for a day. We were given a few hours to visit the Smithsonian and Holocaust Museums and Galleries, the National Archives, Ford Theater, or the U.S. Mint. 

We were glad Mr. Wood had his EMT card so we were able to get a fast pass to tour the Holocaust Museum.  It was such a powerful history lesson on how fragile freedom is, and that we need to do our part to help others remember what happened, and to help preserve our freedoms.

We went to the Arlington Cemetery for a solemn tour of the burial grounds where thousands of our military are buried. It is an unforgettable experience to watch the changing of the guard and see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Monday was a special day, traveling to Mt. Vernon to visit the home of our first president, George Washington. We could see why this was Washington’s favorite place on earth. The view from his back porch to the Potomac River was breathtaking, even in the snow. We learned Washington was a great military leader, an excellent businessman, and also a visionary who accomplished many things that helped our country. 

Our next stop was Gettysburg and had lunch at the Dobbin House Tavern. While eating lunch, we were visited by Abraham Lincoln, well at least a guy who really looked like him and was very knowledgeable about his life! We watched a movie about the major battle that took place during the Civil War, and enjoyed a presentation at the Cyclorama.

A step-guide then gave us a tour of the battlefield. Since it was snowing, we didn’t walk around much, but it was an educational experience as we learned what transpired during the three days of battle on that ground. We ended the day at Tommy’s Pizza Restaurant and the best pizza ever!

On Tuesday we visited Valley Forge where Washington’s Revolutionary Forces spent a bitter and difficult winter training and struggling to keep body and mind together to continue the war. We watched a movie, then joined a guide for a tour of the area. We learned that Washington displayed some of his finest moments of leadership at Valley Forge, and that we as citizens can follow that example and pull together to overcome adversity.

We returned to Philadelphia to visit the National Constitution Center. We toured the home of Betsy Ross, who made one of our nation’s first flags. We also visited the grave of Benjamin Franklin. We then went to King of Prussia, one of the largest malls in the U.S., and had Philly cheesesteaks. They were very delicious!

On our final day in Philadelphia, we saw the Liberty Bell, one of the major symbols of freedom for our young nation.  Across the street was Freedom Hall where early colonial leaders discussed and debated the future course of our people.  They risked their lives and all they owned in signing the Declaration of Independence.

We next visited the Philadelphia Mint. When the framers of the U.S. Constitution created a new government, they realized the critical need for a respected monetary system. Soon after the Constitution’s ratification, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton personally prepared plans for a national mint. On April 2, 1792, Congress passed The Coinage Act, which created the mint and authorized construction of a mint building in the nation’s capitol, Philadelphia. This was the first federal building erected under the Constitution. 

After touring the mint, was lunch at the crazy and crowded Reading Market! The Market is home to more than 80 merchants. One hundred thousand Philadelphians and tourists pass through the Reading Market every week. That was quite an experience for us small-town Utah kids!

After lunch we drove to the Philadelphia Airport, and returned home! This trip was so much fun and very educational. It was a great learning opportunity for all of the students and adults!

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this trip possible! And to Mr. Drake, we give another shout-out and high-five for all of his efforts! Thank you! Many members of the group are now looking forward to the New York trip in the fall!