What is a constitution tour? It’s visiting all of the places that have been the capital of the United States. Since the constitution has been signed, three different cities have been the U.S. capital. Most people know of Washington D.C. but it hasn’t always been. While the buildings in Washington were being constructed, what is now called Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania served as the meeting place for the U.S. government which designated it as the capital. And briefly, Federal Hall in New York was the first U.S. Capital.
From 1789 to 1790, New York served as the United States Capital with the first presidential inauguration taking place at Federal Hall. Visiting this historic building is an experience as it is only open Monday thru Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. That in itself is not the challenging part. The challenging part is that it is located in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York. Across the street is the New York Stock Exchange so you can imagine the congestion of traffic and pedestrians surrounding the area during the open hours of Federal Hall. It is still worth the effort to visit and learn about the first U.S. Capital.
For the next ten years Philadelphia became the temporary capital from 1790 to 1800. Independence Hall housed the U.S. Government during this time becoming the second capital city. I’ve not found information as to why the capital was moved from Federal Hall in New York to Philadelphia. Possibly it was to be more centrally located among the new states or to be closer to the permanent U.S. Capital as it was being constructed. In order to tour Independence Hall you first need to go to the Independence Visitor Center to get tickets. Tickets are no charge but you do need to get there early enough during the day before they run out in the peak summer months. Before entering the hall there is a security check so arrive a few minutes early to go through.
Continuing on to the current United States Capital, Washington D.C. which became the center of the U.S. Government in 1800. When most people see a photograph of the capital building, they instantly recognize it as the U.S. Capital and have for many, many years. This is definitely a grand building housing many offices of congress members along with larger meeting areas. In order to tour the main public spaces you need to enter the visitor center underneath the Capital Plaza. There is a security check here as well. Another way to visit is to contact your congressional representatives for a tour.
No Constitution tour would be complete without a trip to the National Archives in Washington D.C. to see the actual Constitution and Bill of Rights along with the Declaration of Independence. The actual signed documents are difficult to read as they have faded over the years but it is still a nice addition to all of these historical places. During the summer months there may be a line to get in and there is security screening to pass through. If you have the time you can spend several hours looking through this museum. For us, we primarily wanted to see the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration so that is what we focused on and then left shortly after to see other sights in Washington D.C.
Since our children were young I had a desire to take them on a Constitution Tour but I was uncertain if it would ever happen since there were so many places to see on our Monopoly travels. We were fortunate enough to be able to complete this tour in addition to stopping at four destinations on our National Parks board this summer fulfilling this idea. It was a lot as we visited seven states in ten days and it was a lot of history put into those ten days which we are still digesting and will be for several years I’m sure. While it was a lot put into a very short time, we learned a lot and saw a lot bringing history to life as the kids learn about it at school.