Spur-of-the-Moment Florida History Day

This weekend, after my husband took my older son to the putting green and breakfast and after I took my daughter to Starbucks for “big girl bonding” time, we realized that it was only 10:00 on Saturday and we had nothing else to do.  During the school year, this never  happens because of organized sports, birthday parties, etc., so we knew we needed to take advantage of the free time while we could.   The kids and I sat and tried to come up with something to do that was exciting and fun and educational (well, I added that last one, but I’m sure that’s what they wanted, too)….oh, and CHEAP!

We had talked about going to the Museum of Florida History later on this week (as a way to get out of the house!) but when no other ideas materialized, we decided to just go and explore on a Saturday.  I had heard that they had a new civil war exhibit based on Florida’s involvement (who knew we were so involved since you never really hear about it?) and thought that might be fun to see and the kids agreed.  Whew.

Yes, (North) Florida is a part of the South

When we arrived at the museum, we were surprised to learn that it was a special day and they would be having reenactors walking around in their authentic clothes and answering questions, etc.   We also got an informative map/poster as a gift for coming to see the exhibit.  Nothing thrills my kids more than getting free stuff!

Our guide to the Civil War

Once we made it through the prehistoric times, Spanish conquests over the Native Americans and the Seminole Wars, we finally arrived at the Civil War section of the museum.  We were greeted by both Yankee and Confederate soldiers carrying muskets and canteens, and all other sorts of historical goodies.

the soldiers explaining how they lived during the war

Up until this point, my son had read a fictional book based on a Civil War setting but I don’t think he learned much from it and my daughter only remembers Gone With the Wind references to the Civil War era so this was a new experience for them both.  We also got to see a tent and a field doctor’s station complete with a loyal nurse.

living was tough

a bloody apron and a set of crude surgical tools is always the way to entertain children

Of course, my daughter’s favorite part was seeing the women dressed in their “Gone With the Wind” clothes.  She wasn’t interested in learning about what a pain in the butt it was to get dressed as a woman back in those days, but she loved what the end product produced and wanted to hurry home to dress in her old Southern Belle Halloween costume which has long since lost the hoop part of the skirt.

I accidentally deleted the picture of the actual woman, but her dress was very similar to this one but in a pale pink

I’m sure they still don’t understand the real historical significance of the Civil War since they are all so very young, but I hope that in the future they learn how important a time it was and appreciate the hardships endured and sacrifices made during that era.

Once we had finished with the Civil War, we continued on through Florida’s history; from the time of riverboats, to the World Wars and random decades beyond that.  We had fun, but they were ready to leave and pursue another historical adventure: the Lake Jackson Mounds.

I still haven’t learned that much about these Mounds other than the fact that they were man-made and used for religious purposes by the Indians, but then abandoned sometime in the 1500s (for a reason that no one knows), but everything I read said they are oh, so very important.

While at the beginning of the Florida Museum’s exhibits, we saw how the mounds were built and an example of the houses that they built around the Mounds so we were intrigued and decided to drive a few minutes up the road to have a quick picnic and to see where the actual mounds had been.

nothing says old-fashioned picnic like driving through Subway and McDonald’s

To be honest, I was expecting a lot more so I built up the “fun” aspect a little too much.  The Mounds are basically large, overgrown hills which you can climb up to the top of and look out to see more overgrown forest and the picnic tables which I’m sure the Apalachee Indians used every day.

luckily the kids enjoyed picking the weeds around the tables 🙂

Part of me was glad that the Mounds just involved a short hike up some stairs because then we could get out of the heat quickly, but the other part of me was trying to figure out what the fascination was with these piles of grass and how in the world could I make it seem more exciting to my kids?!

the “small” mound

It was while walking up the stairs to the big mound that I re-discovered how old I am now.  Here we are, 2 days later, and I am still nursing a pulled muscle in my leg from scaling a few steps to see a patch of overgrown grass.  Learn from me, friends; history can be dangerous.  I tell myself that I do it all for the kids.

heading up the stairs – obviously, they were much quicker than I was and this was before my “injury”

We eventually made it all the way up and looked around for a few seconds before heading back down to the picnic area where it was shady.

smiling at the top. such a lovely view, right? so glad we made the journey.

Even I can admit the Mounds weren’t the greatest adventure, but now we can say we’ve been there to see what was apparently a very important part of Florida History! Yeah, Florida!

All in all, we did have a fun day and spent very little money.  We even managed to sneak in a trip to that area’s library branch on the way home.  Now, I wonder what else we can find to do this Summer?  Preferably something that won’t hurt this old lady.  Hmm……

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