The Tierneys Go to Washington, Part III: Gettysburg, Grotto, George, and That Time My Kids Found a Giant Stick and Recreated the Marine Corps War Memorial

by | Jun 10, 2015 | Travel, Travel With Kids, Washington DC | 17 comments

This is Part III of the Washington DC trip recap. If you missed anything you can click over to catch up on Part I and Part II.

Okay, now where were we? Annapolis, White House, monuments, miracle cousins, basilica, Mt. Vernon . . . ah, yes. Day five: Gettysburg.

‘Cause here’s the thing about the East Coast: It’s all really close together. Out here in the west, you can drive all day and still be in California (but you will have seen amazing sights like the world’s biggest thermometer and some giant cement dinosaurs).

If you’re back east (which we were) and you have a car (which we did) and you’re willing to drive for a couple of hours (no problem) you can see practically every historically important thing that happened in America from Jamestown to the Civil War. It makes trip-planning pretty daunting.

There were a ton of battlefields from which to choose, but we decided to go to Gettysburg.

Problem: Dad had to make an important call for work during the drive.

Solution: Giant suckers.

So. Drive and phone call completed. Hardly a dent made in the suckers. Baby-wiped off. Shirts back on little kids. We were ready to learn about the Civil War.

First stop was the Gettysburg Cyclorama: a giant 360 degree painting of the events of the last day of the battle, from the perspective of someone standing atop a particular hill. It was really impressive.

Frankie was really impressed with how many “dead guys” there were in the painting, and pretty disappointed by the dearth of “dead guys” when we got out to the actual battlefields. So . . . there’s that.

Then we walked through the museum, which houses an extraordinarily large and varied collection of artifacts. Look how impressed Lulu was:

The Battle of Gettysburg took place over three days: July 1-3, 1863, and events spanned some 6,000 acres. So . . . as much as we like to walk, we decided to do a driving tour. We bought an audio CD guidebook
in the gift shop (plus some icees) and piled back into the van. The tour guide was great, and there were easy to follow signs through out the park, directing us which way to go next.

The park wasn’t crowded, and we were able to jump out at various spots along the way to get a closer look.

Frankie wanted to get in on the action with these fellas from North Carolina.  Fortunately we had bubble guns.

Anita seems to be feeling kinda Charlie’s Angels about the Tennessee monument.

Lulu, just being Lulu.

Everything you’ve heard about brothers meeting on the Civil War field of battle? Totally true.

You never know what you’re going to get with Frankie. Sometimes it’s buttercups.

Sometimes it’s a bubble ambush.

Their dad was an artillery officer, so they know how this is done.

We were all in the car, and wondered where Bobby was. He was stock still. Doing this.

Speaking of Bobby, do you see him?

And we got to see the ORIGINAL Fair Catch Corby, of the Irish Brigade. It’s such a beautiful story.

Gettysburg is huge. In every way. It’s a big place and a big story. But the park is well organized and well-presented. I think we all learned a lot.

Then, since it was right on our way home, we stopped at the beautiful National Shrine Grotto of Old Lady of Lourdes

Our family has a great devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, and we’re fortunate enough to have visited the original shrine in France with the kids. So it was lovely to see the replica created here only about twenty years after the apparitions, and frequented by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. If you’ve asked me to keep your intention in my prayers, we lit a candle for you.

We arrived just as they were closing up, but they couldn’t have been nicer and let us look around at our leisure. Our Elizabeth with Elizabeth Ann Seton (I should have put Anita in this photo too, so we’d have Elizabeth Ann!:

And our Francis hanging out with St. Francis and the Gubbio wolf:

And our John Paul hamming it up with St. John Paul I:

Even though we weren’t particularly near the water, we WERE in Maryland, so we had soft shelled crab for dinner!

On day six, we checked out of our hotel in DC, a hit the last of the monuments.


And the Marine Corps War memorial, where Jack found this giant stick and the kids all decided to recreate the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima themselves. Then I made them do it again so I could sit Lulu in front of them and take a picture. (Confessions of a momtographer.)

Then we visited Arlington National Cemetery.

We saw a horse drawn carriage funeral procession.

We also saw the grave of John F. Kennedy. He is buried alongside his wife, and two of their children, a son Patrick, who lived only two days, and a stillborn daughter named Arabella.

We also saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the changing of the guard.

Then we heard towards Richmond, with a  stopover in Fredericksburg to see Ferry Farm, the boyhood home of George Washington.

It was a cool stop because, unlike the other historical sites we visited, Ferry Farm is a working archeological site. They are actively excavating the site of the original Washington family home, and we got to help.

Can you spot Lulu?

I wish we had had time to see Historic Kenmore Plantation as well, the completely restored home of George’s sister Betty. It looks like the two sites are very complimentary. But it was getting late, so we headed to check in to Residence Inn number three.

And that’s where we’ll pick up for our last installment: which will include a very wet trip to Monticello, and the town to which we’re moving (if the kids have anything to say about it).


  1. Elisa | blissfulE

    Just… amazing! All the group photos are my favourites, but especially Iwo Jima complete with Lulu. 🙂

  2. Rosie

    If your kids want to move to Williamsburg, feel free to let them know that they are very wrong (speaking as one who HAS lived there!) 😉 It's great for vacations, though!

    • Kendra

      They want to live in the actual reenactor part. In costume. And get paid to hit a hoop with a stick and eat fudge.

  3. Alicia Copley

    I grew up just about an hour away from the National Shrine Grotto of Old Lady of Lourdes in WV. And, I didn't even know this existed until I read your post! How is that possible?? St. Bernadette is the patron saint of the parish I grew up in, so I have a strong devotion to her and Our Lady of Lourdes. Well, I know what we're doing next time we visit my parents! Thanks for sharing your trip!

  4. Eliese

    Love love love the Grotto. Next time visit the Seton Shrine down the road!

    • Kendra

      We just ran out of time. I'm sure it's great, though.

  5. Tia

    I am extremely impressed with your ability to capture pictures of your kids in cool poses at national landmarks. Also, Lulu is losing her roly-poly baby look and turning into a little girl! Amazing how time flies.

  6. cleanlivinglady

    I hope you had a good time in Fredericksburg and ate some of the local cuisine. I live about 20 minutes away and I love that town.

  7. WritingWillow

    I love all the pictures of Frankie and the bubble guns are great. Also, giant suckers are a brilliant way to quiet a car ride – love it. 🙂

  8. Julie Walsh

    Sounds like a great couple of days. So glad you got to see Gettysburg and the Grotto (I'm a Mount St. Mary's alum). And I'm super impressed that you all tried soft-shelled crabs. I love them, but I can see how they'd be very, very hard to get into if you weren't raised around them. (But maybe the grossness of the concept was kind of appealing to your boys, at least?)

    • Kendra

      Yes, that was it exactly. The kids were all in support of ordering it for the gross factor, but then they liked them because: fried.

  9. Amy D.

    So fun! I lived in DC for college and then a bunch of years, working on Capitol Hill. The Iwo Jima was my running club's Saturday meeting location — as well as the end of the Marine Corps Marathon — and I used to stare at that monument, while making my way up that hill, which seems so much longer after 10, 18 or 26 miles. Loved seeing your kids in front of it!

    • Kendra

      It was great. We got to see a bunch of Marines drilling right there in front of the monument, and my husband ran into a former instructor of his at some Marine school or other. I can't remember.

  10. Jennifer

    Love following all of your blog posts. I have been using the book, How to teach your child to read in 100 days with my 4 year old and she is reading level C/D books already (in 4 months). Thank you!

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