By Retta Karpinski
I went to the East Coast for my eighth-grade trip last June. We went with a company called World Expeditions. It was an amazing experience to travel with all my friends, explore the East Coast, and practice important travel habits.
On the first day, a gigantic bus picked us up from the Boston airport after a five-hour plane ride and took us to Quincy Market. Quincy Market has every kind of food as well as different kiosks with all sorts of souvenirs.
We ate dinner and wandered around the area. It was the perfect opportunity to acclimate to the city. I could not believe how many structures and buildings are made out of brick! I’m used to the adobe building material in California.
The next day, we went to the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum. The museum was very interactive. We were each assigned different historic people who were part of the Boston Tea Party and, as those rebels, we threw tea over the edge of a boat. After that, we ate lunch at Quincy Market again.
Next, we traveled along the Boston Freedom Trail, which is a 2.5-mile red line in the heart of Boston that leads you to 16 important historic sites, including the Granary Burial Ground (where John Hancock and Paul Revere are buried), the Boston Massacre site, the Old State House, the Old North Church, Boston Common, Beacon Hill, and many others. The most surprising thing was how dainty and close together everything is. In my history books, it all seemed much more spread out and imposing.
The next day, we departed to Plimoth Plantation, which is stuck in 1627 — complete with interactive actors and props. We learned about the life and work of Native Americans and pilgrims during that time. The most interesting moment was when we went into one of the Native American huts. It was so warm and there wasn’t even a fire in there!
After that, we hopped back on the bus for a five-hour bus ride to New York. The time goes so fast when you are with friends. I blinked and we were there! We started at the top of New York and worked our way down: we went to Top of the Rock for a magnificent panoramic view of the city. No picture could do it justice. After that, we went down 70 floors and walked to Times Square. It was nighttime but all the lights made it feel like the middle of the day!
On the second day in New York, we took a ferry to Ellis Island to view the Statue of Liberty and the center of immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I worked with a friend to get a Junior Ranger Badge. We had to fill out a sheet of facts that could be found in the museum.
After Ellis Island, we walked to Ground Zero to see the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. Our guide asked us to look at a name, to wonder what they sacrificed, and to just remember them. I can still remember the name I chose: Paul Frederick Beatini.
Next, we walked around New York to Wall Street, Trinity Church, Federal Hall, and the New York Stock Exchange. Then, we took a bus to Central Park and walked to the FRIENDS fountain, got ice cream, and the John Lennon Memorial.
That same night, we saw School of Rock on Broadway. It was amazing! I watch a ton of theater and this blew me away!
Early Monday morning, we checked out of our hotel and took the bus to Philadelphia. We visited the National Constitution Center. They had a mini history lesson that was the cheesiest presentation I have ever seen. Every single thing they said made it seem like America’s history was an interesting movie that we should watch. Also, all of their phrases were blanket statements about what people believed and what happened. Nothing specific. Then we visited the Liberty Bell (yes, it’s cracked) and Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
After that, we visited the Amish farmlands and peeked at the life of the Amish. We ate at a family-style restaurant where they served us the typical Thanksgiving food: specifically mashed potatoes and blueberry pie.
The next day, we went to the Gettysburg battlefield. We visited all the important spots of the battle and had a super funny tour guide who wore a grey shirt to show the Confederates won on the first day. A grey and blue tie to show that, on the second day, the battle ended in a draw or tie. And blue pants to represent the Union’s victory.
Next, we went to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia and rafted down the Shenandoah River. There was one part in the river where there were three pieces of land belonging to three different states! After the rafting tour, I really wanted to throw out my shoes because they smelled so bad!
Then we drove to Washington, D.C. for dinner. After dinner, we saw some of the important monuments. But then it started raining so we headed to our hotel early. So, we came back the next night and finished the tour of the Lincoln, Korean War, Vietnam Veteran’s, Iwo Jima and Jefferson Memorials, as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and World War II Veterans Memorials.
On the second-to-last day, we stopped for the iconic photo in front of the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building. Then we saw the Library of Congress and Supreme Court.
Then we visited the museums of the Smithsonian Institution and the rest of the memorials we missed because of the rain. My favorite museum was the Air and Space Museum because they could fit so many huge planes into one building!.
On the last day, we were completely worn out but we continued on. We stopped by Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s beautiful home next to the Potomac River, and saw where he and Martha were buried. Then we went to Arlington Cemetery where we witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
After that, we went to the airport and boarded our flight home.
Throughout the trip, we were given just enough freedom to believe that it was our trip but not more responsibility than we could handle. Sometimes for meals, we were given $10 and dropped off at a shopping mall with a perimeter. Other times, they would take us to a place with a buffet and a large seating area.
We were given money for food and they would pay for all our traveling expenses. But, if we wanted anything extra, like souvenirs, we used our own money. They would also give us time to wander around, buy souvenirs, and get a feel for the area.
Everybody had three roommates and shared a bed with one person. It was an ideal situation because you got to hang out with your friends in-between the busy days. Each day was at least a 15-hour day full of activity. So, by the end of it, we were pretty exhausted. The key is to drink lots of water, and not to stay up too late with your roommates.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my eighth-grade trip. I will remember the experiences and sites for an extremely long time!
About the Author and Photographer