War of 1812 Bicentennial Events Offer Diverse Interactive Experiences for Student Travel Groups

By Howard Clemens

Many celebrations for the War of 1812 Bicentennial are planned for this year, providing a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for student travel groups to participate in festivities, lectures, and interactive events that honor this pivotal event in American and British history.  Events are planned throughout the year, all over the United States, so there are many options for student travel groups to choose from.

Some student tour groups may want to travel to Baltimore and Washington D.C., where many events are planned to celebrate pivotal battles.  Other groups may travel to New Orleans. Some student trips may focus on a trip to Fort Niagara, not far from Niagara Falls, and couple this with a tour of New York City – taking the opportunity to see historical sites there.

Here is a sampling of some of the War of 1812 activities that will appeal to educational travel groups. For the most up-to-date information, consult appropriate websites, because events will be announced throughout this year and into 2015.

War of 1812 Events to Offer Historical Reenactments, On-site Tours, and More

New Orleans Commemorates the War of 1812
The world famous City of New Orleans hosts one of the most epic bicentennial celebrations of all: one that spans four years. Beginning in 2012 and ending in 2015, the celebration features a dazzling array of visiting ships, air shows, and other festivities, including touring ships that will be making their way to ports from New Orleans to Virginia to Baltimore to Boston.

Battle of Baltimore and Composition of the Star Spangled Banner Celebrated in September

Further up the coast, the Fort McHenry Star-Spangled Banner Celebration will occur September 13-15, 2013. This celebration pays homage to Defender’s Day, also known as Baltimore’s oldest holiday. The festivities, which take place in Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Md., commemorate Francis Scott Key’s writing of the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as the Battle of Baltimore and the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Festivities will include historical reenactments and cannon demonstrations, as well as parades and a lineup of educational and historical presentations.

Boston, Massachusetts Commemorates the War of 1812

The USS Constitution Museum in Boston will also be holding many special events throughout the year. Though the majority of major events and dignitary speakers are slated for the summer, there are still plenty of commemorative programs going on through the spring and fall.  Students can also visit the Old Ironsides War of 1812 Discovery Center, which is open throughout the year and features games and interactive exhibits.

Many Notable Bicentennial Events to Take Place in Proximity to Niagara Falls

Many of the War of 1812 battles occurred around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, so several bicentennial festivities will be taking place in that area.  On December 19, 2013, the Anniversary of the Capture of Fort Niagara, billed as a “once in a lifetime bicentennial event” will be observed at Fort Niagara in Youngstown, NY, a magnificent location not far from Niagara Falls. Fort Niagara, a National Historic Landmark, has more than 100,000 visitors a year, including many student travel groups. The Fort has an extensive collection of 18th and 19th Century military materials, as well as many living history reenactments, educational programs, and archaeological and historical exhibits. Fort Niagara’s ready proximity to Niagara Falls makes it easy for student groups to take a day trip there, too.  Many student tour leaders choose to combine a trip to Niagara Falls with a visit to New York City.

September 1-10 ushers in the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, one of the War of 1812’s largest naval battles, which established the United States’ control over Lake Erie and led to the winning of the Battle of the Thames.  This historic celebration will take place in Put-on-Bay, Ohio, and feature a “Tall Ships festival” with historical reenactments, fireworks, cannon firings, and other festivities. Students will have the option of taking a day tour of many of the ships, and guided tours are available. Speakers will include representatives from British, Canadian, and Native American Indian groups, as well as other dignitaries, to be announced. Visit the Battle of Lake Eerie Bicentennial website for more information.

The War of 1812 is a major milestone in history, and students lucky enough to travel to any of these destinations during its bicentennial will be rewarded by participating in its many commemorative educational events and festivities. While some events and the attendance of dignitaries are not yet announced, more information can be found by visiting the Official War of 1812 Bicentennial Website or the National Park Service’s website.

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