Best of the Mid-Atlantic

A representation of what the U.S. is all about: liberty, freedom and imagination

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Statue of Liberty, New York City

The Statue of Liberty is one amazing lady: She was given as a gift from the people of France in 1886 and helped save New York in "Ghostbusters 2." Millions of visitors have climb inside and up the 151-foot-tall copper statue. The torch in one hand represents enlightenment; the tablet in the other repesents knowledge — and is inscribed, in Roman numerals, with the date the Declaration of Independence was signed.

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Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Take a walk through history — literally, at the largest living history museum in the United States: Colonial Williamsburg, where the motto is "that the future may learn from the past." In the 1920s, the private non-profit foundation operates the restored 18th-century capital of colonial Virginia that, from 1699 to 1780, was the political, cultural, and educational center of what was then the largest of the American colonies. Tour the 300-plus acres of political sites, homes, public buildings, gardens, and tradeshops; and meet the townspeople (male and female, slave and free) who can tell your family about life in the 1700s.

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International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.

Ever feel like you're being watched? In 2002, the International Spy Museum opened its doors as a one-stop espionage stop in Washington D.C., and is the first and only one if its kind in the United States. Learn the history of spying starting as far back as the Greek and Roman empires, explore the role of spies in the real world and pop culture, and take on the identity of one of 16 spies for the duration of your time at the museum. As part of the Kidspy program, your crafty little ones will be able to see if they have what it takes to become a secret agent.

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Monongahela Incline, Pittsburgh

If you live on a mountain, getting up and down can be difficult, unless you happen to live on Mount Washington in Pittsburgh. The residents there have been taking the Monongahela Incline, the oldest continuously operating funicular in the United States, since 1870. The incline has transported millions of passengers, who call it the Mon Incline, up and down the nearly 370-foot-elevation at a speed of 6 miles per hour. It was declared a historic structure by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in 1970, but don't worry, renovations over the years have modernized everything.

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Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Chesapeake Bay

For anyone whose ever wanted a pony, a visit to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is worth a visit. The 14,000-acre wildlife preserve near Chesapeake Bay, established in 1943, contains a large variety of wildlife animals and birds — including the Chincoteague Pony and two pair of nesting Bald Eagles. About 150 ponies live on the on the Virginia end of the refuge and 140-150 on the Maryland side. Check out the animals or explore the 15 miles of trails that are open to the public for walking, hiking and biking.

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Montauk Point Lighthouse, New York

The oldest lighthouse in New York, and the fourth oldest-active lighthouse in the country, can be found off the Long Island coast in Block Island Sound. Montauk Point Lighthouse was authorized by the Second Congress in 1792, under President George Washington and constructed 1796. Those who pay a visit to the two-tone lighthouse, which was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1969, can stop by the visitor's center; check out the original oil room and radio room; and walk up 86 feet to get a great view from the tower lookout.

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Hershey Park, Pennsylvania

A world of chocolate awaits at Hersheypark which was founded in 1907 by Milton Hershey for the employees who worked at the Hershey Chocolate Company. Eventually the park, located about 30 miles northwest of Lancaster, opened to the public, and these days has more than 110 acres and 60 rides and attractions (including 11 roller coasters). Heights are broken down by candy types: From the tall "Jolly Ranchers," who can enjoy the Roller Soaker and dump up to four gallons of water on spectators below — and get some of it back; to the "Hershey Miniatures" who can ride the Tiny Timbers log flume. Next door to the park is Hershey's Chocolate World, which offers shops, restaurants and the Great American Chocolate Tour that, of course, includes a free sample.

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Niagara Falls, New York

Whether you are lured to the 2,600 foot-wide Horseshoe Falls in Ontario or the 1,060 foot-wide American Falls in New York, Niagara Falls is a breathtaking place to visit. More than 6 million cubic feet of water falls over the crest line every minute. Check out the falls from the overlooks above or from the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour below. Named for the legend of a Native American daughter of the Ongiaras tribe, the Maid of the Mist tours have been moving passengers between the American and Canadian sides since 1846, two years prior to the construction of a suspension bridge that connected the two.

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Wildwood Beach, Cape May

The relaxation of the beach meets the roar of the boardwalk on a visit to Wildwood Beach — what some call the "birthplace of rock 'n' roll" (thanks to a 1954 performance by Bill Haley and the Comets). Pop in one day to this spot along the Jersey Shore and you might catch championship volleyball tournaments, monster truck rallies, concerts, movies on the sand, or the Wildwoods International Kite Festival. For even more excitement, head up to the 38-block boardwalk at Morey's Piers, which has been entertaining beachgoers with its more than 100 rides and attractions since 1969.

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