Bringing “America’s Best Idea” to Life...

Posted by Rich Mancini on 5/28/2015
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Connecticut, Family Travel, Grand Canyon, Jazz, Ken Burns, National Parks, New England, New Orleans

You don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool history buff like me to appreciate the work of filmmaker Ken Burns, whose acclaimed documentaries over the past 30+ years have transformed the way we look at American history, and at the nature of the American experience itself. Admittedly, I’ve been a fan of Ken’s work since his earliest documentaries in the 1980s, and have watched with delight as his passion for his subjects and his unique approach to storytelling, through films like The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, The Roosevelts and more, have enabled a generation of viewers to better understand many facets of the American story.
Since 2011, when Ken and his frequent co-writer and co-producer Dayton Duncan began bringing their passion and expertise to Tauck trips and events through their partnership with Tauck, Ken Burns American Journeys, I’ve been thrilled to see how many guests – including myself – have truly connected with some of American history’s key places, people and events. So I thought I’d take a step back and focus on a few destinations featured in a quartet of exclusive U.S. trips that Ken and Dayton worked with Tauck’s tour architects to create under the Crafted by Tauck and Ken Burns banner, on which there are still departures available in the summer and fall of 2015.

sequoiaThe first time I stood in front of a giant Sequoia in person, while walking with my family in California’s Muir Woods, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the experience… and found myself craning my neck back to follow the seemingly endless tree all the way to the top with my eyes. It was a pretty powerful moment, like many you’ll find on Yosemite and Sequoia: John Muir’s California, relating stories of Muir’s California travels – and his evolution as a pioneer conservationist and advocate of preserving natural treasures for the good of all – through visits to many of the places he held dear, including his beloved Yosemite Valley, ultimately a part of  “America’s Best Idea,” the national parks.

You can explore more of those treasures in depth, with in-person insights from experts who have appeared in Ken Burns’s films, including The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, on Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest. Visiting six of these amazing places, you’ll learn about their geological creation as well as the struggles that eventually made them the property of all of the American people to enjoy in perpetuity. Personally, it’s hard to say which I found more moving – watching the sun rise (or set) over the Grand Canyon’s rim, hiking through the lunar-like hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, or taking in Zion’s sandstone cliffs as they appear to change color throughout the day.

hallowedgroundWith America’s four-year observation of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War drawing to a close in 2015, this could be the perfect year to revisit the great conflict with exclusive experiences at some of its pivotal battlefields and other sites on Most Hallowed Ground: The Civil War – and transform your understanding of the war in much the same way that Ken’s landmark film, The Civil War (set to be rebroadcast by PBS this September), did for millions of viewers when first shown in 1990. When you walk on the hallowed ground of Gettysburg and Antietam; put yourself in the shoes of an ordinary soldier in blue or gray in an interactive museum in Petersburg; or step into Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated, you’ll understand what I mean.

houseAs a born-and-bred New Englander, I must admit that autumn is indeed my favorite time of year – to me, there’s no better time to experience this little corner of America where so much of our early history took place. But whether you go in summer when the Atlantic’s coastal treasures are in full flower, or when fall’s brilliant foliage is at its peak, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the American story on Hidden Gems of New England. It may sound like a cliché, but you really do feel the history at Boston’s Old North Church, Lexington and Concord, the Hartford homes of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, or a Shaker Village in New Hampshire (oh, and you’ll visit Ken Burns’s studio, too). And even a Yankees fan like myself was a bit awed by Fenway Park… really!

And for families looking to re-discover America this summer or fall, Stories by Ken Burns – the exclusive on-tour vignettes that Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan have created for many Tauck U.S. trips – enhance the experience of Tauck Bridges’ great family vacations, including Red Rocks & Painted Canyons, Cowboy Country and Majestic California: The Pacific, Redwoods & Yosemite... because sharing our heritage and the joys of travel with the people you love becomes the gift that never stops giving.


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