Tag Archives: museum

Fort Monroe National Monument

Overview

At the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay near Yorktown, Virginia, there is a brick fort so large it puts all others to shame.  It was held throughout the Civil War by the Union Army, hosting President Lincoln multiple times and providing a refuge for escaped slaves.  Following the War Between the States it served as a prison for Confederate President Jefferson Davis (his cell is contained within the Casemate Museum).  The fort was not decommissioned by the military until 2011 when it was declared Fort Monroe National Monument, though it still contains private residences.

Tiff with the moat that you could drive over!

Highlights

Casemate Museum, Building #50, moat you can drive over

Must-Do Activity

After you visit the Casemate Museum, walk around the ramparts and the parade ground with its countless live oak trees, including the 500-year-old Algernourne Oak.  Nearby Outlook Beach is popular for swimming, as is North Beach which is also part of the National Monument.

Best Trail

There is a self-guided walking tour that passes Building #50 (the house President Lincoln stayed in) and the Algernourne Oak.  Watch for traffic when you cross the moat through the East Gate.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The author Edgar Allen Poe served here in 1828, so you can pose with him and his raven inside the Casemate Museum.

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Peak Season

Open year round, though the summertime brings more tourists to the Yorktown Peninsula.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fomr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None to walk the grounds and even the Casemate Museum is now free ($3 for guided tours).

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but be aware that most moat-crossing bridges are only one lane wide.

Camping

None in the monument which is filled with private homes, but there are several private campgrounds in the area.

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Drive across the moat to enter the fort.
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Flagstaff Bastion Overlook offers great views of Fort Monroe and the coastline.
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Inside the Casemate Museum.

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Scott with a house that Lincoln stayed at when he was visiting the fort
Building #50 housed Abraham Lincoln during his stays at Fort Monroe during the Civil War.
Tiff with the historic fort church
Live oak trees line the extensive Parade Ground inside Fort Monroe National Monument.

Explore More – The fort was completed in 1834 under the supervision of which famous Civil War General (then a Lieutenant)?

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

Overview

One could argue that George Perkins Marsh became the world’s first environmentalist with the publication of his book Man and Nature in 1864.  The sole National Park Service (NPS) site in the state of Vermont is dedicated to his property.  Later owners, Frederick Billings and the Rockefeller family followed through on Marsh’s conservation principles in their management of the farm and forest.  Laurence and Mary Rockefeller donated the estate to the U.S. government in 1992 and the park opened to the public in 1998.

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Highlights

Museum/film in the Carriage Barn Visitor Center, Mansion Tour, Garden Tour, trails

Must-Do Activity

Visitors have to pay for NPS guided tours of the mansion and its original artwork (including paintings by Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt).  There is also an entrance fee at the neighboring Billings Farm and Museum which is run by the non-profit Woodstock Foundation and provides a more hands-on experience that is great for kids, especially after a “do not touch” tour of the mansion.

Best Trail

Frederick Billings bought this family farm to practice the reforestation preached in George Perkins Marsh’s book.  There are 20 miles of trails through the forest around Mount Tom that open year round (though a ski trail pass is required in winter).

Instagram-worthy Photo

Be sure to take a walk through the well-manicured gardens on the property before or after your tour.

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Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mabi/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Free to walk the trails, while the wide variety of tours cost extra (discounted with an America the Beautiful pass).  The adjacent Billings Farm is privately managed and charges a separate entry fee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Silver Lake State Park has campsites with running water.

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Tiff out front of the mansion

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The Rockefellers are in the photo on the right

View from the front porch

Jersey cows at Billings Farm
Park at the adjacent Billings Farm.

Explore More – What are some other National Park Service units donated by the Rockefeller family?

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WONDON WAS HERE

Jewel Cave National Monument

Overview

Sometimes overshadowed by nearby Wind Cave National Park, the third-longest mapped cave system in the world is located within Jewel Cave National Monument.  Thick calcite crystals are the sparkly jewels that adorn the walls of this gem in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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Highlights

Lantern Tour, Scenic Tour, Wild Caving Tour

Must-Do Activity

The Wild Caving Tour is reserved for those willing and able to squeeze through the 8.5 x 24-inch crawlspace located out front of the visitor center.  It is a taste of what is to come during sections like the “Brain Drain.”  Thick layers of manganese will permanently stain clothing worn by those brave enough to take this epic 4-hour journey that crawls less than half a mile past rare hydromagnesite balloons and gypsum flowers.

Best Trail

Most of the forest within the monument has burned, but Canyons Trail makes a 3.5 mile loop from the visitor center or Historic Ranger Cabin.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Most cave tours do not allow you to touch anything, but on the Historic Lantern Tour at the historic entrance to the cave (summer only) you can feel the 4-inch long calcite crystals (also called dogtooth spar) that formed like a bathtub ring as water slowly drained out.

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Peak Season

Summer when the Historic Lantern Tour and Wild Caving Tour are offered.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/jeca/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None to park, but there is a charge for all tours.

Road Conditions

All roads paved.  Note that the Historic Lantern Tour at the historic entrance to the cave is not at the main visitor center where the elevator is.

Camping

None, but plenty of places at Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and Black Hills National Forest.

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Wild Caving Tour patrons have to prove they can squeeze through this 8.5×24-inch crawlspace.

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Thick layers of manganese will permanently stain clothing worn on the Wild Caving Tour.
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Ranger at the entrance for the Historic Lantern Tour.

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This formation is known as “Madonna and Child.”

Explore More – How many miles of the cave’s passages have currently been mapped?

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WONDON WAS HERE

Congaree National Park

Overview

The last uncut bottomland hardwood forest in the southeast was originally preserved as Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976 then became a National Park in 2003.  These forests once covered 52-million acres of the southeastern United States and today this park contains some of the tallest examples of its native tree species in the world.

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Highlights

Baldcypress trees with knees, hiking, birding, paddling

Must-Do Activity

Hop in a canoe or kayak to explore remote sections of this primeval forest.  As you might imagine, all of this standing water is a great breeding ground for mosquitoes; just another reason to come in the winter.  At the visitor center, a handy rating system helps prepare you for the onslaught or the “All clear.”

Best Trail

Even if the ground is flooded, stick to the wheelchair accessible boardwalk and you can still hike through the forest for 2.4 miles without getting your feet wet.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Our favorite tree here is the baldcypress, one of the few deciduous conifer trees (meaning it loses all its needles every autumn).  Baldcypress trees are famous for their “knees” which rise from their roots up to seven feet in the air, helping the roots breathe when underwater.

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Peak Season

We prefer the winter when mosquitoes are absent, but anytime is good at this park that only saw 159,595 visitors in 2017.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cong/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, except right at the Cedar Creek Landing boat launch.

Camping

Longleaf Campground has 8 sites and Bluff Campsite has three about a mile from the visitor center.  Backcountry camping is allowed with a free permit.

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Paddle a kayak or canoe for a special look into these primeval floodplain forests.

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Winter is a good time to visit if you want to avoid the “ruthless” mosquitoes.
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The boardwalk keeps your feet dry even if the forest is flooded.
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This design we created to celebrate Congaree National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How tall are the record-holding water tupelo, cherrybark oak, and swamp hickory trees in the park?

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WONDON WAS HERE

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Overview

In a nondescript field in rural western Pennsylvania, a battle began what some historians consider the first worldwide war.  In April 1754, a young George Washington led British troops, Virginia militia, and their American Indian allies on a mission to push the French out of the western frontier.  After Washington’s troops ambushed and scalped French officers, an angry retaliatory force pinned him down at the hastily constructed Fort Necessity.  Washington surrendered on July 3, 1754, starting a global conflict that became known as the Seven Years War (or the French and Indian War).

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Highlights

Museum, reconstructed fort, Mount Washington Tavern

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service manages an excellent museum and a re-creation of the small fort.  There is a playground, too, perhaps to entice children to come learn that little actions can have big consequences.

Best Trail

Make a side trip to nearby Jumonville Glen, where a short loop trail guides visitors through the forest where the initial ambush on the French occurred.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The reconstructed Mount Washington Tavern, a stagecoach stop on the historic National Road.  Construction of the National Road began in 1811 and businesses like this one soon popped up to serve travelers.

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Peak Season

Open year round, except Jumonville Glen and Braddock’s Grave are only open in summer.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fone/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Ohiopyle State Park has running water, as do several private campgrounds nearby.

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Archaeologist using a metal detector to look for artifacts from 1754.
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Not many National Park Service sites have a playground like Fort Necessity National Battlefield.
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The free National Park Service museum details the battle and its global ramifications; there’s young George Washington.

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Inside the Mount Washington Tavern.

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Ambush site at Jumonville Glen.

Explore More – Despite its name, the Seven Years War actually lasted how many years after fighting took place on four continents (as well as in the Philippines and Caribbean islands)?

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WONDON WAS HERE