Tag Archives: tour

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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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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Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Overview

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park preserves Orville and Wilbur’s bicycle shop and explains the development of air travel at a museum next door and several other locations on the Aviation Trail.  The brothers opened a flight school at Huffman Prairie where an interpretive center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is run by the National Park Service (NPS).  We recommend you try one of the flight simulators at the two sites; they are free and they help you understand yaw.

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Highlights

Museums, historic buildings, flight simulators, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Must-Do Activity

In addition to learning about the Wright Brothers, the NPS also has an exhibit on Paul Laurence Dunbar, a local African-American poet whose home is occasionally open for tours.  When Orville Wright ran a print shop in high school, he published his classmate Dunbar’s work.

Best Trail

The Aviation Trail is not a walking trail, but it is mostly free, including the Parachute Museum and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The NPS museum across from the bike shop has a replica of the 1902 glider that the Wright brothers took to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

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Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

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

Fees

None, except at the Wright Brothers Aviation Center and Hawthorn Hill mansion.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None

The sales counter for the Wright brothers shop
Ranger-guided tours are the only way to get inside the Wright Cycle Company building.
The prices were a little shocking
Bicycles were expensive in 1895!
In a remade grocers of the time
Frank Hale’s grocery store has been restored in its original 1900-1917 location in Dayton.
A catapult like this replica helped with airplane liftoff
Huffman Prairie provides information on the Wright’s post-1903 experiments and flight school.

A memorial to the Wright Brothers

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Try a Wright flight simulator; we were told the one at Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center is easier.
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Tiff holds up her certificate saying she flew the Wright Flyer for 3 minutes without crashing.

Explore More – How many winters did the Wright brothers spend in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina perfecting their gliders before their historic flights on December 17, 1903?

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Fort Stanwix National Monument

Overview

After FDR protected this very first historic site within the National Park Service (NPS) system in 1935, Fort Stanwix was finally reconstructed in the 1970s after demolishing the existing buildings in downtown Rome, New York.  Visitors today will surely agree it was worth the effort, as were the recent updates in the excellent Visitor Center.

Stanwix

Highlights

Reconstructed fort, best historical museum in the NPS System

Must-Do Activity

The NPS museum inside the Marinus Willett Visitor Center is superb with videos and kiosks providing four different characters’ perspectives on the events of the American Revolution in Upstate New York.  There are also costumed reenactors inside the fort, another reason why this National Monument is an example of historical interpretation at its best.

Best Trail

A short trail follows a portion of the Oneida Carrying Place and another leads to the historic Erie Canal.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Viewed from the drawbridge, you get an up-close look at the parapet and fraise (sharpened wooden stakes) of the reconstructed Fort Stanwix.

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Peak Season

Spring to fall

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All paved, but parking is limited

Camping

None within the 16-acre monument, but Delta Lake State Park is only 6 miles away.

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The free museum inside the Marinus Willett Center is first rate.
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Fort Stanwix was originally built by the British during the French and Indian War

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Americans rebuilt the abandoned fort during the Revolutionary War and survived a 21 day siege in 1777
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Something in this photo is not historically accurate.

Explore More – The portage called the Oneida Carrying Place (one to 6 miles depending upon water levels) connected which two important waterways?

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