Tag Archives: tour

Hamilton Grange National Memorial

Overview

Anyone who has watched the musical Hamilton is familiar with the life story of Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton Grange National Memorial is the only National Park Service (NPS) site dedicated to this “founding father.”  It is also the only one of 45 National Memorials built by the person it honors.  What you may not know is that his historic home in New York City has been moved twice, once in 1889 and again in 2008.

Highlights

Museum, tour, statue at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Must-Do Activity

The Grange gets its name from the Hamilton family’s ancestral home in Scotland.  Built in 1802 on a 32-acre estate in Upper Manhattan, Hamilton only lived there two years before being shot and killed in an infamous duel with Aaron Burr.  Today you enter the home through the basement where the NPS runs a museum.  Access upstairs is available on guided tours or during daily “open house” hours, but you must leave large items in lockers.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Grange was tucked between St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and an apartment building until 2008 when the NPS moved it to St. Nicholas Park, part of the original 32-acre estate.  A statue of Alexander Hamilton still stands where the house resided for more than a century.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

It is easiest not to drive into New York City, instead opt to take public transportation.

Camping

None

Related Sites

African Burial Ground National Monument (New York)

Federal Hall National Memorial (New York)

Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site (New York)

Explore More – After resuming his law practice in 1795, Hamilton represented free and enslaved African Americans and defended a newspaper editor sued for slander by which future president?

Natchez National Historical Park

Overview

Authorized in 1988, Natchez National Historical Park occupies 82 acres in the riverside town of Natchez, Mississippi.  The town started as Fort Rosalie, a French trading post built on the Mississippi River in the early 1700s, now the site of the Visitor Reception Center.  National Park Service (NPS) rangers or volunteers are always on location at the William Johnson House and Melrose Estate.  Although it is not part of the NPS unit, we also recommend a stop at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians State Historic Site for its free museum, film, historic mounds, and air conditioning (which is important in the humid summer).

Highlights

Melrose Estate, William Johnson House, Fort Rosalie

Must-Do Activity

The museum in the William Johnson House tells the story of a slave freed at age 11 by his owner, also named William Johnson and presumed to be his father.  The boy apprenticed to a barber, eventually becoming a successful businessman and slave owner himself.  A diary he kept for 16 years provides insight into antebellum Natchez, including the May 7, 1840 tornado that destroyed downtown, which had about 5,000 inhabitants at the time.  Inside the NPS museum you will learn the strange story of William Johnson’s murder in 1851 that ended in three mistrials.

Best Trail

Naturally, Natchez is one terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which also preserves its share of history starting at the Elizabeth Female Academy Site (Milepost 5.1) just outside town.  There are a few portions of the Old Trace that you can still follow along on the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Melrose Estate recalls the antebellum period when slaves grew cotton in the rich soil of the Mississippi River floodplains.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

The NPS museum at the William Johnson House is closed daily for lunch.

Fees

None for Fort Rosalie, William Johnson House, and Melrose Estate grounds, but $10 per person for mansion interior tours (no discount for America the Beautiful pass)

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Rocky Springs is the furthest south campground managed by the NPS on the Natchez Trace Parkway (Milepost 54.8) and it has no fees for camping.

Related Sites

Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)

Cane River Creole National Historical Park (Louisiana)

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (Mississippi-Alabama-Tennessee)

Explore More – In 1839 a fire burned through Natchez destroying the William Johnson House, but the family was living in the country at the time to avoid an epidemic of what disease?

Steamtown National Historic Site

Overview

In downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, 52 acres have been turned into a dreamscape for railroad enthusiasts by the National Park Service (NPS).  Specifically, the site is dedicated to steam engines, which truly got started in 1830 with the South Carolina Railroad and lasted more than century before being fully replaced by diesel locomotives.  A unique opportunity at this park is the chance to take one of several steam train excursions (additional fee) that leave from the site.

Highlights

Museum, film, turntable, tours, steam train excursions

Must-Do Activity

Steamtown National Historic Site is located on the grounds of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, which relied on the region’s cleaner-burning anthracite coal.  The park includes a theater, multiple museums, a 90-foot-diameter operating turntable, restoration shops, locomotives, and a collection of railroad cars.  A highlight is one of the few Union Pacific “Big Boys” built to haul freight trains through the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.  Guided tours are included with your admission fee, although there is enough to read and watch in the extensive museums to keep you busy all day long.

Best Trail

There is no trail, but you will get your daily steps if you tour the entire facility.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The turntable is surrounded on one half by the glass-fronted NPS visitor center and history museum, which makes for some cool photographs.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and ample parking is available.

Camping

See our blog post on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area for a list of State Parks and State Forests with campgrounds in the area.

Related Sites

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (New York-Pennsylvania)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

Explore More – What year was the park’s oldest locomotive built for the Chicago Union Transfer Railroad Company?

Keweenaw National Historical Park

Overview

The Keweenaw Peninsula juts north into Lake Superior from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is home to the richest copper ore (97% pure) on the planet.  American Indian artifacts made from this region’s copper have been found at several other National Park Service (NPS) sites, such as Georgia’s Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and Ohio’s Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.  In the 1840s, immigrants representing 38 ethnic groups flooded this area to work as miners.  More recently, the NPS led a project to recreate historic buildings and archaeological sites within the digital world of Minecraft (click here for an article).

Highlights

Adventure Mine Tours, Quincy Mine, Delaware Copper Mine, downtown Calumet, Laurinium Mansion

Must-Do Activity

The NPS does not have much of a presence in this park, but rather relies on its partners to preserve the heritage sites.  We highly recommend the Miner’s Tour guided by the Adventure Mining Company in Greenland, Michigan.  In addition to getting a great history lesson, we rappelled down an 80-foot deep mine shaft and walked across a swinging bridge without handrails.  They also offer a less intense tour for all ages.

Best Trail

We walked the streets of Calumet, Michigan while doing our laundry across the street from the historic Calumet Theatre.  The NPS visitor center was closed, but we still got to see the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum and the Keweenaw Heritage Center inside St. Anne’s Church.  We also recommend a stop at the quirky vintage consignment store in the three-story Vertin Building built in 1885.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Quincy Mine is the most tourist-friendly part of Keweenaw National Historical Park offering a museum, tram ride, and underground mine tours.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

No NPS fees, but each heritage site charges its own admission with one of the cheapest being the $1 donation per person requested at the Copper Range Historical Museum in South Range, Michigan.

Road Conditions

Most roads are paved, with the exception of the short gravel road to the Adventure Mining Company.

Camping

Fort Wilkins and McLain State Parks both have campgrounds and dispersed campsites can be found in parts of Ottawa National Forest.  Backpacking is popular in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

Related Sites

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)

Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

Effigy Mounds National Monument (Iowa)

Explore More – How deep was the shaft dug at Quincy Mine before it was closed in 1945 and allowed to fill with water?

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Overview

The 2,320-mile long Mississippi River is legendary in our nation and well-known worldwide.  Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (NRRA) covers 72 miles of the famous river’s course through Minnesota, from busy metropolitan sections in the Twin Cities to secluded stretches of water.  Along this section it changes from its shallow headwaters to a powerful force at its confluence with the St. Croix River.  Established in 1988, the National Park Service (NPS) owns only 35 acres of the 54,000 acres protected within the NRRA.

Highlights

St. Anthony Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Coldwater Spring, Indian Mounds Park, Mississippi Gorge Regional Park

Must-Do Activity

Near downtown Minneapolis is St. Anthony Falls, the only true waterfall on the Mississippi River’s entire length.  The falls powered gristmills and sawmills on both banks that drove the settlement of Minneapolis-St. Paul.  Opportunities for walking, biking, boating, fishing, cross-country skiing, and wildlife watching (especially at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge) abound along the river depending upon the season.

Best Trail

In winter, urban trails along the Mississippi River are very pretty under a layer of white snow, and it can be very quiet and peaceful.

Instagram-worthy Photo

We enjoyed Minnehaha Regional Park where we found the 53-foot tall waterfall celebrated in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but there is no free parking available at the NPS visitor center located inside the lobby for the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Camping

There are no campgrounds managed by the National Park Service within the NRRA, however, there are many places to camp in the area.

Related Sites

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (Minnesota-Wisconsin)

Missouri National Recreational River (Nebraska-South Dakota)

Pipestone National Monument (Minnesota)

Explore More – What did the city of Minneapolis do to make sure Minnehaha Falls was flowing for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit during the 1964 drought?