Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Holidays, Museums & Tours, School, Sightseeing

Visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

We went to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center yesterday.

They have free admission on 1/17/22 for MLK Day, but we were worried it would be too crowded, so we went the Sunday before.

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“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”, Winston Churchill wrote. Everyone has a bias, even the history books and museums; we wanted to expand the kids’ views and to expose them to all different views of history so that they could learn, research, think for themselves, and listen to all points of view. Each museum has been a different experience, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect of the Freedom Center.

I will say we were pleasantly surprised. I thought the spacing throughout the Center was very nice and that there was nice mix of props (statues, cotton bales, buildings, maps, a few artifacts). There was a lot of factual information, along with some personal anecdotes.

The third floor is where most of the exhibits are and where they recommend you start your visit. The Center did a pretty good job with decorations around the exhibits and movie screens to set the scene. There is an outdoor terrace that has a great view of the Ohio River and Suspension Bridge. It also has Freedom’s Eternal Flame (a gas fueled flame). The Terrace was closed while we were there; of course, it was about 28 degrees outside.

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The 3rd floor also had an modern day slavery exhibit that went over Forced Labor, Child Labor, Sex Trafficking, Bonded Labor, and Domestic Servitude. The crazy statistic that I saw was that 59% of online recruitment for sex trafficking victims was on Facebook.

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The second floor had a Pavilion, which is currently closed. There was a Slave Pen (an original structure brought into the Center) that you could walk into. The inside was very empty, other than a wooden box that had some shackles in it. There were several films available on the 2nd floor. You first walk into a waiting room and listen to a short film with Oprah Winfrey. The doors automatically open to go to the next theater. I thought the movies were well done. One of the theater rooms was even decorated with trees to help set the mood for the film.

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There were only a few interactive exhibits. I think there is a lot of opportunity to do several more interactive exhibits. (For example: an example of hidden stairs and rooms that you could walk through, touching cotton plants.) There were some visual aids, but it was mostly reading. It was definitely an older child/adult type of museum in terms of attention level and retention. It would have been nice to see a map of known Underground Railroad stops in Cincinnati. Ben and I both knew of two, but I’m sure there plenty more.

There is small store on the main floor. (The postcards were $3 each, which I think is the most expensive postcard we have bought!)


  • WHERE: 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202
  • HOURS: Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • COSTS: $15/adult, $10.50/children ages 3-12, under 3 free. (Family Season Pass is $65)
  • PARKING: Yes (Paid parking available on-street or nearby parking garages.)
  • BATHROOM: Yes (On our visit, only the 3rd floor bathrooms were open.)
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2-3 hours
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks are required (as of January 2022).
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.


Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, School, Sightseeing

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

Hey guys here’s another blog post with Will! Today I will be talking about the James A. Garfield National Historic Site! For those of you that don’t know who James A. Garfield was, don’t worry I didn’t either! Apparently he was the 20th president of the United States of America. We learned all about him from the park center that is actually located inside of the carriage house of Garfield’s farm.

Garfield was the last president known as a log cabin president which means that his family were settlers and built their house themselves. He grew up on the land his father had bought for two dollars and fifty cents an acre. His father was a farmer and a canal construction man, but sadly his father died when Garfield was just 2 years old. His mother tried to educate Garfield and his siblings, and convinced Garfield to go to the nearby school. Garfield learned of his love of education and earned money to go to college and high school through odd jobs, teaching, and working on the farm. He stayed at the school teaching and learning for 4-5 years and then went to college for 2 years. After that he became president of the school he went to originally, but soon grew bored. This was how he started his career with politics. He was in the House of Representatives for 17 years. He was then nominated as president by surprise. He was visiting to nominate a fellow senator when he found out he had become nominated. He immediately rushed home to tell his family and get started.

This is where I am going to pause in the story for a minute to tell you about his house as most of the story after this involves his house. James A. Garfield rented houses for his family, but soon realized that they needed a stable home where they could set up home base. He also wanted his children to learn the morals that he had when living on a farm, and so he bought 160 acres of land out in the countryside. The farm he had bought was run down, but with some hard work he and his family fixed up the house and grew it. He started growing orchards and plants to sell, and he also was very interested in making his farm a modern farm. He bought the latest equipment and pure bred cows to make his farm the most modern farm around. He expanded the old house that had originally been on the property and added new rooms for him, and his wife, and 5 children, and his mom. Once he was nominated for President, he went into the craziness of trying to win. He was told by a former president that to win you sit back, cross your legs, and look wise. This was how most presidents did it. They let the speakers of their party run their election campaign and sat there looking wise. Garfield felt this was not good enough because he was one of the best speakers in his party, so he started having campaign speeches on his porch. Many different people started coming to his house, and since he was near both the road and the railroad many people had access to his house. This caused the railroad company to make a new stop that was right on his property. Over 17,000 people came to see him talk and he won the election! The problem with having so many people come to see his speeches on a working farm, was that when people got hungry they would eat his crops. This left the farmer devastated and he had to re-sod all of the grass that had been trampled.

Now we come to sad part of the story. 120 days into his presidency on his way back home, the president was shot twice in the back. One only clipped his shoulder, but the other buried itself deep into the president’s back. 200 days into his presidency the President died. A memorial train carried his body to the graveyard and thousands of Americans lined up to grieve the death of the late President. Another late mourner of her husband sent her regards to his wife Lucretia. That person was Queen Victoria. Her husband had also died and the Queen had sent a letter of regards and a wreath for the late president’s coffin. Lucretia had the wreath laid on the coffin and then had it dipped in wax to preserve the wreath. Sadly, back then the president’s job was not as good as it is now. The President, when he was alive, couldn’t even afford a carriage for the White House horse shed. The White House was also in tatters. The Garfields had planned on fixing it up during the presidency, but he was not able to fix it up before his assassination. His wife’s friend realized that Garfield’s wife would not receive any payment, as there were no advantages or benefits the president received back then. He started a fund raiser for the wife and raised about 350 thousand dollars ,which today would be equal to about 10 million dollars. With that money his wife added extra renovations including gas powered lights and fireplaces, water running into the house powered by the windmill, and additions to the house. She also paid for her children to go to college, and bought a second house and rented it out to make easy income. She also added to the farm and kept it as modern as she could with the help of her children and brother who came to live in the house with her.

Whiling adding the extra house renovations, the team of carpenters and labor discovered natural gas which was then used to power the house by lighting the house and providing heat. This allowed the family to be entirely self reliant through having water brought to the house from the windmill, crops from the farm, milk, meat, and hide from the animals, and heating and lighting from the gas. She also finished all of the indoors of the house and later built playrooms and areas for her grandchildren to play at. Soon after her death, the house and the farm became a financial burden on the rest of the family and they eventually sold it.

Thank you guys for reading this blog post from me and please keep reading our blog for more cool stuff from around the country, and watch our YouTube channel for some cool places! Thank you guys and have a good day!

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Vermont, Food, School, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Sugarbush Farm: Exploring Cheese and Maple Syrup

We only had a short stay in Vermont and the main goal was to see…MAPLE SYRUP! We found a nearby working farm called Sugarbush Farm. They make maple syrup and cheese and offer free tastings.

We got to try 3 of the 4 types of maple syrup. The farm did not have a lot of the Golden Maple Syrup. The color of the syrup depends on the weather, so the quicker the weather warms up, the less they may have of a certain color/grade of syrup. All of the syrups were tasty. Ben, Nick, and I really enjoyed the Amber. It had a little different taste than the other types. The Dark was the flavor we are used to having (we normally buy the Grade A Dark syrups at the store). Will really liked the Very Dark syrup.

There were also several cheese types we could try. Ben’s favorite was the Extra Sharp Cheddar (aged 4 years), while Nick and I enjoyed the Sage Cheese.

The farm has a walking trail, goats, cows, and horses to see. There are picnic tables in case you brought a picnic. There were also two photo stand opportunities and there were selfie stands set up for those as well.

The maple syrup production area was not running while we were there, but there was an informational video and lots of signs explaining the process.

There was a store located in the tasting building and we went a little crazy buying cheese and syrup. We got to talk to the owner, Betsy. Everyone was incredibly nice at the farm and we really enjoyed our experience there. If you are in the area near Woodstock, Vermont (or Quechee, where our campground was), I would make this a stop on your journey. It’s amazing how much work goes into getting enough sap to make a quart of maple syrup. (Hint: Look at the picture above. It takes 4 1/2 buckets to make 1 quart.) The farm also does mail orders!

VIDEO: Boys Walking Around Sugarbush Farm

Posted in: Exploring Massachusetts, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, School, Sightseeing

Exploring New Bedford, Massachusetts

We ended our stay in Massachusetts by going to New Bedford to see the Whaling Museum. (Questions we got: What about Nantucket and Boston? My sister lived in Boston for awhile and we had visited her and explored the city. The main goal of the trip was to see new things. Ben really wanted Nantucket, but the ferry itself was $300, plus whatever we would spend in town.)

New Bedford is a fishing town. They were big in the whaling industry and now do a lot of commerce in scallops.

We managed to find parking on the street (it looks like it is all resident pass or pay parking) near the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park. The Visitor Center was closed and only had a table open to get a map and Junior Ranger material. (The boys did not get their badges yet because the Visitor Center closed by the time we were done walking around. The ranger told us we could mail the booklets in to get the badges.) The National Park Service museum had a lot of outdoor signs around the town. The map had a nice outline of where the park’s boundaries were.

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We stopped at the other New Bedford Whaling Museum. This one was not part of the National Park Service and had paid admission. However, when we went to check it out, they told us the lobby was free to look around. The lobby had skeletons of different whales and some really neat information. The one skeleton has a piece of tubing attached to the skull and it leads to a beaker. It has been collection oil for 10 years!

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Next, we headed down to the Fishing Heritage Center. It was also free the day we were there. It ended up being surprisingly good! It was very interactive with a movie, multiple buttons to push to hear different sounds and fishing stories. There was even a fishing bucket the kids could pull up. It gave a nice detailed history of fishing, especially in the New Bedford region. It was really well done and everyone enjoyed it.

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The town was pretty cute. However, I would stay near the museums. The farther out of the touristy area we got, it got to be a rougher part of town.

Posted in: Exploring Massachusetts, School, Sightseeing

Plymouth Rock and The Mayflower II

Plymouth Rock is located in Pilgrim Memorial State Park (Plymouth, Massachusetts). The park was about a half hour drive from our campground. The park is free and you can see both Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II just from walking around. There is a charge for the Museum and to go on the Mayflower II.

Will was very excited to see “THE ROCK”. His grandparents did try to warn him that it wasn’t as exciting as he thought it would be.

It was indeed, just a rock. There was a pavilion placed over the top of it to help protect it from the elements. The rock was identified as “the rock” 121 years after the pilgrims landed. Plymouth Rock was later split during the Revolutionary War and the one piece was moved to the town square for “liberty” inspiration. The two pieces were later reunited in 1880. The claim on the informational board that the original rock the pilgrims may have seen was 3 times larger; I guess due to weathering and splitting of the rock?

The Mayflower II is located in the park as well. It is a reproduction of the original ship, with some modern technology thrown in. The ship was smaller than I thought it would be. There were not informational signs, much to Will’s dismay, but there were employees throughout the ship to answer questions and to tell you information. There were 102 passengers on board with their animals, plus crew (20-30).

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We learned that the ship did not have a wheel to steer, instead it used a whip-staff to move the tiller, which moved the rudder. The crew worked in 4 hour shifts and kept track on peg board called a Traverse Board. The navigator also marked the knots on this board. It’s pretty amazing that they made it across the ocean without a wheel and only using a compass! Will was also shocked that they were not attacked by pirates, as King James ordered all his ships to be painted in brighter colors (yellow, red, blue, green).

The town is really cute with lots of shops and food options. We had a beautiful day for walking around.

DETAILS For The Mayflower II:*

  • TICKETS: $15/adults, $12/child. COVID Restrictions: masks required
  • HOURS: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • PARKING: Pay parking on street
  • BATHROOM: Yes, at the Pilgrim Memorial Park
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 30 min to 1 hour for the ship
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.


Information on the Mayflower

Pilgrim Memorial State Park

Posted in: Exploring Pennsylvania, Food, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, School, Sightseeing

Exploring Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly was about a 1 1/4 hours from our campground (with using the toll roads). Almost everywhere is paid parking in the downtown area, and it was hard to find parking where the truck would fit. Our first parking spot was close to the Liberty Bell area, but was limited to 2 hours, so we had to rush through the area.


We stopped at the Liberty Visitor Center for the Independence National Historical Park first and the boys got a Junior Ranger Program booklet. The NPS booth also had passport stamps available in a really nice display.

The Independence National Park Service was limiting the number of visitors allowed in the buildings due to COVID restrictions. They were not selling entrance tickets/reservations while we were there, but they were limiting the amount of people in the buildings, so there were some long lines. (*NOTE: The website states starting 5/6/21, they will be doing timed entrance tickets to Independence Hall.) Due to our parking meter, we had a very limited time of 2 hours. The line to see the Liberty Bell was 90 minutes, and the line for Independence Hall was 60 minutes. Luckily, you can view the Liberty Bell from outside the building through glass windows. You cannot see the crack from the windows, but you can at least still see the bell.

We walked to Independence Hall and talked to one of the employees to see what was offered, as it was a 60 minute wait. He told us that it was a 20 minute guided tour, but you wait about 60 minutes outside, then inside can be another 60 minute wait. He said he did not recommend it if we were short on time (or during the pandemic in general). He recommended walking around the outside of Independence Hall to be able to see the buildings, going to Second Bank and Carpenter’s Hall as they had no real lines.

Top left: Independence Hall. Rest: Second Bank

Second Bank currently houses portraits. Carpenter’s Hall has the history of the Carpenter’s Company, a trade guild that was founded in 1724. There are still current members of the Company today!

We drove around and saw the Chinatown and Italian districts. It really is a big city.


We wanted to experience an authentic cheesesteak while in Philadelphia. There are a lot of options to choose from. We first stopped at Campo’s Deli and tried a cheesesteak with cheese, onions, and mushrooms. We got a second one with peppers as well. We then drove to Pat’s King Of Steaks to try theirs. We got it with the Cheese Whiz and an order of fries. I think next time, I would order sliced cheese as well, as it wasn’t as cheesy as I thought it would be.


The Independence Visitor Center had a Rocky Balboa statue to pose next to. However, there was another (metal…brass?) statue near the famous steps that he ran up during training in the movie. The parking over there was packed and expensive $15 for the closest lot, so we ended up only driving by.

We really enjoyed spending time in Philadelphia and would like to explore it even more.

Final note: It was funny to compare the recommendations on what to see on a 2 hour window. The city Visitor booth recommended a variety of city and historic based items. The National Park Service booth was all historic sites. Both had good recommendations.

DETAILS Independence NHP:*

  • TICKETS: Free (except for Benjamin Franklin Museum, which is currently closed for COVID. National Constitution Center also charges a fee.) COVID Restrictions: masks required, limited items open, limited attendance (The website states starting 5/6/21, they will be doing timed entrance tickets to Independence Hall.)
  • HOURS: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Second Bank 10:00 am -5:00 pm, Carpenter’s Hall 10-4 select days
  • PARKING: Pay parking on street or nearby lots
  • BATHROOM: Yes, Visitors Center
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2-5 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Virginia, Hiking, School, Sightseeing

Kiptopeke State Park

Kiptopeke State Park was a nice little state park near Cape Charles, Virginia. It had a small swimming area, a fishing pier, and a few hiking trails. There was a campground, cabins for rent, and a nice picnic area (with a restroom).

Map, self-service admission booth, observation landing by picnic area, office and little library

We had a lovely sunny day to explore this park. We brought a lunch with us and sat in the gazebo for a picnic lunch before setting off for exploring. We wandered down to the fishing pier where we saw the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and some old pier pilings, and an artificial reef made from old WWII ships (they are made of concrete!). There were a few kayakers and fishermen out. My absolute favorite part of the park was seeing dolphins in the Bay. We saw about 4 of them swimming and cresting out of the water. We hadn’t seen any dolphins yet on this, even with all our ocean visits. I was happy we got to see them.

Dolphins, pelican, bird
Concrete Fleet ships making up a man-made reef.

The hiking trails led you among the woods, along the coast, and by fields for butterflies. We came across several offshoot trails that were not on the map, so just pay attention to where you are.

It was a great hike and worth the $7 we paid to get in. As a bonus feature, there was a Little Library by the office!


  • TICKETS: $7/car. Fishing Pier $5/adults, $3/kids (ages 6-12). COVID Restrictions: masks required.
  • HOURS: Day use (6am-10pm), Office (8am-4pm), Fishing Pier (open 24hrs, April-December)
  • PARKING: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Virginia, Hiking, School, Sightseeing

Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge (Eastern Shore Virginia Welcome Center)

After crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (going north from Williamsburg to the Eastern Shore/Cape Charles), there is a Welcome Center. We were pretty early for our check-in time for our campground which wasn’t very far away, so I decided to pull in for a bathroom break. It was a pretty standard welcome center with local information, maps, and bathrooms. It had car parking and larger spots for trucks and RVs. The employees were nice and had a few suggestions.

The best part was an unassuming arch behind the welcome center. The arch leads to a path through the trees to the Eastern Shore Wildlife Refuge (ESWR). There are some great trails there. One was the Butterfly Trail, which would be great when more things were in bloom, although we did see a couple along the way. We took the trail to a secondary parking lot, where we then took the Wildlife Loop. This loop led to a bunker and a huge gun (66 feet!), and an observation tower. Once at the top of the platform, you had some nice views of the Chesapeake.

Bottom Right: ESWR Visitor Center and stamp post.

There is a Visitor Center (and its own parking lot) as well, but it was currently closed. However, outside the Visitor Center, they had some informational pamphlets about birds, as well as stamps for passport/stamp books, if you collect those. There was no paper there for the stamps however, so you may want to bring your own.


  • TICKETS: Free. COVID Restrictions: masks, social distancing, ESWR Visitor Center and Fishermans Island closed.
  • HOURS: Dawn to Dusk
  • PARKING: Yes (at Eastern Shore Welcome Center and at ESWR Visitor Center)
  • BATHROOM: Yes (use the one at the Eastern Shore Welcome Center, not the closed ESWR Visitor Center)
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Campground Review, Food, Frequently Asked Questions, Hiking, Internet, Maintenance, Newbie Tips, School, Sightseeing

How We Pick Out A Campground (Frequently Asked Questions)

There are a ton of campgrounds out there and it can be overwhelming trying to find the “best” one to call home! They range from independent places, chains (like KOA and Thousand Trails), city owned, state owned, and federally owned. Some only accept military/retired military, some only accept Class A’s, and some have age limits on the RVs or the people they let in. A lot of places also have dog restrictions based on breed.

We have a few things that we always look for in a campground: location to sightseeing, internet, full hook-ups, and a laundry room. Our biggest one is a good internet connection for school and work. There are a few different websites that I visit to check reviews:, GoodSam, and Campendium are my first ones. After those, I will go to Yelp/Google Map reviews (make sure to type RV Campground or RV Resort, not just campground as you will get results that will not work with RVs or may not have hook-ups), and then to Facebook for the RV groups to see if anyone has stayed there before.

Our favorite RV Campground Review Sites

I always check multiple review sites, especially for internet issues, but sometimes you still don’t get it right. For example, the Garden of the Gods RV review stated that our 3 providers worked. However, when we checked in, there was a note with our paperwork saying AT&T did not work in the park. This wasn’t mentioned on the campground’s website at the time. (This is just one of the reasons why we have three internet providers!)

I also try to read about the general campground conditions (sites, roads, etc.). If a lot of reviews with bigger RVs say that sites or internal roads were tight or not well maintained, I will pass on that campground. We’ve even double checked the reviews on the way to a campground and changed our plans last minute based on the current conditions. Conditions of campgrounds can change frequently. For example, when we booked one Texas site, it had decent reviews. On the drive there, we were reading the reviews from the last week and it was filled with reports of sewage problems throughout the campground (eww!), so we frantically searched and found a new campground to stay in. The most recent one was a change due to a review saying the T-Mobile signals were weak. T-Mobile is where most of our working internet comes through. We have some hotspot data through our cell phones, but the T-Mobile hotspot is the workhorse.

Campground amenities can also be a big indicator for the nicety of a park, although not always. There doesn’t seem to be a regulation on who can call themselves a RV Resort vs a campground, so reading reviews are important! We had one Thousand Trails claim to be a resort and they only had a laundry room and a walking trail. Nothing else was available or was broken and the sites and roads needed some upkeep. On the other hand, we had a Thousand Trails in Orlando that lived up to the resort title with many amenities and things to do.

An on-site laundry is also a requirement for us, as we do not have a washer/dryer on our travel trailer.

We have learned to always check (recent) reviews across the different review sites. It can be worth spending the extra money to get a nicer campground, especially for longer stays.

Posted in: Exploring Virginia, Hiking, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, School, Sightseeing

Visiting Yorktown, Virginia (National Park Service)

We did it. We completed the triangle!

We went to Yorktown with our friends who were visiting for the weekend, the Piatt’s. I can honestly say that I don’t think any of us had high expectations (except for Will). However, we were pleasantly surprised. The Visitor Center was partially open for the bookstore/gift shop. The store had the passport stamps, but did not have any pieces of paper to use if you forgot your passport (or use in your journal like we do). You could buy a sticker sheet for $0.95 (+tax) to stamp though. All the kids got a Junior Ranger Program booklet to work on. A lot of the museums and houses were closed due to COVID, but there is a free audio app that you can download. The app has some information on different sites in town, as well as the two driving tours.

Monument, Visitor Center

We walked into the town from the Visitor Center using a nice paved path. It wasn’t a long walk; I think they said 456 yards. We saw the Statue of Liberty, not to be confused with the one in New York. It was a super cute little town with some shops and a coffee shop, and the Historical plaques that Will had missed seeing in Williamsburg.

We stopped at the artists shop at York Hall and found a few nice pieces. Ben found a colorful quilt. It was History Day, so there were a few demonstrations in the front of the Hall, including some children’s games.

We walked down to the waterfront and saw the beach area. There were a few sections of beach and a fishing pier. It was pretty crowded, so we didn’t get near the water.

There are two driving tours you can take in Yorktown: the red (Battlefield, 7 miles) and the yellow (Allied Encampment, 9 miles). After circling back to the Visitor Center, we got into our cars and took the red driving tour. I had downloaded the audio app, so we were able to go to each stop, park in the lot, and listen to the tour. There are parking spots, so you can also get out to look at things and read the historical informational signs.

Yorktown was a neat area with a mix of history, beach fun, and shopping. It ended up being one of my favorite places to visit while in Williamsburg. (In fact, we went to the town twice!)


  • TICKETS: $15/adults, $0/child (ages 0-15), Free with Interagency or Annual Pass. COVID Restrictions: masks required, some buildings closed
  • HOURS: Bookstore/Gift Shop Tuesday-Sunday 10:00am-4:00pm
  • PARKING: Some parking near town and at Visitor Center
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.