10 Best Presidential Sites for Kids
Mary Welch, Family Vacation Critic
One of the best ways to help kids learn is to make it fun. So let's take a trip -- or 10 -- and learn about our presidents as we honor Presidents' Day. Plan a trip to see one of these presidential hot spots that will teach the kids a little bit of history without them even knowing it!
1. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is located on a beautiful waterfront spot just outside of Boston. Conveniently located, the museum houses exhibits that showcase Kennedy's groundbreaking use of modern media, the space program and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's influence. Close by in Quincy, Mass., see the birthplaces of both John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and tour the Boston Public Library to view more than 2,700 books collected by John Adams. Nearby hotel: Royal Sonesta Boston.
2. Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota
More than 2 million visitors travel to the Black Hills of South Dakota to view the 90-foot sculpture of Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln carved into the mountain. Head two miles from Mt. Rushmore to also see the National Presidential Wax Museum. Nearby hotel: K Bar S Lodge.
3. Mount Vernon and Monticello, Charlottesville, Va.
The grounds at President George Washington's Potomac River plantation include his burial tomb, a working blacksmith shop, reconstructed slave quarters and a four-acre demonstration farm, 11 video presentations, and an immersion theater where it snows year-round. Nearby, visit Thomas Jefferson's beloved Monticello. Less than 30-minutes away is Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, which features their mansion, freedmen's cabin and slave quarters. Also close by is AshLawn Highland, James Monroe's home. Nearby hotel: Omni Charlottesville Hotel.
4. William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, Ark.
One of the newest presidential libraries, this Little Rock, Ark., museum is 20,000 square feet of information, video, photos and documents, and artifacts with reproductions of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. Rooms also offer glimpses into holidays at the White House, Life in the White House, heads of states' gifts, and people's gifts given to the Clintons, as well as a look into his early life. Nearby hotel: Courtyard by Marriott Little Rock Downtown.
5. Ronald Reagan President Museum and Library, Simi Valley, Calif.
The final resting place of President Reagan, his museum, situated in Simi Valley, Calif., near Los Angeles, is full of interactive opportunities. For instance, you can set a table for a White House state dinner or act beside him in a movie. How about giving his Inauguration speech? If that isn't enough excitement, go inside Air Force One. A large piece of the Berlin Wall is also displayed to remind us of the fall of the Iron Curtain. Nearby hotel: Omni Los Angeles Hotel.
6. Truman Little White House, Key West, Fla.
Built in 1890 and visited by several presidents and Thomas Edison, Harry S. Truman made some of his biggest decisions while vacationing in this Key West, Fla. home. While in Key West, go to the Fort Zachary Taylor, which was built in 1848 and named for Taylor. Tours of the fort are given daily and kids will enjoy seeing the largest collection of Civil War cannons. Nearby hotel: Hyatt Key West Resort & Spa.
7. William McKinley Museum and Presidential Library, Canton, Ohio
The McKinley museum in Canton, Ohio, is the only presidential museum with a planetarium and a science museum. The museum has a vast collection of memorabilia that chronicles his birth up through his assassination. He is also buried on the grounds. The complex also includes a 65-seat planetarium and the Discovery World science center that features a mastodon skeleton and a Paleo-Indian hut. Nearby are the National First Ladies Museum and the Football Hall of Fame. Nearby hotel: Kalahari Waterpark Resort.
8. The Hermitage, Nashville
The Hermitage, in Nashville, is reportedly the most authentically preserved home of the early presidents. The plantation and its grounds give a bird's eye view of its start as a frontier farm to a 1,000-acre cotton plantation. Andrew Jackson is also buried here. For a different look at Jackson, go to the Museum of the Waxhaws in Waxhaws, N.C., south of Charlotte. The seventh president was born on the Indian land and the museum showcases the history of the Waxhaws nation, Jackson's connection and has Civil War reenactments and American Revolution exhibits. Nearby hotel: Gaylord Opryland Resort.
9. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum, West Branch, Iowa
Who knew Herbert Hoover was so interesting? A visit to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum in West Branch, Iowa, tells the story of an orphan Quaker boy who mined ore in Australia and China, became a multi-millionaire engineer, a worldwide humanitarian and the 31st president during the Great Depression. Nearby hotel: Adventureland Resort, Iowa.
10. Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, St. Louis, Mo.
U.S. Grant, who led the Union soldiers in the Civil War, was married to his beloved Julia, the daughter of slave owners. This family dynamic, as well as his presidency and Civil War activities, are displayed at this site situated in St. Louis, which is actually Julia's childhood home. By the way, he is not buried here -- that would be in Grant's Tomb in New York City. Nearby hotel: Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch.