Our family LOVES to travel and educational travel is a really big part of our experiences. Between educational travel and exploring outdoors that covers a good 98% of our time on the road together. My middle son has a fascination with anything related to presidents so anytime we are in the area of a presidential home or grave we make it a point to stop. We have been to two of Lincoln’s homes (Springfield, IL and DC area), his grave, Ford’s Theater, George Washington’s homes & grave (Mt. Vernon & Philadelphia), the White House and National Mall area (Lincoln Memorial) just to name a few locations. Plus most of the time these locations are partnered with the Junior Ranger Program and my kids are eager to grow their Jr. Ranger pin collection.
Most of my photos this time mainly have my kids simply because I had the 3 kids (including the baby) in snowy freezing cold weather and it requires mostly outdoor walking. I couldn’t whip out my camera with painfully cold hands in wet weather and keep the baby warm enough! But let me give you a few tips – before you go understand that on site in Iowa is the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site area (free) is ALSO the Presidential Library (free) AND the Herbert Hoover Museum (NOT free!).
We started inside the visitors center at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site which is extremely kid friendly. In addition to a short film there is a room where kids of any age can touch pretty much everything and interact with some of the exhibit pieces. It was GREAT! I was very impressed with how much it catered to kids even though it was small.
Admittedly none of us actually knew very much about Herbert Hoover before our trip so it was all new to us! In my first photo you see Herbert Hoover’s boyhood home. I’ve been in the small country houses of presidents before but Hoover’s house FLOORED me. It was 2 tiny rooms that we barely walked in before we were walking out. I simply cannot imagine living with a slew of kids in that tiny living space – especially in the harsh Iowa winter months! We also walked through the blacksmith shop, the Quaker meeting house, and the one room schoolhouse all close by to Hoover’s home! All of the buildings were impeccably kept and open on the cold wintery day we visited.
A short walk from the historic buildings we also solemnly visited Herbert Hoover’s resting place along with the grave of his wife Lou. It was an astoundingly gorgeous open area up an extremely steep hill laid out beautifully with plenty of surrounding nature. Nearby is also a prairie overlook but seeing as it was in the 30’s and drizzly when we visited we skipped the overlook path!
If you have children you absolutely MUST look up the National Junior Ranger program. Not only is it highly educational and teaches your kids (and you!) SO many details about the locations all over our country that you are visiting but it also keeps your kids busy at some of the locations where there are fewer things to hold their interest. Upon arriving just ask for the Junior Ranger book and they’ll need to fill out some activities with info they’ve learned from their trip. Once they show their book to a park ranger they can be “sworn in” (although this varies depending on the ranger at each location) and they’ll receive a pin (or rarely a patch) they can keep with the name of that location on it. You can see some of the pins my kids have displayed on their hat.
I love that my kids are SO into this program and they still take being sworn in VERY seriously. We started the program 2 years ago when we first visited Mount Rushmore which is where we bought their ranger hats. We can’t take a road trip without their hats and they’ve been begging me for quite some time to purchase ranger vests. Although a little pricey I know how much this program means to them and our family and it was a small way I could give back to the program by supporting it with our purchase. Over the next 2 years we have some pretty massive road trips planned so I bought the vests big and know they will last my boys at least several years throughout our upcoming trips.
Just a SIDE NOTE on the Herbert Hoover Museum in case you were wondering! The Presidential Library and Museum are a short walking distance from Hoover’s home and the visitor center but you can drive over there and park right in front of it if you want. Because we were FREEZING cold and my baby was in need of the trip being cut short we did not stop into the Presidential Library. I didn’t want to bring a wet soppy stroller and irritable baby inside of a quiet presidential library!
The Herbert Hoover museum was a little pricey but of course contains a priceless collection relating to Hoover and his accomplishments. Honestly (and we’ve been in a TON of museums!) I probably wouldn’t go back to the museum. It was expensive and much of the museum contained documents and letters which did not hold my kids interest at all. It was small and we walked through pretty rapidly. If you are really into Herbert Hoover’s life and presidency or love old documents this is definitely the place for you!