Scotts bluff National Monument

Visited: July 2019

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accomodations: Used IHG points at the Holiday Inn, Scottsbluff, NE.

Along the North Platte River in western Nebraska, Scotts bluff jets out of the landscape. Scotts Bluff and Chimney rock were mileposts for those expanding westward in the great migration. This is a place where the emigrants knew they were traveling the correct route when they saw these formations. Both Oregon and California Trails pass through here. We are following the California trail out west and hitting up the Oregon Trail on the way home.

Scotts Bluff National Monument is a great easy stop out in western Nebraska where there isn’t much else to see or do. I was really surprised how beautiful the countryside was on our trip. We came from Iowa traveling along I-80 which is pretty boring if you have ever traveled it. We took our exit and after a few minutes the beauty began to unfold. You truly have to see it to believe it.

We arrived pretty close to sunset and drove to the top of the bluff. The kids thought this was a pretty cool drive because you get to go through several tunnels on the way up. Once at the top, gorgeous views of the town and all around.

We stopped off at the visitor center on the way down the hill grabbed some Junior Ranger booklets and walked around the interpretive trail to the south of the bluff. There were covered wagons and oxen to check out for an idea of how the pioneers traveled.

It was getting late so we called it an evening and decided to stop back in the morning to earn our Junior Ranger badges.

We got our badges and cancellations (shown below) and will continue our journey westward! Up next is Fort Laramie, WY. Check back soon for that blog.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site


Visited: November 2016

Duration: 2-3 hours

The boys visit the U of I every once in a while to get tests done. This park is about 20 minutes away and we took an opportunity on this visit to go and see this park on a gorgeous fall day!

We parked at the Presidential Library and Museum and walked over to the Visitor Center. There we got our passports stamped and grabbed a brochure to do a self guided tour through the park.

There are several stops on the self guided tour: The Birthplace Cottage, Blacksmith shop, Schoolhouse, Hoover Creek, Friends Meetinghouse, House of the Maples, The Presidential Library and Museum, Herbert Hoover’s Gravesite and the Tallgrass Prairie.

We visited all of the places on the self guided tour, it was a beautiful day out and we were the only ones in the park. The park gives an overview of every aspect of Hoover’s life. He was elected the 31st president of the US in 1929. Before that he was a mining engineer and a millionaire by age 40. Raised Quaker he sought out a life on a course of public service.

The Birthplace Cottage

Enjoying a fall day

After we were done walking through the park. We went to the museum.  The museum has an entry fee, we paid our fee and walked through the museum and headed over to the gift shop. We bought some crap and called it a day!


Great little stop for the day to break up our time at the hospital for appointments.

We didn’t do a Junior Ranger here so it looks as though we will need to revisit this place. Until then you will just have to enjoy our cancellations 🙂


That’s all for now. Come back enjoy our next post on Effigy Mounds which is also another Iowa National Park Service site tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by.




The Florida State line! We were happy to see this state line. I see warm weather in our future!  We have been to Florida so many times but we always fly in so we aren’t able to get the state sign. This trip we got it. This is state line sign #36 for us. Checking them off pretty quickly! We have 10 left to get and 3 years to get them. Fingers crossed we get to them all before 2023!

This sign was at the Florida Welcome Center on I95 South. Super easy to get to and very safe. I love it when welcome centers have these signs.

While in Florida we visited several great places. Here is a list of the National Park Service Sites we have visited in this state:

Fort Caroline National Memorial

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve: Kingsley Plantation

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Fort Matanzas National Monument

Canaveral National Seashore

On this trip we made a stop at St. Augustine and we learned, we LOVE this town.  Lots of great shopping, restaurants and stupid tourist places!  I will touch on the Fountain of Youth Park we visited. The kids (and Mom) wanted to check this place out because we saw it on an episode Josh Gates Expedition Unknown.  It’s a cute little tourist park that will keep kids busy for a few hours.  We enjoyed it.


First things first, we had to drink out of the fountain of youth, although I have my doubts on this.




There are 27 sites to hit at the park and we got to all of them in an afternoon.  Favorites were The blacksmith exhibit, the bucket challenge and the Cannon Firing!


That is a wrap for this Florida trip!  Looks like we will be back to Florida on Spring Break 2020 to get the parks in the south!  We can’t wait!  Check back soon for those.

Canaveral National Seashore


Visited: November 2018

Duration: 4-5 hours

Accommodations: Stayed at a friends house in Port St. John

In town for a wedding and what do we find??  A National Park Service Site about 5 minutes away. We had to do it!

We started off at Merritt Island and walked around the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge visitor center, taking in the wild life and plants surrounding the area, completely different than anything in Iowa with a few similarities. Different Junior Rangers can be earned at the 2 visitor centers. We earned our Merritt Island badges and headed north on Kennedy Parkway to A1A.

We headed out to enjoy the seashore, walk the beach and play mostly.  We had a remarkably beautiful day with one guy fishing on the beach. Perfect!


Kids worked on their Jr. Rangers while we drove the seashore and back to the visitor center. We could have spent all day here but we had friends to meet at Old Florida Grill (my husbands favorite lunch spot). Back at the Visitor Center we earned our Canaveral Jr. Rangers items (patch, badge, certificate) and it was made formal under the flag pole!

What a great addition to our weekend wedding trip!


That wraps up all of the Northern Florida NPS sites.  Next spring break we will visit the Southern Parks, we are all excited for some more sun! Thanks for stopping. Let me know if you have any questions.


Fort Matanzas National Monument


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 2 hours

Accommodations:  St. Augustine, Florida

The very last stop on our Spring Break Civil War/Spanish History expedition was this great National Monument located just south of St. Augustine.  Fort Matanzas was Spain’s last effort to ward off the British and was built in 1740-1742. Located on Rattlesnake Island, you must take a ferry ride out there, so be prepared.  The ferry doesn’t hold many people, you may have to wait.  I’m not sure why some people didn’t understand this, it isn’t hard to figure out.  Please be nice and patient with the Visitor Center staff, I witnessed several people being rude about needing to wait for the next ferry, unbelievable.


While we waited for our ferry ride the kids worked on their Junior Rangers, very fun, mostly pretty easy with a few tough pages and watched the film. Here is a view of the fort from the Visitor Center at the dock for the ferry.


We rode the ferry out and did a self guided tour.  Mostly you walk around and if you have questions there is a ranger present.


You could climb all the way to the top of the fort for some outstanding views. We had a gorgeous day out on the island, can’t ask for more than that.


This is the ladder you climb up to get to the top

The fort covered the inlet with 5 guns: four six-pounders and one 18-pounder. All could reach the inlet, less than a half mile away. The fort not only drove off enemy vessels but also served as a rest stop, coast guard station and a place where vessels heading to St. Augustine could obtain advice on navigating the river.

Cannon fire from the tower stopped British attempts to gain the inlet in 1742.


Back to the visitor center for our Junior Ranger badges.  It’s a little cramped in the VC so be polite and patient for others.

That concludes all the NPS stops on this years Spring Break edition. I hope you all enjoyed it, we definitely did.  Please let me know if you have any questions on any stops we made, I would love to help you plan your trip and make things easier for you.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accommodations: Holiday Inn, St. Augustine (Perfect location for walking)

This morning’s adventures found us at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Located right in the middle of beautiful St. Augustine Florida.  We have visited some amazing towns on this trip and St. Augustine is one of them. We arrived here as they opened the gates (we like early starts, less people).

Walking around outside of the gates gets you some pretty awesome pictures especially when the sun is reflecting off the ocean right next to the fort.


We headed in the main entrance and got to work on our Junior Ranger booklets.  They were pretty easy but still educational.  We learned that the fort was constructed of coquina (sand, water and seashells) and it is very fragile, the parts of the fort and how they were used, the different ways of firing cannons and what was brought to the fort from the Old World vs the New world. Even adults would learn from the Junior Ranger book. We worked on the books while waiting for the ranger talk.

After the ranger talk we walked around and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery here at the fort.  It is a well kept National Monument in a great historic town. We took way too many pictures here because of this. We did the self guided tour (you can grab the information as you enter).

The tools used to fire cannons


San Agustin Bastion

Plaza de Armas

San Carlos Bastion

Gorgeous cannons


The Rangers go all out

Spanish flag flying over the fort

We headed back to the information desk and received our Junior Ranger badges and patches.  The guy working the desk was a hoot!  The kids still talk about him and giggle! Great memories. Below are the badge, patch and cancellations you can earn here. You also get a spiffy Junior Ranger Certificate. Here are the boys earning their items.


That wraps up another fort on our Spring Break trip.  We are off to enjoy what St. Augustine has to offer for the next few days, stop back and check that out on the Florida blog (coming soon).

Thanks for stopping by, have you been to Castillo de San Marcos??  I would love to hear if you have.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve: Kingsley Plantation


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 3-4 hours with the addition of Fort Caroline

The drive here from Timucuan Ecolgical and Historic Preserve (Fort Caroline) was a good time that included a car ferry.  You can see that here on our Fort Caroline blog. It was a beautiful drive down a gravel road after the turn off from the highway (see below). This is a gorgeous area of Northern Florida. So glad we found it.


Kingsley Plantation is a 60 acre unit of the 46,000 acre Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can explore the grounds which include the oldest standing plantation house in Florida, the kitchen, barn and waterfront.  The remains of 25 slave cabins offer the most graphic evidence of slave living quarter and daily life experiences in the South.

We went to the visitor center and grabbed our Junior Ranger books and set off to explore the grounds. The self guided tour takes you to 7 stops and is really easy to do.

The Main house

The Waterfront 

Most plantations were located along waterways because transportation by ship or boat was the easiest way to get crops to market or bring in supplies.


Slave Quarters

We headed back to the visitor center where we were taught how they harvested the cotton in this area. Pretty cool demo. We earned our Junior Ranger badges and we were off to St. Augustine.


Here is the badge we earned and the cancellations we got.


What a great morning and mid afternoon stop on the way from St. Mary, Georgia down to St. Augustine Florida! Have you been here? Is it on your list? 

Fort Caroline National Memorial


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 3-4 hours (including Kingsley Plantation)

Venturing into Florida found us at this great Preserve.  We stop at 2 of the places here. The Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center (Fort Caroline) and the Kingsley Plantation.

First stop was the Timucuan Preserve and Fort Caroline.  We grabbed Junior Ranger books and set off on a small hike out to the Fort Exhibit. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed getting out to stretch our legs before heading down to St. Augustine.


Most of the questions on our Junior Rangers were found in the visitor center so we spent most of our time in there, researching.  Finally finished this one up and earned our badge.


We got in the car and headed to Kingsley Plantation via a car ferry.  The boys were excited about this one, something we hadn’t planned.  We ate a lunch in and out of the car while waiting for the ferry. Then we hopped on the boat. In no time at all we were across the St. Johns River. How fun.

Always a fun time when you are on a ferry.  The drive to Kingsley Plantation was a short one after the ferry ride.  It was also very gorgeous. Check out our post on Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve: Kingsley Plantation. Here are the Junior Ranger badge and cancellations we got at Fort Caroline!

This was a short stop, we spent most of our time at the Kingsley Plantation when we were in this area. Still a fun and educational stop for us.



The Georgia State Line sign!  This was sign #36, working our way up to 50!  We didn’t get this one going in, it had to be done on our way home.  There was no sign on our entry into Georgia unfortunately.  This sign is located on I 75 north leaving Florida. A real easy spot to pull over, traffic not too bad.

We had such a great experience in the state of Georgia that we are looking forward to coming back very soon. It is a “Georgia”ous state.

National Park Service Sites we visited in Georgia:

Fort Frederica National Monument

Fort Pulaski National Monument

We spent our time located in Savannah, Georgia.  This had always been a bucket list destination and it didn’t disappoint us.  We loved everything about this town.

After hitting Fort Pulaski we spent our afternoon out at Tybee Island, the weather was perfect for a little dip or just hanging out on the beach enjoying the sun.  Kids and I hung out on the beach while Dad went and got the car fixed, it seems every spring break we need a new hub assembly.  This worked out perfectly.  It was a gorgeous day, we really lucked out.



We headed back to Savannah to walk the town, it was St. Patrick’s day and it was hopping downtown.  We took in all the shops, sampled the Georgia drinks and listened to some great music all outside. AMAZING!


We hit up the Pirate house for dinner and had a blast there! Great food and drinks. One of the waiters spent his summers where we live at. What a small world.  Gunnar really got into and enjoyed this place!


We did the evening Ghost tour, I think this is a must in Savannah.  Can you actually go here and not do this?  We had a blast on this tour, there are so many to choose from but it looks like they all hit pretty much the same places.  Here are the only 2 places that I took pictures at.  Hard to get pictures at night.  I do recommend doing a ghost tour even if you think its dumb it is fun.


The last day before leaving we hit River Street, took in the wonderful food they had and just walked around and shopped.

Last but not least was a trip to Forsyth Park.  We needed a couple of family pictures of our time here.  If you hit this park at 7 am NOBODY is there.  Worked out perfect for us.


That’s a wrap on Georgia.  We will be back to see what else this great state has.  We loved what we did on this trip. The South is a great place to be.  We are heading to Florida! Check back soon and thanks for stopping by. Have you been to Savannah?  Did you love it as much as us?

Fort Frederica National Monument


Visited: March 2019

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accommodations: Savannah, GA on the way to St. Mary’s, GA

We are heading south after a few beautiful days in Savannah, GA.  You can see what we did in Savannah over St. Patrick’s day on the Georgia blog (coming tomorrow), we had a fabulous time in that town. I highly recommend it.

Traveling south towards Florida but we still have some Georgia sites to hit.  Fort Frederica was one of them.  We had heard that this place has an award winning Junior Ranger book and they were not joking.  This book was the best Junior Ranger we have done to date.  I think we are at about 90, so this is quite impressive!  It was a pop up book and you followed the townspeople around the town and helped them hold off the Spanish.

To start the adventure we stopped in the visitor center and were given the Junior Ranger books, a hat and a haversack full of items to help the townspeople.


We were off. The site of Fort Frederica was well chosen. The army put this fort in an area that is easy to defend and would give the enemy as much trouble as possible.  If the Spanish wanted to attack the more valuable settlements of Charles Town and Port Royal in South Carolina they had to deal with Frederica first.

The Junior Ranger Adventure Booklet held 11 stops/tasks for the boys.  Is it really a task when you are having fun? Here are the boys going through the park and helping the townspeople of Frederica.


While they finished up their booklets Chris and I walked the grounds and enjoyed how peaceful and gorgeous the park was.

We went back to the visitor center to receive our Fort Frederica Junior Ranger badges.  Bonus:  You could earn a Master Junior Ranger Patch if you complete Fort Frederica Junior Ranger plus Underwater Explorer and Junior Archaeologist Junior Rangers.  We worked on the 2 extra ones on our road trip in the car and had them done when we arrived. Always plan ahead!


Lots of items earned here and a great Visitor Center to explore. Look at all our goodies.


What an amazing National Park Service Site!! Enjoyed our time here and was one of the  highlights of our expedition. We are off to St. Mary’s, GA now.  Lets see what we can explore there.

Thanks for visiting.

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