Exploring Fort Mackinac’s Rich History & Firing the Canon!

Mackinac Island in Michigan is a treasure trove of captivating history.

From its distinction as one of the earliest national parks in the United States to its transformation into a sought-after destination for travelers, it is steeped in historical significance.

Yet, one of the most intriguing and compelling narratives on the island unfolds within the walls of Fort Mackinac.

What is Fort Mackinac?

Fort Mackinac, situated on Mackinac Island in Michigan, is a historic military fort offering visitors a glimpse into the military history of the region and the role the fort played during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including its involvement in the War of 1812.

Fort Mackinac: a brief history

Fort Mackinac has roots dating back to the late 1700s.

Before 1763, the French utilized Fort Michilimackinac, located on the mainland’s south shore of the Straits of Mackinac, to assert control over the region.

Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the British took control of the French fort but found it challenging to defend.

In response to these challenges, in 1780 Lieutenant Governor Patrick Sinclair took charge of the construction of a new fort made of limestone on the 150-foot limestone bluffs of Mackinac Island.

To create this new fort, various buildings were relocated from the mainland post of Michilimackinac, including the barracks, guardhouse, and provision storehouse.

The fort was strategically positioned to oversee the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and played a pivotal role in regulating the lucrative fur trade. But it had its shortcomings as you’ll see.

Fort Mackinac

Eventually, in 1796, several years after the American victory in the Revolutionary War, the United States assumed control of the fort and it went on to play a substantial role in the region’s history, notably during the War of 1812.

In June 1812, as the War of 1812 commenced, Fort Mackinac was defended by a modest United States garrison consisting of roughly sixty men, led by Lieutenant Porter Hanks.

Unfortunately, Hanks and his men were unaware of the outbreak of the war due to a lack of communication.

In the early hours of July 17, 1812, a joint British and Native American expedition, led by British Captain Charles Roberts, launched a surprise assault on Fort Mackinac.

This force comprised 40 British soldiers along with 500 French Canadian and Native American allies, significantly outnumbering the US troops.

They disembarked on the northern tip of Mackinac Island, a location still accessible today and recognized as “British Landing.”

Fort Mackinac British Landing
British Landing

They then ascended to the island’s highest point, which afforded a commanding view of Fort Mackinac.

This area was eventually reclaimed by the United States and named Fort Holmes. And today, there is a recreated fort at this location that offers a fascinating historical experience well worth exploring.

Fort Mackinac Fort Holmes
Fort Holmes

But back to the invasion by the British….

Once the British were on the island’s high point they strategically positioned their cannons directly aimed at the fort, compelling its surrender in what marked the first land engagement of the War of 1812.

A couple of years later in August of 1814, there was another significant battle for the island that ended unfavorably for the Americans. Similar to the British approach, the American forces landed on the island’s northern side.

However, as they advanced toward the fort, they faced strong resistance and were ambushed by Native American allies, leading to the loss of 13 American soldiers, including their second-in-command, Major Andrew Holmes.

This battlefield is yet another location that you can visit when on the island.

Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac remained under the control of the British Empire for a significant period until the conclusion of the war when it was returned to the United States as part of the Treaty of Ghent in 1815.

Throughout the 19th century, Fort Mackinac continued to operate as a military post. However, by the late 1800s, its defensive role had become obsolete.

Instead, it found new purposes, such as serving as the headquarters for managing the national park established on Mackinac Island. Eventually, it was decommissioned in 1895, and the fort became a part of Michigan’s first State Park, as the focus on the island shifted to tourism.

In the late 1950s, after restoration work that went on through the decades, Fort Mackinac opened as a living history museum.

Fort Mackinac view

How to get to Fort Mackinac

To visit Fort Mackinac, you must first make your way to Mackinac Island.

If you’re not familiar with the island, it’s important to note that automobiles are not permitted there. Instead, you’ll need to access the island by taking a ferry, boat, or flying in. It’s just a brief uphill walk from the downtown area to reach the fort’s south entrance. Alternatively, you can come from the north entrance.

An adult ticket is about $15 and comes with admission to other sites on the island. For more on pricing and admission you can go here.

Fort Mackinac exterior

Experiencing Fort Mackinac

Indeed, there is much to explore and experience at Fort Mackinac. When planning your visit, it’s advisable to allocate ample time to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.

Throughout the day, visitors have the opportunity to witness engaging historical demonstrations that transport them back in time.

These demonstrations often include captivating reenactments featuring period rifles like the Springfield model 1873.

Fort Mackinac

he firing of the renowned cannon, a 1841 model six-pounder is not to be missed!

Fort Mackinac canon demonstration

There is also a guided tour which will give you a great background into the evolution of the fort.

For the most part, you’re standing in the parade grounds so the tour doesn’t take you in and out of the buildings (which is probably a good thing because those are best explore in small groups).

Fort Mackinac tour

Visitors can plan ahead by calling to inquire about the scheduled times for these demonstrations.

Alternatively, while exploring the fort, keep an ear out for the uniformed workers dressed in 1880s Prussian-inspired uniforms, as they often make announcements regarding the timing of these events.

Furthermore, if you encounter these knowledgeable workers during their free moments, don’t hesitate to approach them with any questions you may have about the fort’s history. They are usually eager to share fascinating insights and historical tidbits.

Fort Mackinac tour

In addition to the scheduled demonstrations and shows, you have the freedom to embark on self-guided exploration throughout the fort.

As you explore, you’ll encounter a plethora of intriguing structures to enter and explore. Many of these sites feature interpretive panels and artifacts that provide valuable insights into the fort’s rich history, enhancing your learning experience.

Indeed, some of the structures within the fort are incredibly captivating, such as the Post Guardhouse, which once served as the detention area for prisoners. What makes it even more intriguing is the presence of graffiti dating back to the 1800s, left behind by the incarcerated individuals who were held in this room.

You’ll also have the opportunity to explore a variety of other historical buildings, each with its own unique significance. Some of these include the Soldiers Barracks, Post Schoolhouse, Officer’s Stone Quarters (which is Michigan’s oldest building, dating back to 1780), and the Commissary Building.

Fort Mackinac barracks

These structures offer a diverse range of insights into the fort’s history and the daily life of its inhabitants during different time periods.

Fort Mackinac tea room

One of the most intriguing and unforgettable experiences you can have at Fort Mackinac is the opportunity to be the one person who fires the cannon in the morning, for a little extra cost (~$60 extra).

As a history buff, this is an incredibly cool and memorable activity, well worth the investment. Plus, I’m pretty sure the money spent on this experience goes toward supporting the fort and its preservation, making it a win-win for history buffs and the fort’s continued maintenance.

Final word

For many people, Fort Mackinac stands as the highlight of their Mackinac Island experience.

Its rich history, well-preserved structures, and engaging historical demonstrations make it a must-visit destination for those exploring this unique and captivating island.

From its strategic location overlooking the straits to the intriguing artifacts and stories it houses, Fort Mackinac offers a glimpse into the past that truly enhances any visit to Mackinac Island.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park Guide

Located near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park offers a captivating journey back in time. Step into an era defined by the copper rush and uncertain relations with the local Native communities.

As you explore the well-preserved living quarters and structures like the old powder rooms, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in this historical period.

In this article, we’ve got all the essential information you need to make the most of your visit to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park.

What is Fort Wilkins Historic State Park?

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park safeguards the meticulously restored Fort Wilkins, a military outpost from 1844, which earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Access to Fort Wilkins is complimentary, but it’s important to note that a Recreation Passport is mandatory for vehicle entry into the park. We purchased one online and it was not delivered in time so we just showed the receipt in our emails and they allowed to send.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park Historical overview

The fort’s historical roots trace back to the early 1840s when a copper rush unfolded and prompted a rapid influx of fortune-seekers to the peninsula.

In response to potential disorder and violence concerns, along with the need to facilitate the transportation of vital supplies and copper, the U.S. government undertook the construction of the fort.

The stationed troops had a twofold purpose: assisting in local law enforcement and maintaining harmony between miners and the local Ojibwas.

In the controversial Treaty of La Pointe, the latter had recently relinquished extensive tracts of land, including a significant portion of the Upper Peninsula. Some Ojibwe opposed the treaty believing that they were giving up too much. Naturally there were concerns over potential conflicts with the natives.

So the fort was established in 1844, and the United States Army occupied it, albeit briefly.

That’s because it soon became evident that the fort’s presence was unnecessary, and it saw only a few years of active use.

Several factors contributed to this shift: the copper rush began moving south, the Chippewa had largely accepted the treaty they had previously agreed to, and the miners in the area were predominantly law-abiding.

After the conclusion of the American Civil War, the U.S. Army reoccupied Fort Wilkins from 1867 to 1870.

During this period, the fort accommodated Civil War infantry veterans. But eventually, the War Department decided that maintaining the post was too costly, leading to its closure in August 1870.

In 1848, construction commenced on the Copper Harbor Lighthouse complex, situated at the eastern tip of the landmass commonly referred to as Hays Point.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

Experiencing Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

After making the drive from Houghton, we arrived early in the morning.

There was plenty of parking and from the parking lot it’s just a short walk to the park’s main structures.

This is a dog friendly location so as long as your dog is on a leash and you keep them outside of the interiors of the buildings, you are good to bring your furry friend. Our pup really enjoyed his time and there were several other dog owners out as well.

You’ll first come across a number of cabins, which is where the married enlisted men lived. They are furnished with historical furniture and/or interpretive exhibits, so you’ll be able to dive right into the history of this place.

Take a stroll through these buildings and learn about what daily life was like on this remote fort, where winters were brutal.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

After exploring the cabins, your next stop is the fort itself, offering a splendid view of Lake Fanny Hooe, complete with a duo of canons overlooking the water.

Here, you’ll encounter several structures arranged around a courtyard (called the Parade Grounds), and many of these buildings are open for exploration as well. I’d encourage you to get a map to help you get a sense of what these buildings were designed for. Try to hit them all if you can.

Some buildings have plexiglass panels you can look through while others will allow you to go inside of them and even head upstairs (watch your head).

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

As you start to explore the grounds, you realize that they essentially had a mini city built out here.

In total, they built over 20 structures which included things like a guardhouse, powder magazine, officer’s quarters, barracks, mess halls, a hospital, storehouse, sutler’s store, bakery, blacksmith’s shop, and others.

Nineteen of twenty-four buildings survive, including twelve original structures.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

In each of these buildings, there is a story to be told about what life was like. Some of the rooms are intricately designed with real or recreated artifacts from over 100 years ago.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

It’s pretty interesting to learn about how they performed certain basic duties like baking bread and the immersive recreations really do take you back to a different era.

You can find workers in period outfits that will role-play so feel free to ask them about “their life” on the frontier.

One thing is clear, it did NOT sound like the most ideal place to live.

Many of the soldiers were under paid for their manual labor and some of the conditions and work were substandard on the fort.

For example when it came to the blacksmiths one officer said: “I would not have such persons work for me on a private enterprise if they worked for nothing.”

In the wintertime, when the rivers transformed into icy barriers, the fort found itself isolated from the outside world. Mail deliveries relied on carriers braving the snow-covered terrain on snowshoes. So you can imagine life was pretty rough.

Still, they found ways to pass the time whether that was through literature and hunting or gambling and drinking.

As you enter the hospital, be prepared to cringe at the peculiar medical practices from back in the day. Brace yourself for tales of “bleeding” – a treatment that’ll make you thankful for modern medicine and slightly relieved you weren’t born in that era!

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park hospital

In addition to learning about life on the fort’s history, there’s a lot of exhibits that go into detail about the history of the army during this time. It was interesting to learn about certain facts like that immigrants made up one half of the standing army during this time (1840 to 1870).

After checking out the structures, you can make your way across Fanny Hooe Creek where there are multiple bridges. It’s a really scenic creek and a great place for some photo ops!

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

You can continue down on some trails that will take you throughout the park and to other areas where you’ll find campgrounds and other facilities.

After successfully crossing the creek, our journey led us to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse overlook, a spot we highly recommend checking out.

Constructed in 1848 and later replaced by the current structure in the 1860s, the Copper Harbor Lighthouse was one of the earliest beacons on Lake Superior.

Besides enjoying the lighthouse’s historical charm, this location offers spectacular views of the rugged, picturesque shores. Additionally, you can delve into the fascinating story of the shipwreck of the Brig Astor, which burned for weeks off these shores.

Fort Wilkins Historic State Park

Final word

Fort Wilkins stands out as an intriguing historical site because, unlike many forts where visitors typically immerse themselves in reliving past battles, Fort Wilkins never experienced a single conflict and had a relatively brief period of active service. Nonetheless, it offers a captivating glimpse into the past, providing visitors with the unique opportunity to gain insights into life on the 1800s frontier fort.

16 Things to Do in Los Alamos (+ Tips For Your Visit)

If you have a fascination for the history of the nuclear era, then a visit to Los Alamos is an absolute must. Nestled among stunning mesas and canyons, this town served as a nuclear epicenter where monumental decisions were made, forever shaping the course of human civilization.

Whether you’re planning a quick day trip or plan on hanging around for a few days, Los Alamos offers a compact and captivating experience, with many key sites conveniently located close together.

In this article, I will provide you with everything you need to know about visiting Los Alamos, including valuable tips to ensure you make the most out of your visit.

Prepare to immerse yourself in the rich historical tapestry of this unassuming town and uncover the secrets and stories that define its pivotal role in shaping our nuclear legacy.

Los Alamos sign

What to know about visiting these sites

Many of the key sites mentioned below are conveniently located in close proximity to one another, making it possible to enjoy a historic walk and visit most, if not all, of these sites.

There are lots of public parking lots available, so finding a parking spot should not be an issue. During our visit, we opted to park near Ashley Pond, which proved to be a common starting point for the historical walk.

Be aware that some of these sites are closed on Sundays, and even when they are open, they tend to have limited operating hours with some closing around 3 to 4 PM. Additionally, keep in mind that much of the town shuts down on weekends (including some of the best places to eat), so think twice about visiting on a Sunday.

The last thing to consider is that Los Alamos sits at a high elevation of 7,300 feet. This means that it can be pretty cool in the summer and simply amazing in the fall and spring. But wear extra sunscreen and hats because higher elevation sunlight can be extra harsh on your skin. Also, watch out for signs of altitude sickness if you’re not accustomed to higher elevations.

While some of these sites are private residences, access to them is restricted so be sure to avoid trespassing on private property. Other sites may not be open to the public, but you can still appreciate their significance from a distance.

With all of that out-of-the-way, let’s get into the sites!

Los Alamos statues

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park is a collection of different historical buildings and grounds clustered together in the heart of Los Alamos. You can visit the Manhattan Project National Historical Park visitor center to get your day started and plot out your next moves.

It’s a very compact visitor center but there are some helpful rangers in there and you can always get your National Park Passport stamp!

Make sure you check out the Oppenheimer and Groves sculpture located just a little bit outside of the visitor center.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park visitor center

Bradbury Science Museum

The Bradbury Science Museum is a must-visit in Los Alamos. With over 60 interactive exhibits, it showcases the history and achievements of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and has a few key highlights you don’t want to miss like:

  • 15-minute film on the history of the Manhattan project
  • Trinitite display
  • Photography/film artifacts from the Trinity Site
  • Oppenheimer’s chair (just imagine the decisions made from that seat!)

They also have a lot of exhibits that go well beyond the Manhattan Project and explore a lot of the scientific discoveries and efforts that take place at the laboratory. The best part of this museum is that it’s free!

Tip: If you want to visit the Los Alamos National Laboratory, look into behind the fence tours. These are only offered a few times a year and will take you to a lot of the historical sites that are not typically open to the public. These are sites like: the Pond Cabin, the battleship bunker, and the Slotin Building.

Bradbury Science Museum

Los Alamos Historical Museum

Another museum that should be on your list is the Los Alamos Historical Museum. Built in 1918, this structure holds the distinction of being the oldest continually occupied building in town.

At this museum, you will have the opportunity to delve into the stories of the scientists, engineers, and everyday individuals who played crucial roles in the Manhattan Project.

The exhibits provide a comprehensive narrative, spanning from ancient times to the present day. I personally thought the letter from the US government to the ranch school, notifying them of the government’s intention to take over the school, was interesting. The fact that they allowed them to finish up a school term was pretty considerate considering the dire need to get things set up in Los Alamos!

As you explore the museum’s creaking wooden floors, immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of history — remember this very building was once the preferred lodging spot for General Leslie Groves.

While there is a nominal entry fee of five dollars, the experience is well worth it.

Additionally, for a more in-depth understanding, consider booking a walking tour (reservations recommended).

Los Alamos Historical Museum

Fuller Lodge

Originally built in 1928 as the dining hall for the Los Alamos Ranch School, the Fuller Lodge is a magnificent historic building meticulously crafted using 771 pine logs that were personally selected by architect John Gaw Meem and Ranch School director A.J. Connell. This structure carries a rich history, representing the early days of Los Alamos.

Today, the Fuller Lodge has been transformed into a vibrant cultural center that offers a versatile space for social gatherings, meetings, and housing various offices, including the Fuller Lodge Art Center and the Los Alamos Arts Council.

Visitors have the opportunity to explore this iconic log structure and delve into its heritage, witnessing firsthand the architectural beauty and historical significance it holds.

Fuller Lodge

Ashley Pond Park

One of the main attractions in the city of Los Alamos is Ashley Pond Park. The pond was very fittingly named after the founder of the Los Alamos Ranch School, Ashley Pond Jr. Back in the day, students used the pond for summer and winter sports.

During Project Y, the pond was surrounded by technical area laboratories but these structures were removed by the mid-1960s.

Today, it’s used as a public park and a hub for community events and it’s just a really beautiful place to go for a picnic or stroll. As mentioned above, it’s also a good place to begin your historical walking tour.

Ashley Pond Park

Ice House Memorial

The Ice House Memorial sits on the site of the old Ranch School Ice House where the students once stored blocks of ice cut from Ashley Pond during the freezing winters.

During Project Y, scientists used the icehouse to assemble the nuclear core of “Gadget,” the prototype atomic bomb that was later transported to the Trinity Site. As we had recently explored the Trinity Site open house and saw where the bomb was assembled (the McDonald Ranch House), it was really cool to see this site.

Today, you can check out the Ice House Memorial that contains original stone from the Ranch School Ice House!

Ice House Memorial

Bathtub Row

Bathtub Row is an actual street name with historic homes that were originally built for the Los Alamos Ranch School and then adapted during the Manhattan project to be used by scientists.

Back during the WWII days, these homes were the only ones with bathtubs which is how the street got its name!

Several of the homes are private residences so don’t trespass but from a nearby sidewalk you can let their unique architecture take you back in time.

Bathtub Row

Hans Bethe House

The Hans Bethe House is a unique residence situated on Bathtub Row. This house was once the home of chemist Edwin McMillan and physicist Hans Bethe, both of whom were Nobel Prize laureates.

It’s also a beautiful historic building showcasing a blend of modernist and adobe-style elements with a strong Pueblo Revival influence. (I couldn’t get enough of the architecture here.)

If you have an interest in the Cold War and the significance of Los Alamos during that period, this is a must-visit destination for you since it houses the Harold Agnew Cold War Gallery. Plus, you can view Frederick Reine’s 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics!

Hans Bethe House

Robert Oppenheimer House

Robert Oppenheimer, known to some as the “father of the atomic bomb,” was the director of the Manhattan Project and a visionary scientist. While initially some thought he would be an unlikely candidate for such an important leadership position, in the end he proved to be the perfect man for the job.

You can visit the Robert Oppenheimer House where Oppenheimer, his wife Kitty, daughter Toni, and son Peter lived from 1943 to 1945. It’s said that Oppenheimer was known for throwing parties at his house and that invitations to these parties were in high demand among the scientists working at Project Y.

Built in 1929, the house is nearly 100 years old and it’s said that it’s going to be undergoing renovations soon and will at some point open up to the public as one of the main attractions to visit. I will certainly be back for that!

Robert Oppenheimer House

Stone power house

This structure was built back in 1933 to house the ranch school’s electrical generator. But later on in 1944, it was remodeled and explosives expert George Kistiakowsky lived here.

Designed by architect John Gaw Meem, the building showcases more Pueblo Revival architectural style and stands as a historic remnant of the Ranch School era.

Stone power house

Civilian Women’s Dormitory

Another historic structure in the area that is easy to miss is the Civilian Women’s Dormitory. This building housed non-military staff working for the Manhattan Project, since military personnel were typically accommodated in barracks in the military section of Los Alamos.

These civilian dormitories called “Priority Dorms,” were heavily sought out by civilians because they were so comfortable and came with amenities like maid service, laundry, and room cleaning. For 1940s Los Alamos standards, this was essentially the Ritz Carlton for civilians!

Civilian Women’s Dormitory

WWII cafeteria

On the corner of 15th St. and Nectar Street you can find the old World War II cafeteria. This was once a favorite mess hall for the military members working on the Manhattan Project. And now it serves as the location for the Los Alamos Performing Arts Center.

WWII cafeteria

The pueblo ruins

Another intriguing site to explore is the pueblo ruins. Dating back to approximately 1225 CE, this location once served as the habitation of a Tewa-speaking community who are ancestors of the present-day Pueblo people.

The structures at this site were constructed using blocks of volcanic tuff and were utilized for various purposes, including cooking and sleeping quarters. It’s an interesting sight as you typically don’t see ancient ruins lying around a small-town neighborhood, just feet from a sidewalk.

The Romero Cabin

The Romero Cabin is right next to the pueblo ruins and it gives you a good sense of what the homesteading culture looked like on the Pajarito Plateau in the late 1800s.

This particular cabin was built by the Romero family back in 1913 but was eventually acquired by the US government. It was built on a nearby mesa and relocated to this spot in 1984. It’s a cool little spot to walk inside of and you really get a sense of the cozy quarters that some of the early inhabitants of this region lived in.

Right next-door is the Ranch School fire cache, which stored fire lighting equipment. And across the street from the Romero Cabin, you can see the site of the original main building for the Los Alamos Ranch School.

The Romero Cabin

Main Gate Park

All of the workers during the Manhattan project had to pass through a main security gate to access Los Alamos and there is a re-creation of the gate just outside of the main area of town.

Workers would arrive here after first meeting Dorothy McKibbin, “the gatekeeper of Los Alamos,” who oversaw things like housing, greetings, and issued the all important IDs needed by Project Y workers.  While security measures were stringent at Los Alamos, a few spies managed to infiltrate the area.

If you’re leaving town, the re-created gate is found just past the airport near a landscaping store — you should easily see signs for it.

Main Gate Park

The historic post office

This post office opened in 1948 on the site of the Ranch School Trading Post and is now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It still serves as the main post office for Los Alamos County.

Did you know? During the time of the Manhattan project, all mail sent to Los Alamos was addressed to “P.O. Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico”

Other sites to explore

If you’re in this area then you really owe it to yourself to check out Bandelier National Monument. It’s a gorgeous national monument with ancient cliff dwellings and a valley floor blanketed with tall pine trees.

Before heading to Los Alamos, we started off our day with a hike to the Alcove House which takes you up a couple hundred feet via stone steps and wooden ladders. It’s a great way to get up close to the historical Pueblo ruins and enjoy a good view but if you have a serious fear of heights you may want to pass on the ladders.

Our hotel was located in nearby White Rock which also made it easy for us to explore the beautiful White Rock Overlook which is a great place to be at sunrise or sunset. This entire region is truly a beautiful place to explore!

White Rock Overlook

Final word

Los Alamos is a fun and easy place to explore. All of the main attractions are within walking distance and because of the high elevation, the weather can be amazing as you stroll around outdoors. It’s really interesting to see how some of the old buildings have been preserved and others repurposed. It’s really easy to feel the history of this place, which probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Guide to Acorn Street at Beacon Hill (Boston, MA) [2023]

If you are traveling to Boston and looking for one of the most scenic and historic spots to visit, chances are you thinking about heading to Acorn Street at Beacon Hill. It’s one of the most photographed streets in the country and is renowned for its true cobblestone road.

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know before visiting Acorn Street. I’ll touch on some of the interesting history behind the location and also give you some practical tips to make your visit as easy as possible.

What is Acorn Street in Boston?

Acorn Street is a small street (or more accurately an alleyway) that is famous for its charming cobblestones, gas-lit lamps, red brick sidewalks, and overall historic look and feel. It is arguably the most photographed street in Boston and some even say the entire country.

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Acorn Street flag
Acorn Street with Civil War era flag.

Why is Acorn Street so famous?

In short, Acorn Street is famous because it’s an original cobblestone street which is super rare to find these days in the US. On top of that, the street cobbles its way through charming federal-style row houses complete with antique street lamps and hanging ivy.

The entire setting, while unexpectedly small, is a sight to behold and almost museum-like but make no mistake, the main attraction here is the cobblestone and it’s worth understanding why.

A common pre-industrial paving technique for roadways was to use cobblestones.

These stones were found abundantly throughout New England and more specifically transported by coastal schooners from Maine.

The stones (also called “cobs” or “cobbles”) were set against each other in beds of sand. They retained their natural shapes which is why the cobbled stones are anything but uniform.

To help smooth things over, the lads back in the day would pour sand between the cobs but that could only do so much.

These impossibly bumpy paths — which were found all over Boston — were not very friendly to wheels, horses, or humans. As a result, in the mid-19th century, paving with granite stones (or “setts”) came into use.

Setts are roughly rectangular quarried stones, capable of creating relatively even streets and walkways.

Initially, these stones were large but people realized horses needed to get more traction on slopes so they soon went with smaller bricks.

A lot of people confuse setts for cobblestones but they are very different.

Not only are the two completely different in terms of shape and composition, cobblestone roads would typically be older and rarer to find which is exactly why Acorn Street is so special.

The cobblestone alleyway at Acorn Street was laid in 1823 back when it was home to artisans and general laborers, almost exactly 200 years ago.

Today, taking a stroll among the cobs feels like stepping back in time.

And it’s that historic essence that many tourists are interested in when they visit Acorn Street.

If there is any site that will capture that New England charm people look forward to visiting Boston, it’s going to be Acorn Street.

Acorn Street cobblestone fall
Acorn Street during October.

Is Acorn Street open to the public?

As of 2021 Acorn Street is open to the public but that might be changing some time soon….

Back in the 1980s a group of residents created the Acorn Street Association. Their goal, in a pre-Instagram world, was to preserve the beautiful and historic cobblestones of Acorn Street.

They had no idea that they would actually be preserving something that would end up causing a lot of frustration for the roughly 18 homeowners that make up the association today.

It’s estimated that “2,000 visitors [come] to Acorn Street over the course of a weekend in late September or early October.”

That’s a lot of foot traffic for such a tiny stretch of street.

Interestingly, Acorn Street is a “private way,” which means that it does not receive maintenance or upkeep from the city of Boston.

Instead, it is the owners of the residences who are responsible for the upkeep

Reportedly, the owners could also keep the tourists out if they wanted to. Indeed, there is currently a proposal for putting a security gate on the street.

Recently, residents put up a photography sign (perhaps banning it) but that was ordered to come down.

They also have posted “No Trespassing” signs on the alleyway corners but those apparently don’t deter tourists.

It’s not clear to me that locals have the law behind them to exclude visitors from walking along the private way, though.

As stated in this Boston.com article:

“Residents cannot put up a ‘No Trespassing’ sign at the front of a private way …

The public has the right to pass on it. People think of ‘private’ in the sense of something being exclusive. But it’s really private in that it has not been accepted as a public way, with public standards. It does not mean exclusivity.”

While the legal right to exclude visitors might be in question, it is pretty clear that local residents can at least set their own parking rules.

So I would avoid parking on Acorn Street because you could get your car towed. Driving through it is probably not a good idea either.

Acorn Street car

What’s up with the locals?

I’ve always been fascinated by people who buy famous homes or rent their homes to movie companies and then complain about the tourists that later come around to check out the house.

Oh, you mean you didn’t realize there was a chance thousands of people would be intrigued to come by and stop by your home?

You might be frustrated that some of the locals get annoyed with visitors coming to Acorn Street.

Shouldn’t the locals understand that they have brought this frustrating experience upon themselves by choosing to live in such a well-known location?

While that might be true for newer owners, Acorn Street did not really explode in popularity until fairly recently due to platforms like Instagram.

So it is feasible that some of the homeowners decided to live on Acorn Street before it became a tourist hot-spot. For that reason, I do sympathize with those owners.

Also, not every person who lives on Acorn Street has a problem with tourists.

While they seem to be in the minority, some do embrace the visits and might even be willing to share some of the history with you.

Value of the Acorn Street homes

These Acorn Street residences are high value homes.

Zillow shows 1a Acorn St, a two bedroom and one and a half bath going for $1,333,300 or rent at $3,899/mo and that’s the low end. 4 Acorn St is valued at $3,640,500.

The homes probably average from $2 million to $4 million in value but some of the larger homes adjacent to Acorn Street may go for as much is $7 million.

Where is Acorn Street in Boston?

Acorn Street is located in Boston’s Beacon Hill, an affluent area known for its steep streets which are lined with Federal-style and Victorian brick row houses.

On our visit, we arrived via rental car from Salem after a long day of checking out Hocus Pocus sites and Salem Witch Trial sites.

We chose to drive into the Boston Common and utilize the parking garage.

The parking garage was quite large and we did not run into any issues with parking availability.

Acorn Street was only about a 10 minute walk from the parking garage which wasn’t bad at all, although the terrain is pretty hilly at times.

The entire Beacon Hill area has some interesting architecture.

Cobblestones near Louisburg Square.

If you don’t have a vehicle you can just walk to the area or get dropped off by an Uber and simply explore everything the area has to offer.

Nearby attractions include:

  • Museum of African American History
  • Massachusetts State House
  • Nichols House Museum
Boston common
Boston Common.

How to visit Acorn Street

There are two ways you can visit Acorn Street.

Take a drive-by glimpse

You can choose to simply walk past the alleyway and take a quick photo of the alley from one of the ends.

If you do that, I would probably recommend taking it from the bottom as that angle looks a little bit more interesting but both sides have great views.

Note: If there is a car in the alleyway, your shot could easily be ruined and you may need to go to the other side.

Walk through the alleyway

The other option is to actually walk through the alleyway.

Plenty of visitors do this but this could technically be considered a trespass (not IMO) and there is the chance you could encounter an angry local when doing this so try to be as unnoticeable as possible.

Although the Acorn Street Association website does not appear to be active any longer they previously stated the following:

“Tourists are welcome to click a quick picture at the top or bottom of the street but access is limited and the privacy of the owners needs to be respected… Please remember that people live here; we are happy to share our view but please consider your fellow visitors as well as the residents as you pass by!”

Most likely, based on my experience and research, you won’t get any serious pushback from locals unless you are lingering around for a photo shoot, being too noisy (or nosy), etc.

If you choose to walk on Acorn Street you’ll find that the cobblestone street is extremely rugged.

I was surprised to find that it felt about as rugged as many of the rocky trails we’ve hiked on. If you are wearing high heels, it’s going to be rough.

Because there are private residences that line Acorn Street you definitely want to be considerate about being a nuisance.

What does that mean practically speaking?

  • Keep a reasonable distance from doorways and windows.
  • Don’t climb on stoops and definitely don’t go peeking inside the homes.
  • Avoid being loud and make sure that you don’t leave any trash behind.
  • Don’t linger in one spot for too long.
Acorn Street photography session

When to visit

Acorn Street is not just a popular place for visitors to come and snap Instagram photos.

It’s also where photographers get it poppin’ with engagement and wedding photos. In fact, we encountered a couple getting photographs done during our visit.

There are reports of photographers trying to clear the road of other people so that they can get their shots.

Presumably, the photographers have applied and received a permit for the photography which can cost up to $3,000 for a day.

I’m sure many photographers just hop in and hop out so that they don’t get called out for not having a permit so you might run into some of them. And they might be more pushy since they are trying to get out quickly.

So I think you should try to be mindful of the photography sessions but not to the extent that you’re not able to enjoy or snap a picture of the road yourself.

Between the photographers, fellow tourists, and the locals, the area can get a little bit hectic sometimes.

So if you want to avoid the crowds try to visit in the early morning or late afternoon on a weekday. If you come later in the evening the lamps will be lit which I also think is an ideal time to stroll through.

In terms of the best time of year, fall is a great time but will likely be the busiest (especially on nice days).

Winter might have ice or snow on the cobblestone road which could be magical (and deadly) but spring and summer are probably the next best times behind fall.

If you can catch it right after a rainstorm the colors tend to pop more on the cobblestone and bricks.

Are there other cobblestone roads nearby?

You can also look for cobblestone roads or pathways nearby off Spruce Street, Louisburg Square, and Mount Vernon Street. And although not in Boston, Nantucket is also another destination to head to for cobblestone roads.

If you wanted to find areas with granite setts, Boston City Walks recommends you look around the famous circle commemorating the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall (Congress Street), North Square in the North End (in front of the Paul Revere House), and Marshall Street by the Union Oyster House.

Cobblestone on Spruce Ct with setts.

Acorn Street FAQ

How old is Acorn Street?

Acorn Street was built in 1823 so it will be 200 years old in 2023.

Is Acorn Street private property?

Acorn Street is located on a private way but members of the public still can legally access the street.

Does Acorn Street have real cobblestones?

Yes, Acorn Street has its original cobblestones from 1823 which makes it such a rare and interesting destination.

How long is Acorn Street?

Acorn Street is approximately 200 feet long.

Final word

Acorn Street is a picturesque and historic site to check out. There are not many places that can take you back in time like Acorn Street and show you true cobblestone roads. But at the end of the day it is a small and narrow alleyway full of private homes and so it should be treated with the appropriate level of respect.

Stanley Home Museum Review: An Estes Park Legacy Unveiled

Estes Park is a stunningly beautiful town nestled in the Rocky Mountains, but it wasn’t always the bustling tourist town it is today. Many individuals helped this town rise to where it’s at now over the last century, but one of those people who stands out is F.O. Stanley.

If you find yourself in Estes Park, I highly suggest paying a visit to the Stanley Home Museum. It offers a unique opportunity to delve into the captivating story of this legendary individual and his remarkable contributions to both Estes Park and the surrounding region of Rocky Mountain National Park.

What is the Stanley Home Museum?

The Stanley Home Museum is a new historic house museum in Estes Park, Colorado. Built in 1904 by Freelan Oscar (“F.O.”) Stanley and his wife Flora, it’s a fine example of Colonial Revival architecture and it was used by the Stanley’s as a summer home for decades.

Furnished with period pieces throughout the rooms, the museum takes you back to the early 1900s while allowing you to learn about the remarkable contributions this couple made to the Estes Park area. If you have an interest in history, entrepreneurship, or town development, this tour will be right up your alley.

Stanley Home Museum

Where is the Stanley Home Museum?

The Stanley Home Museum is located at: 415 W Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517.

Be aware that your Google Maps might do something weird when you input this address and will try to take you to the Stanley Hotel. So just know that it is about 1 mile from the Estes Park Visitor Center on Wonderview Ave.

Just look for the Stanley Home Museum sign on the side of the road whenever you are coming into town.

There is free parking available at the museum and they are currently working on upgrading the parking situation.

On occasion, you may need to take a shuttle from the visitor center to the museum, especially if you are visiting during one of the special events when there is traffic heading to the area.

If you want to book tickets for the musuem, you can do that here.

Stanley Home Museum sign

Visiting the Stanley Home Museum

It’s one thing to visit Estes Park and enjoy the beautiful nature trails, exciting wildlife, and amazing places to eat before returning home content and satiated.

But it’s even more fulfilling to take a little bit of time to learn about the history of the region and how it came into existence, especially since it involves such a unique and influential figure as F.O. Stanley.

You’ll find yourself becoming more connected to the region and thus having a more meaningful experience, and the Stanley Home Museum is one of the best places to develop this type of deep appcreciation.

As you get taken from room to room, more of the “Stanley story” will begin to come together.

You’ll realize just how far reaching F.O.’s impact was, be it through the iconic Stanley Hotel, the creation of tourism-enhancing roads, the establishment of a power plant that illuminated the town, or even his role in the formation of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s pretty inspiring to hear about all of the accomplishments. If you have an admiration for history and the entrepreneurial spirit, you’ll undoubtedly depart from this tour with an immense sense of reverence for the remarkable endeavors F.O. tirelessly pursued throughout his lifetime.

Related: Estes Park Museum: A Free Look Back at This Rocky Mountain Town’s Past

Stanley hotel

Our tour started off with watching a short, well-done video that gives a good overview of F.O. Stanley. After watching the intro video, you have a sense of the wide range of talents and passions that F.O. Stanley had, encompassing everything from his expertise in crafting and playing violins to his proficiency in billiards. He was an extremely well-rounded individual.

Related: Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park: Experience A Century of Movie Magic

After watching the video, it was time to venture inside the house with our passionate and knowledgable tour guide who always kept things interesting, sharing insight on even the smallest details.

We started with the beautiful entryway where we encountered original furniture and woodland-themed wallpaper depicting majestic mountains and lush trees, all of which were beautifully preserved thanks to diligent owners over the years.

Stanley Home Museum interior

You’ll also be blown away by the chandelier suspended overhead, casting a radiant glow throughout the space. Additionally, you’ll be impressed by the sight of the grand staircase. With its its intricate details, it embodies the type of elegance and grandeur the Stanley’s brought over from their East Coast home.

Related: Stanley Hotel Shining Tour Review: The Supernatural Birthplace of an Iconic Horror Film

Stanley Home Museum interior

Next, we proceeded to the breathtaking patio, offering awe-inspiring vistas of the majestic Front Range mountains, including the beloved Longs Peak.

Here, we delved into the captivating tale of Stanley’s initial sojourn to Estes Park, driven by his pursuit of improved health following his battle with recurring tuberculosis back east. It seems that the clean air in these mountains did a wonder for him but I’m sure that the views also helped.

Stanley Home Museum mountain view

Then we made our way into the stunning emerald colored living room.

This room is exquisitely decorated with vintage furnishings, showcasing treasures such as a piano, violin, and an antique organ. Commanding attention as the focal point of the room is a custom built fireplace, complete with the enduring inscription of the Stanley’s name on the inside. Be sure to give it a look!

Stanley Home Museum interior living room

Both FO and his wife had a profound passion for the arts and were quite skilled with the type of instruments that lie before you.

Stanley Home Museum interior
Stanley Home Museum interior organ

Then we proceeded to the elegant dining room, where you can put your observational skills to the test by identifying the various utensils gracefully arranged on the table.

As you immerse yourself in the ambiance created by this original table used by the Stanley’s, you’ll discover some of the peculiar traditions of F.O. Stanley. And who knows, you might even possess the ingenuity to unravel one of the enigmatic dinner party riddles presented to you.

Stanley Home Museum dining interior

After experiencing the wonders of the lower level, it was now time for us to ascend the grand staircase in all its splendor.

Stanley Home Museum interior staircase
Stanley Home Museum interior

The first room we entered was the old office of F.O. Stanley. It was in here that we got really familiar with the entrepreneur stories of both F.O. Stanley and his identical twin, F.E. Stanley.

They’re well known for their contributions to the automotive industry, particularly as the founders of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company.

Their steam-powered automobiles gained tremendous popularity, becoming a favorite choice among the masses. These vehicles even had the honor of transporting President William McKinley, marking a historic moment as the first sitting president to travel in an automobile.

Not only did they achieve remarkable feats in terms of speed and uphill challenges like the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race in Colorado, but they also became iconic figures in popular culture, demonstrated by beloved movies like Cars, which featured the character “Stanley, ” a Stanley Steamer.

But perhaps to your surprise, you’ll learn that they didn’t make the big bucks with automobiles — but instead with something else.

Stanley Home Museum interior
Stanley Home Museum interior

After checking out the office, we were granted the opportunity to explore several bedrooms, including that of Mr. Stanley himself.

As you step into these rooms, you’ll hear more about the personal side of these iconic individuals. Narratives unfold about their unwavering support for one another during times of adversity and you really get a sense of the strength of their relationship. It becomes evident that their shared determination and camaraderie played a crucial role in their accomplishments.

Stanley Home Museum bedroom

When you enter Flora’s room, you’ll learn about her role in organizing events and gatherings at the Stanley Hotel, including concerts, dances, and tea parties. Also, you’ll hear how she made significant contributions to the local community and her endeavors in writing poetry and travelogues.

Stanley Home Museum bedroom

You’ll also get a chance to visit the housekeeper’s room. Unlike many house maids of the time, she had a good relationship with FO Stanley, evidenced by her gravestone which was no doubt financed by F.O.

Stanley Home Museum bedroom

Final word

The Stanley Home Museum offers a valuable opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation for the achievements of F.O. and Flora Stanley and, more importantly, to foster a meaningful connection with the region’s history.

When exploring Estes Park, you will likely come across the Stanley name in lots of different contexts, and visiting a museum like this can greatly assist in connecting all the pieces together.

It serves as a significant resource for understanding the legacy of the Stanley family and the broader historical context of the area. I’d highly recommend giving it a visit.

Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park: Experience A Century of Movie Magic

In the scenic town of Estes Park, there is an abundance of history to discover, and among its notable landmarks is the esteemed Historic Park Theatre.

This family-owned establishment holds the distinction of being one of the oldest movie theaters in the entire country, boasting a rich legacy that spans generations.

Stepping inside this iconic venue is not merely a cinematic experience; it is a journey through time. And below, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this experience and help you decide if it’s worth a visit.

What is Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park?

The Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park is one of the oldest operating movie theaters in the country and a renowned cultural landmark nestled in the heart of the town.

It provides a unique cinematic experience, allowing moviegoers to enjoy the magic of the silver screen while surrounded by a historic ambiance. The theater’s cozy seating, vintage architecture, and nostalgic atmosphere create a delightful setting for film lovers of all ages.

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park

Erected in 1913, this cherished picture house has brought joy and entertainment to both residents and tourists for countless years.

There are varying claims regarding its status on cinema’s Mount Rushmore, though.

Some hail it as the oldest continuously running movie theater in the United States, while others add qualifiers like “oldest west of the Mississippi” or “oldest single-screen theater.”

One thing remains indisputable: this venue is a historical icon that holds a distinguished place among the oldest cinematic establishments still thriving in the country.

In 1922, Ralph Gwynn assumed ownership and in 1926, a significant addition was made to the landscape of Estes Park: the landmark tower known as the “Tower of Love.” Gwynn constructed it as a tribute to the love of his life, but it’s not quite as sweet a gesture as you might imagine.

On the day they were meant to unite their lives, the love of Gwynn’s life vanished, leaving him standing alone at the altar, heartbroken and shattered. Determined to express his anguish and perhaps seeking a twisted form of closure, Gwynn built the tower to represent the beautiful love of his life: beautiful on the outside and hollow and empty on the inside. Ouch.

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park exterior tower

Throughout its existence, the theater has endured numerous challenges, including narrowly escaping devastating fires and natural calamities like the destructive Lawn Lake flood of 1982, when a flood sent a soft drink machine
crashing through the theater’s glass doors.

In addition to its resilience, the theater has also embraced progress, undergoing renovations and enhancements to preserve its historic allure while integrating contemporary conveniences and facilities.

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, today it showcases a diverse range of films, including blockbuster hits, independent films, documentaries, and classic movies. It also hosts special events.

Related: The Birch Ruins: Enjoying A Short Hike to a Historic Gem

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park

Where is the Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park?

The Historic Park Theatre is located at 130 Moraine Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517.

Convenient parking options abound near the theater. One possibility is to utilize the free parking area across Elkhorn Ave, located behind Himalayan Curry & Kebob. There is a lot and also street parking there.

Alternatively, you can follow our example and park at the visitor center’s complimentary parking area. From there, you can indulge in a riverside stroll along the famed River Walk as you leisurely make your way towards the theater.

Related: Discovering the Beauty of Lake Estes: A Guide to Scenic Trails and Wildlife Encounters

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park entrance

Experiencing the Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park

The Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park is a theater with historic charm and unique character.

If you are accustomed to the lavish amenities of fully equipped modern theaters, you’ll find that your viewing experience at the Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park offers a departure from those cookie-cutter multiplexes.

You won’t find cushioned armrests with cupholders and leather recliners at this venue. Instead, vintage wooden chairs will be your companions.

The steps of moviegoers going to and from the bathroom give the surround sound a run for its money and a cascade of spilled candy from the back row might skitter beneath you.

If it’s cold outside, you might be stepping into a refrigerator. So dress warm. And when you need to go to the bathroom, be ready for a tight fit.

All of these things don’t sound great at first glance but this unique blend of quirks and imperfections give this theater its character.

It’s a small price to pay to be a part of the tradition of watching movies here which has gone on for over 100 years. My advice: embrace the quirks and immerse yourself in a bygone era of movie magic.

Tip: If you do find the seat to be uncomfortable you can pick up a cushion or two from the back of the theater and use that on your seat.

Because this is a single-house venue, your viewing options will always be limited. On our particular visit, the theater was playing only “The Little Mermaid” for a Sunday 1 PM matinee.

The theater doesn’t do assigned seating so if you want to get a seat that you really love you may want to arrive early. However, in this case the theater was probably only about 20% full so we could snag any seat we wanted.

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park seats

In the lobby, vintage cinematic artifacts evoke the memories of days gone by, reminding individuals like myself (in their mid-30s) that movie theaters were not always sprawling AMC and Cinemark complexes.

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park lobby

Within the movie theater, a compact but well-stocked concession stand awaits, offering a wide array of treats typically found in such establishments, with the exception of hot food.

Familiar snacks like Sour Patch Kids and Buncha Crunch line the shelves, tempting moviegoers to indulge their sweet tooth. An assortment of sodas and slushees are there to quench your thirst.

And, naturally, no cinematic experience would be complete without the quintessential buttered popcorn, available in a range of sizes to satisfy every craving.

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park concession stand

Once settled, we proceeded to our seats, grabbing a couple of cushions along the way. Throughout half of the movie, I utilized the seat cushion, but eventually decided to forgo it in at attempt to fully embrace the genuine vintage viewing experience.

It wasn’t so bad but it’s definitely not the same comfort you would have at a big theater so if you have back issues or get uncomfortable easy, you may be battling some of that.

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park seats

Since you don’t have cupholders one thing you can do is to plop down a seat between you and whoever you’re sitting with. You can then use that to place your snacks and drinks on which makes things a bit more manageable.

As far as what seat is best, I’d recommend sitting pretty close to the front and in the middle. There’s a stage in front of the screen so you might find yourself wanting to sit closer than you typically would in a movie theater.

Around the scheduled start time of the movie, local commercials and advertisements were screened, followed by the previews, much like any conventional movie theater.

Then it was time for the main feature which was the Little Mermaid, a movie with some mostly impressive visuals but some questionable soundtrack additions and character voicing if you ask me. But I’m no movie critic.

Historic Park Theatre: Estes Park screen

Final word

For movie enthusiasts and history buffs alike, I wholeheartedly recommend paying a visit to the Historic Park Theatre. On those rainy days in the mountains, this theater offers a perfect sanctuary. While Estes Park does have a more contemporary cinema within city limits, it’s truly hard to resist being transported a century back in time while enjoying a film in this remarkable venue.

Ninth Street Historic Park Review: Denver’s Outdoor Time Capsule

Ninth Street Historic Park, a hidden gem nestled in Denver, offers a unique opportunity to take a captivating step back in time. As you enter its quarters, you’ll find yourself transported to an era dating back to near the city’s formation.

This park not only allows you to immerse yourself in the past but it’s also an ideal destination to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life with its serene environment. Whether you seek a rich encounter with history or just some solace, Ninth Street Historic Park provides an idyllic setting to visit.

What is Ninth Street Historic Park?

Ninth Street Historic Park is a park that houses an old city block containing 14 homes built between 1873 to 1905. It’s known as the oldest restored residential block in the Denver community.

This area, referred to as Auraria, is located on the western banks of the historic Cherry Creek. A prehistoric meeting place for the Arapaho, it also was here that the Russell brothers from Georgia marked out a townsite in October 1858, just a month prior to the establishment of Denver City.

The name Auraria means “gold region” and was named for the gold mining settlement of Auraria, Georgia.

Initially, Auraria and Denver City were competitors vying for economic growth and dominance in the region. However, the rivalry was short-lived. Recognizing the advantages of a unified and consolidated community, leaders from both settlements agreed to merge in 1860, forming the consolidated City of Denver.

Nevertheless, over the years, Auraria thrived as its own community. Initially inhabited by German and Irish immigrants, it gradually became more diverse with the inclusion of Jewish, Hispanic, and other families.

However, the area eventually transformed into an industrial neighborhood and was severely impacted by the devastating flood of 1965 (which we learned all about while exploring the nearby Confluence Park).

During the reconstruction efforts in the late 1960s, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority planned to clear over 120 acres for campus construction, which included the demolition of the Ninth Street block.

Fortunately, Historic Denver, Inc. spearheaded preservation initiatives and successfully raised nearly $1 million required for restoration. Thanks also to the efforts of over 900 individuals corporations and foundations, the street was saved and transformed into a park, opening in 1977.

Today, this 3-acre park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a historic district by the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission.

Related: How to visit the oldest standing structure in Denver

Ninth Street Historic Park

How to get to Ninth Street Historic Park

Ninth Street Historic Park is located on the Denver Auraria Campus, which is home to three separate institutions: the University of Colorado Denver (UCD), Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), and the Community College of Denver (CCD).

The address is: 906 Curtis Street, Denver, CO 80204 and it’s open 6 AM to 10 PM.

There is no charge for admission so it is 100% free to visit. However, the nearby parking lots may require you to pay.

Ninth Street Historic Park

Visiting Ninth Street Historic Park

We visited on a nice, sun-drenched afternoon and had the entire park to ourselves for the most part.

I was really looking forward to this visit because I had never really seen a park quite like this with rows of time-honored buildings preserved in such a compact area. Adding to the uniqueness, the park is also situated within a large college campus, containing multiple institutions.

Ninth Street Historic Park

I think the best way to explore Ninth Street Historic Park is to just start on one corner and work your way down eventually making a “U” as you return along the path on the other side of the greenway. It’s a very small park so it doesn’t take very long to see everything. And you for sure will not get lost. Or if you do, you may be navigationally challenged beyond help!

Ninth Street Historic Park

The walkways are well shaded by lots of trees making it feel amazing even on a warm day as you step deeper into the annals of history. Only “authoritatively accurate” plants were used for the restored gardens surrounding the homes and the original granite curbing was left alone.

Ninth Street Historic Park

Outside of each building, you’ll find an interpretive panel to help you gain some insight into the structure and some of the unique local design qualities.

You’ll see the date of construction, the original owner, and the type of architectural style. Although some of the houses look similar, there are quite a few different types of architectural styles that you’ll see, which is a large part of the charm of this place.

Ninth Street Historic Park

From classic cottages, exuding timeless charm, to Victorian marvels adorned with exquisite embellishments, the architectural repertoire is impressive. Among them, make sure not to miss “the most perfectly proportioned and tastefully embellished Victorian house in Denver.”

Ninth Street Historic Park

You can also get some background information on the owners as well as interesting tidbits about the old pioneer days. It’s fascinating to think that some people would have started off with such an arduous trek over untamed terrain before ending up in one of these exquisite houses in a peaceful neighborhood.

The homes are very beautiful but what you’re looking at is essentially what the middle class existence looked like back in the late 1800s.

Ninth Street Historic Park

Another thing that makes this place stand out is that these old structures are still in use today.

Some are utilized by the nearby colleges such as the Colorado University Denver English department where they have their main offices.

Other buildings house headquarters for honors programs, marketing and communications, and other student related activities. Interestingly, the old Mercantile building is now a well-rated Mexican restaurant called Los Molinos.

If you want to find out more about the history of the park, you can check out these reading materials.

Ninth Street Historic Park

Final word

The experience of visiting this park offers a remarkable window into the lives of middle-class residents during the late 1800s.

A a tangible connection to the past, the park allows us to transport ourselves back in time, envisioning the daily routines and interactions of the local inhabitants. As you roam through the neighborhood, it’s easy to imagine past residents heading down these paths on the way to hopping on the Denver City Tramway to get to work or to make it to a market or show.

I’m really grateful that they were able to preserve this little nugget of history and I think it’s a great place to visit for those interested in Denver’s early history.

Dinosaur Ridge Review: A Prehistoric Trek with World-Class Tracks [2023]

Dinosaur Ridge is one of the most interesting sites to see when in the Denver area especially if you have an interest in geology or those prehistoric giants that we thankfully don’t have to co-exist with today.

There’s a lot to see at Dinosaur Ridge.

There are several museums, entry points, trails, and various ways to enjoy the experience, so it can be a bit overwhelming when you initially plan your visit to Dinosaur Ridge.

However, below, I’ll outline the different options for exploring this park and provide you with some of my personal recommendations to maximize your visit, drawing from my own experiences.

What is Dinosaur Ridge?

Dinosaur Ridge is a famous geological site located near Morrison, Colorado. It is known for its rich concentration of dinosaur fossils and remarkable dinosaur trackways.

The site gained prominence due to the numerous discoveries made in the late 19th century during the “Bone Wars” period. Many big time discoveries have been made in this area including those of dinosaurs such as Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, and Allosaurus.

At Dinosaur Ridge, you can easily explore a paved trail that showcases exposed layers of rock containing dinosaur footprints, bones, and other fossils.

In addition to the fossil exhibits, Dinosaur Ridge also features interpretive signs and exhibits along the trail, providing educational information about the geological formations, the history of dinosaur discoveries in the area, and the ancient environments in which these dinosaurs once roamed.

Dinosaur Ridge dinosaur track

How do you get to Dinosaur Ridge?

Dinosaur Ridge is located in Morrison, CO, just to the west of Denver.

There are multiple ways that you can start off your experience at Dinosaur Ridge which also means you can arrive at different spots.

For the most part, you’re going to be choosing from starting at the East Ridge or West Ridge.

I recommend starting at the East Ridge (Cretaceous Gate) since this is the main visitor center and the address is: 16831 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465.

However, if there is little to no parking at the East Ridge then consider making your way over to the Dinosaur Ridge Discovery Center at the West Ridge (Jurassic Gate) located at: 17681 W Alameda Pkwy, Golden, CO 80401.

Here are the hours:

Summer & fall (May 1 – October 31)

  • Main Visitor Center: Daily, 9am-5pm
  • Exhibit Hall: Daily, 9am-5pm
  • Discovery Center: Daily, 9am-5pm
  • Guided Bus Tours: Daily, 9:30am-4pm
  • Walking Tours: Saturday & Sunday

Winter–spring (November 1 – April 30)

  • Main Visitor Center: Daily, 9am-4pm
  • Exhibit Hall: Daily, 9am-4pm
  • Discovery Center: Daily, 9am-4pm
  • Guided Bus Tours: Daily, 9:30am-3pm
  • Walking Tours: Saturday & Sunday

Want to support Dinosaur Ridge? Consider donating!

Dinosaur Ridge parking

The different ways to explore Dinosaur Ridge

For the most part, on this dino adventure you will be walking along a paved road (2.5 mile round-trip) and you can start from either end. But there are multiple ways to enjoy your journey at Dinosaur Ridge and I’ll go into those below.

Free walking tour

If you just want to tour the dinosaur foot prints and other sites on your own the good news is that you can do this for free.

Free parking is available at the visitor center and there is also some free parallel parking options right by the trail head. You can then explore the sites at your own pace and rely on the interpretive panels to give you some insight.

You’ll probably be able to make some sense of everything that you’re seeing but it does help to get additional insight through one of the methods below because let’s face it, there’s a lot you’ll be curious about when it comes to the dinosaurs, discoveries, and the millions of years of geology you’ll be exploring.

Dinosaur Ridge trail

Audio guides

Another option is to purchase an audio guide.

These can be purchased at the gift shop for $7, and you will simply enter an access code to activate them. As you encounter approximately a dozen locations, you’ll listen to a brief audio clip that provides background information about the site and aids in your understanding of what you’re observing.

In addition to this, you can also purchase a field guide.

Be on the lookout for special discounts and promotions as we were able to get the $7 audio guide for free!

Shuttle bus

For $20 per adult, you can rely on the shuttle bus to transport you, and a well-informed tour guide will offer continuous commentary about Dinosaur Ridge during the entire trip. If walking is not your preference or if you have any mobility limitations, this could be a great option.

Dinosaur Ridge trail shuttle bus

Special guided tours

On the weekends, they offer special guided tours. You can do a standard guided walking tour for $18 which should take you about two hours.

But one of the coolest things available is the ability to do guided tours with a geologist, which you can do at Dinosaur Ridge Trail or at the nearby Triceratops Trail. This is something we are seriously considering doing on our next visit because I’m sure it’s a great opportunity to learn a ton.

Taking in the exhibits

There’s a small museum with a lot of cool dinosaur related exhibits that you can check out for $4 per adult. You’ll find this at the main visitor center, next-door to the gift shop.

Dinosaur Ridge exhibit

Package deals

You can also purchase package deals that will grant you a bus ride as well as entry into the Morrison Natural History Museum, which features fascinating dinosaur exhibits and interactive paleontology displays. If you want to go visit that museum, it’s about 10 minutes south from the main visitor center.

Hiking at Dinosaur Ridge

Dinosaur Ridge Trail is also a great place to do some moderate hiking. The walk on the paved street around the ridge is a hike in and of itself although pretty easy considering the gentle inclines and declines you’re dealing with. The standard path takes you about 2.5 miles round-trip.

Dinosaur Ridge trail

But if you want to get a little bit more exercise and enjoy better views, you can head up the Dakota Ridge Trail. This trail has multiple trailheads you can start from, but a good option is to take the trailhead that you will encounter along the way on Dinosaur Ridge Trail.

Dakota Ridge Trail head Dinosaur Ridge trail

I’d highly recommend at least going to the Arthur Lakes Overlook which is not that difficult to get to. But you can continue on the Dakota Ridge Trail for more impressive and expansive views.

You’ll have to deal with the sounds of traffic so you never really get a true nature escape but it’s still a fun trail to venture on. Just be aware that this is also a mountain biking trail so be on the lookout!

Dinosaur Ridge trail overlook

If you do choose to do the Dakota Ridge Trail and you track your movement on an app like AllTrails, your path will actually resemble the footprint of a dinosaur, perfectly aligning with the prehistoric allure of the trail.

Dinosaur Ridge trail

Our experience at Dinosaur Ridge

We pulled up to the main visitor center and found a host of live like dinosaur recreations including some beautifully painted ones. The parking lot was almost full and there appeared to be a couple of children groups visiting so it was a pretty lively seen.

By the way, as you would expect this is an awesome destination for kids and they can partake in lots of different activities including the “Seaway Fossil Box,” a replica dig environment that allows kids to sift for items like shark teeth and ammonites and even go home with a fossil that they find!

Dinosaur Ridge visitor center

We first hit up the gift shop to get our audio guide and free admission into the exhibits. I was impressed with all of the items in the gift shop which includes a lot of cool looking fossils and dinosaur bone recreations along with some interesting books. Because we are digital nomads now I don’t really accumulate souvenirs but it was very tempting to do that here!

Dinosaur Ridge gift shop

Upon arriving, if you’re not sure where you want to go or what you want to do, you can stop by the bright Dinosaur Ridge shed and get some guidance there.

Dinosaur Ridge shed

After arriving at the trailhead, we then set out on the Dinosaur Ridge Trail which follows the paved W Alameda Pkwy — a uniquely marked road closed off to the public.

Because there is very little shade and you likely will be exploring it while the sun is out, it’s a really good idea to carry some sunscreen with you and bring some extra water, which we made sure to do.

If you’re just doing the walking tour, you’ll stay on the right side of the road which is marked by pedestrian signage.

The shuttle bus will be driving just to the left of you so make sure you’re always aware of whether or not the bus is coming up on you. Also there will be bike lanes on the left side of the road and you obviously want to stay out of those if you are just on foot.

Dinosaur Ridge trail

One of the initial captivating sites we encountered was Crocodile Creek. It presented us with a glimpse into the past as we observed the tracks of crocodiles that date back a staggering 100 million years.

To enhance the experience, a well-constructed staircase now grants visitors a closer view of these ancient imprints. I was instantly awestruck by the abundance of remarkably preserved tracks, and my imagination couldn’t help but envision witnessing these magnificent crocodiles in their prime.

Make sure that you don’t miss some of the other interesting fossil sites where they discovered ancient critters and plant life. Throughout the trail you’ll find a lot of tiny placards that point out interesting prehistoric features in the rock so make sure you take your time as you progress through Dinosaur Ridge.

Dinosaur Ridge trail crocodile Creek

After passing through Crocodile Creek we made our way over to the ripples, which are remnants of early beaches. These type of remnants, along with other clues like shark teeth and the remains of prehistoric squid, give us enough evidence to determine that the entire region of the country was once covered in ocean which is extremely hard to envision given what the landscape looks like today.

Dinosaur Ridge trail ripples

Then we arrived at the main attraction—the huge wall of dinosaur footprints, rated #1 in the nation by paleontologists.

You’ll know you’re there when you see the big blue exterior.

To me, this is probably one of the coolest geological sites I’ve ever seen, and I’m not sure why it’s not a bigger deal. The fact that there are so many dinosaur footprints easily visible in one location is mind-boggling to me.

You’ll see footprints of all shapes and sizes. Make sure you look through the bottom right for some of the larger and iconic footprints.

Dinosaur Ridge trail dinosaur tracks

In case you find yourself needing to use the restroom, there is a bathroom facility at the primary visitor center and an additional portable toilet situated midway along the trail.

As you approach the bend along the ridge, there’s a pleasant viewpoint you can explore on the opposite side of the road. While the Denver skyline remains hidden behind Green Mountain, you still get a lovely perspective of the open basin landscape below.

Dinosaur Ridge trail overlook

As we ventured further along the trail, we stumbled upon a captivating geological marvel known as a “concretion.”

This intriguing natural phenomenon occurs when mineralization gradually envelops objects like pebbles, shells, sticks, and even bones, resulting in the formation of striking bowling ball-like structures. It’s always such a cool site to see when nature transforms ordinary objects into extraordinary formations.

Dinosaur Ridge trail concretion

Another awe-inspiring sight that captured our attention was the remnants of an ancient volcanic eruption, manifested in the form of a compressed ash layer. This geological phenomenon harkens back to a time over 100 million years ago when a volcano unleashed its fury hundreds of miles southwest from here. One can only imagine the site of the once-raging volcano, ash billowing into the sky, blotting out the sun.

Dinosaur Ridge trail ash layer

Around the turn of the ridge, you’ll encounter the Front Range Overlook and surely be impressed by the panoramic vistas that unfold before you which include a view of the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater.

The rock layers between you and the red rocks represent different ancient landscapes separated by millions of years. Gazing out at them, it feels as if you’re being transported through the annals of Earth’s history. It’s also just incredibly scenic.

Dinosaur Ridge trail Front Range overlook

After admiring the sweeping views, we went across the street to inspect one of the coolest tracks you’ll find which is the raptor track. This rare gem is a true treasure, as it is one of only twelve known raptor track sites in existence worldwide. It’s a relatively recent find, discovered in 2016.

Dinosaur Ridge trail raptor track

Continuing our expedition, it was now time to venture towards the “bulges.” These peculiar formations reveal themselves as sunken depressions in the earth’s surface, left behind by the weighty footfalls of colossal dinosaurs.

It is truly a captivating sight, offering a unique perspective of the hidden wonders concealed beneath the ground’s surface — truly a world frozen in time.

Dinosaur Ridge trail bulge

To conclude our tour, we proceeded towards the dinosaur bones, a segment of the ridge characterized by the presence of ancient Jurassic layers. It is within these very strata that numerous groundbreaking discoveries were initially unveiled. Notably, it was in this vicinity where the Stegosaurus first came to light in 1877, courtesy of Arthur Lakes — an esteemed scientist and historian hailing from Golden, Colorado.

Dinosaur Ridge trail bones

We then decided to turn around and head back to the Dakota Ridge Trailhead. We would end up hiking just under a mile on this trail which took us up about 300 feet in order to admire some great views.

The trail has some good incline to it so it can get your blood pumping pretty quick but it’s not overly strenuous making it a great way to incorporate a little bit of a workout into your visit. You’ll also encounter beautiful juniper and pine trees along the way.

Dakota Ridge Trail view

We then made our way back to our car and drove over to the main visitor center to check out the exhibit. It’s a pretty small museum but it contains a lot of really interesting exhibits.

You’ll witness awe-inspiring replicas of dinosaur bones and footprints, gaining extensive knowledge about the geological history of long-gone eras.

Whether it’s understanding how scientists unraveled the dietary habits of sauropods or examining ancient marine fossils, you’ll emerge from the museum captivated by these ancient creatures and the field of Ichnology.

Dinosaur Ridge  exhibit

Final word

Overall, I definitely think that Dinosaur Ridge is worth visiting.

Even if dinosaurs aren’t your main interest, it’s difficult not to be fascinated by the abundance of dinosaur tracks. As previously mentioned, this location is perhaps the best in the country to witness them.

With the help of interpretive panels, you’ll be able to piece together a lot of the information and learn a ton about the history of the changing landscape and the dinosaurs themselves.

For those really curious about these fossils and what they mean, I suggest looking into one of the guided tours with a geologist so that you can ask all the questions that you’d like.

Denver Mint Review: A Billion Reasons to Visit This Shiny Establishment [2023]

The Denver Mint is a fascinating destination where visitors can witness the production of thousands of freshly minted coins that circulate in the American economy.

As one of the few US Mint facilities offering tours, it provides an opportunity to explore the history and process of coin production firsthand.

With its rich architectural heritage and extensive collection of historic and collectible coins, the Denver Mint offers a unique and memorable experience for coin enthusiasts and curious visitors alike.

However, securing tour tickets may require some planning and patience and it’s not always so easy, so in this article I will tell you everything you need to know in order to have a memorable visit to the Denver Mint.

What is the Denver Mint?

The US Mint is a federal agency responsible for producing and circulating coins in the United States. The Denver Mint is one of several production facilities operated by the US Mint, alongside those in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point. (Denver and Philadelphia are the only sites offering tours.)

The US Mint Denver primarily focuses on the production of circulating coins, including pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half-dollars. It also produces uncirculated collector sets, commemorative coins, and coin dies.

The Denver Mint has a rich history, having been around as an assay office since the Colorado Gold Rush days in the 1860s. But it wasn’t until 1906 that the Denver Mint had its first coin struck, soon minting about 2.1 million gold and silver coins in one year.

Today, it makes billions of coins per year and continues to be an essential component of the US coinage system.

Denver Mint entrance gate

How to tour the Denver Mint

When it comes to visiting the Denver Mint, it’s worth knowing that it differs from a typical museum experience where you simply walk up, enter the building, and immediately immerse yourself in the sights.

You cannot purchase tickets online for your Denver Mint visit and instead you need to snag these in person.

Tour tickets can be obtained from the Tour Information Window located on Cherokee Street, situated between Colfax Avenue and West 14th Avenue. Once you get close to the area, you’ll see a lot of signs pointing you towards the Mint so it’s really hard to miss.

Denver Mint sign

The window opens at 7 a.m. from Monday to Thursday (excluding federal holidays), and it will continue to operate until all tickets have been distributed.

As for the tour schedule, tours are offered Monday through Thursday (excluding observed federal holidays) at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

However, please take note: tour schedules and availability fluctuate daily. There may be occasions when tours are unavailable, and cancellations may occur without prior notice.

Tours will also be closed on the following days:

  • May 29, 2023
  • June 19, 2023
  • July 4, 2023
  • September 4, 2023
  • October 9, 2023
  • November 9, 2023
  • December 25, 2023

Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and are limited to 5 per person. Also, all visitors must be 7 years and older.

Because these are issued on a first come, first serve basis, you really want to arrive there early to secure your tickets.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it gets very busy here and it can become more difficult to secure tickets which is why a lot of people arrive extra early. We were told stories of people essentially camping out on the street!

The busiest days of the week are Monday and Thursday because it’s the first and last day available for the tours so if you’re trying to make it easier on yourself Tuesday and Wednesday may be the best days to go.

If you arrive in the morning during the peak times, there will likely be a line forming outside of the ticket gate and because there are only 20 (sometimes 23) slots available per tour, this means that some people may be turned away.

When it gets really busy, an agent will walk down the line taking down the preferred tour times of each visitor so that they can quickly figure out when they are at capacity.

At some point, they may have to turn people away so it’s good to have a back up plan such as visiting the Colorado State Capitol and doing a tour there (which is also free), strolling around Civic Center Park, or checking out one of the many awesome museums in the area.

By the way, this being a federal building containing billions of dollars, they are pretty strict about what you can bring and not bring in. Here are the items that are prohibited and permitted during your visit to the Denver Mint:

Prohibited Items:

  • Purses, bags, backpacks
  • Food and drink
  • Lighters and matches
  • Weapons including pocket knives
  • Personal protective devices

Permitted Items:

  • Palm-sized wallet that fits in pocket
  • Powered off cameras/ cell phones
  • Umbrellas, walkers, wheelchairs
  • Empty water bottles
  • Medical necessities
Denver Mint ticket window

Where should you park and how much time do you need?

The tour is 45 minutes but you need to arrive there 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour so you will be looking at at least one hour and 15 minutes of total time dedicated to the tour.

You also will likely want to visit the gift shop afterwards so depending on your interest, that could take you another 15 minutes or more to check out.

This means that you probably want to give yourself about 90 minutes of parking at a minimum.

But if you plan on arriving before the Mint opens as we did, you may want to give yourself two hours of parking which is the maximum amount the meters allow on the street.

Anytime we venture to Downtown Denver in this area we simply park at the Cultural Center Complex Garage. We gave ourselves four hours of parking which was plenty of time and that gave us additional time to explore some of the area near Civic Center Park.

Experiencing the Denver Mint

We arrived at 6:30 AM and were the first people in line so we knew we would be guaranteed a spot on the earliest slot beginning at 8 AM.

But this meant that we would have to be waiting around for about 30 minutes which wasn’t bad because the weather was okay but in other cases you may be standing outside in bad weather.

They do allow you to bring umbrellas so you could always bring one of those but make sure to keep an eye on the weather if you plan on arriving early.

There was an attendant outside who was chatting it up with us and other visitors while we waited for the ticket gate to open up. If you have any questions this is a good time to get some clarification but keep in mind your tour guide will have a lot of information to offer later on.

At 7 AM, the gates were opened and we were able to approach the ticket booth where we were issued two separate tickets with our tour information stamped on.

On your tickets, you’ll be reminded of the rules for visiting which are pretty strict so don’t forget about them!

Once we were given our tickets we then had 30 minutes to kill. One thing you can do to pass some time is to stroll around the block.

Be sure to check out the front of the Denver Mint building (facing Colfax) which has a really impressive entrance.

You can’t go in past the gate but if you could enter, you’d be astonished by the beauty of the Tennessee marble window surrounds and red and white marble from Vermont which is used for the walls of the interior.

It also boasts beautiful brass and stained glass chandeliers manufactured from Manhattan along with Vincent Aderente murals.

While you can’t check out the interior, you can still snap a pretty good photo of the exterior from the sidewalk or the steps. It’s hard not to be impressed by the Gothic renaissance architecture as this building was modeled after the Medici Ricciardi Palace in Florence, Italy.

Denver Mint exterior

It’s an interesting building because when viewed from the street it appears to only be two stories high but it’s actually a five story building. Take note of the beautiful stone exterior which is granite sourced from Arkins Quarry, west of Loveland, Colorado.

Denver Mint exterior

You can also just walk around the block to get a sense of how big the Denver Mint facility is.

Throughout the years, additional sections have been added to meet the growing demands for space.

However, like the ups and downs of financial markets, the expansion process hasn’t always followed a seamless trajectory.

Not all of the additions met the aesthetic preferences of the public, leading to discontent among Denver residents. Lots of outcry and debate went down. At one juncture, concerns arose regarding the capacity of the existing facilities, raising serious deliberations about relocating to Littleton, just outside Denver. Of course, this was blasphemy to some locals.

Denver Mint doors

As you walk around and try to piece together the new sections, you might encounter some delivery trucks along the way. It’s best to avoid getting in their way, naturally.

Denver Mint delivery truck

If you want to go beyond the block, you could venture a little bit downtown or just sit around by the tour entrance gate which is just down the sidewalk from where you are issued your ticket. Just don’t venture too far though because they will not admit to you if you are late.

Denver Mint

At 7:30 AM a friendly federal police officer lined us up along the railing and discussed everything we needed to know about the tour.

In essence, they reiterated the prohibited items, such as weapons, bags, food and drink, and because this is Colorado they emphasized that you should avoid bringing items inside that are allowed at the state level but not at the federal level (i.e., marijuana).

Another big thing that you have to do is to completely power off your cell phone.

You can’t have it on anywhere inside of the facility and you’re also not allowed to take photos of any kind. Kind of a bummer especially for a travel blogger like myself but obviously understandable given the potential security issues involved.

Then it was time to go through security which is your typical walk through metal detector experience.

Their metal detectors are programmed to be extra sensitive, so if you have bulky jewelry items that sometimes set off metal detectors at the airport, there is a high chance that those will go off here.

After passing through security, you’ll find a two-level museum where you can explore numerous exhibits that delve into the history of currency worldwide.

It’s pretty interesting to see how civilizations have utilized different materials to exchange goods such as spices, jewels, etc. Who knew you once could pay taxes with peppercorn?

This is also where we received our complementary souvenir — an uncirculated penny and accompanying blank! Pretty cool.

Denver mint penny blank

They also have bathrooms and a water fountain inside here (with water bottle refill station).

Once you get done exploring you can have a seat on one of the benches in the hallway on the second floor which is where the experience is going to begin.

They will play a short introduction video that gives you a good overview of the different US Mint facilities around the country. From the fortified stronghold of Fort Knox, where unimaginable treasures are safeguarded, to the prestigious grounds of West Point, learn about the different areas each location specializes in.

Once you have completed the video, it is time to proceed and enter the facility. Inside, you will have the opportunity to observe the bustling activity of the minting process through expansive windows.

Fun fact: The Denver Mint makes an appearance in the 1993 Sylvester Stallone film “Cliffhanger.”

Since this is a factory, it’s somewhat unpredictable and it’s possible that you won’t see any coins getting minted but it sounds like that would be very rare.

In our case, we saw droves of coins getting minted including jackpots of pennies and dimes.

These were coming out at an incredibly fast pace which makes sense considering that the Denver Mint has a production capacity of more than 50 million coins a day!

How do you know if your coins from the Denver Mint? Look for the “D” as seen below on the quarter.

Quarter showing letter D for Denver mint

As you watch freshly minted coins make their way through the factory conveyor belts en route to counting machines, you can learn about the entire minting process including: blanking, annealing, upsetting, striking, and waffling.

There’s actually a lot of jargon to digest but it’s a fun learning experience and really cool to makes sense of all of the rhythmic machine movements you’re witnessing below you in the factory.

In addition to watching the pressing process, you’ll be able to check out some interesting artifacts that take you through the history of minting like the Millionaire Calculating Machine used at the Denver Mint in the early 1900s to calculate deposits of gold and silver.

After getting down the basics of the minting process, we then moved along into an area focused on quarters.

I was always vaguely aware of the special quarters that were issued over the past couple of decades but our visit to the mint helped me to get a clearer picture and honestly created some interest in collecting these.

We were able to get a good overview of the State Quarters Program (1999 to 2008), America the Beautiful Quarters Program (2010 to 2021), and the new American Women Quarters which will feature five new coins every year through 2025.

This new collection will feature the lives of extraordinary woman throughout the US history like Eleanor Roosevelt and Bessie Coleman, the first African American and first Native American woman licensed pilot.

Viewing a wide range of well-preserved coins up close, their pristine condition gleaming brightly, sparked a true sense of appreciation within me. I definitely gained a deeper understanding of the immense effort and skill required to create these miniature masterpieces.

(The artists create these at the Philadelphia Mint which is just another reason why it would be worth visiting the one on the East Coast.)

Another highlight is being able to see over $2 million in gold bars with your own eyes although don’t expect to get too close. And don’t get any ideas. The Denver Mint has its own intriguing history involving an attempted gold smuggling incident, which you’ll learn all about during the tour.

What’s truly mind-boggling is that the gleaming gold you lay your eyes on is just the mere tip of the colossal gilded iceberg. Prepare to be amazed as your guide reveals the staggering amount of gold that is securely guarded by the Mint. It’s like a Rocky Mountain Gringotts down there.

Gold bars

In between checking out collections of uncirculated coins, unique exhibits, and watching thousands of dollars worth of coins prepare to enter the world’s largest economy, your tour guide will be filling you in on a lot of interesting details about the Mint’s history and will also be fielding questions from guests like a pro.

Our tour guide, Michael, was also very knowledgeable and fun and gave us a whole lot of insight!

After we wrapped up the tour, we decided to check out the gift shop which I would highly recommend.

If you are a coin collector or just getting started in coin collecting, this gift shop is going to have a lot to offer you. They had all types of novelty items and as you would expect an extensive selection of historic coins that would make for terrific gifts.

In addition to all of the collectible items, they also had a lot of the standard souvenir items you’d expect to find.

Final word

The Denver Mint is quite simply a unique experience. it’s not every day that you get to watch thousands of coins get freshly minted on the way to the American economy. While getting your ticket and admission into the Mint is not as easy as a standard tour, it’s worth the extra hassle to experience something so special.

Littleton Museum Review: An Immersive Living History Experience

The outskirts of Denver are teeming with captivating historical sites and museums that collectively weave together the rich pioneer heritage of the city.

Among these noteworthy attractions is the Littleton Museum, featuring a working farm and an array of well-preserved historic structures.

In this article, I will provide you with all the essential info for visiting this museum and offer some valuable tips to ensure an unforgettable experience during your visit.

What is the Littleton Museum?

The Littleton Museum is a museum found in Littleton, Colorado, offering visitors a remarkable journey through time where they can explore original structures from the 1800s.

The museum boasts working farms that authentically depict the lifestyles and activities of different eras, allowing visitors to interact with interpreters and gain insights into the daily lives of pioneers and settlers.

For those looking for something to do indoors, exhibits — both permanent and temporary — showcase the stories, artifacts, and traditions that have shaped Littleton through the decades.

From enlightening historical exhibitions to engaging community events like concerts on the front lawn, the Littleton Museum celebrates the past, present, and future, inviting visitors to explore, learn, and connect with the local heritage.

Littleton Museum cabin

Parking and admission for the Littleton Museum

The Littleton Museum is free to visit for all but consider making a donation whenever you visit or purchasing something from the gift shop in order to help support this free museum.

The museum provides ample parking space right in front, with a convenient and spacious lot that offers free parking.

Tip: Before concluding your visit, be sure to explore the World War II memorial located just across from the parking area.

Littleton Museum

Our experience at the Littleton Museum

We reached the museum promptly as it opened on a splendid Saturday morning. The receptionists warmly greeted us and provided a brief introduction to the museum. And we made sure to grab a map.

Opting to begin with the outdoor living history exhibits, we chose to explore the 1860s display first, as it seemed fitting to follow a chronological order and save the 1890s exhibit for later.

Here, you can find actual structures that existed during the pioneer days which is one of the major draws of the park.

Regrettably, our timing was not ideal when we visited the museum.

Not only were they preparing to launch a new exhibit in just a few weeks, but there was also a shortage of interpretive staff at the park, resulting in the closure of several structures such as the schoolhouse and the blacksmith shop.

The museum does offer a schedule for the farms, which you can obtain upon arrival to be informed about the closures. However, since it’s not available beforehand, you won’t have that information until you arrive.

So my biggest tip for visiting this museum is to call ahead before you visit and verify that everything will be open so that you can have the best experience. At the end of the day, the museum is free so it’s not like it’s that big of a burden to come back if you have the time.

The 1860s farm is the primary location to see a variety of animals. They have a diverse selection, including oxen, pigs, turkeys, lambs, and donkeys among others. With all of these animals easily viewable and hardly shy, it’s no wonder this place is such a hit with kids.

Littleton Museum sheep

It was evident that all the animals were well taken care of and in excellent health, enhancing our visit. There’s nothing more disheartening than encountering animals that appear neglected and deprived of the attention they require.

Littleton Museum pig
Littleton Museum oxen
Littleton Museum geese

Located on the expansive 1860s farm, you’ll come across a charming old log cabin that once belonged to one of the McBroom brothers. A relocated piece of history, it’s beautifully preserved and restored, allowing you to experience firsthand the essence of Colorado’s pioneering spirit.

Littleton Museum cabin

Some of the additional buildings worth exploring are the icehouse, operated by the Beers sisters, where dairy products were chilled using massive 200-pound blocks of ice harvested from a nearby frozen lake. Make sure not to overlook the 1865 School House, a significant historical landmark as Littleton’s first-ever school.

Littleton Museum schoolhouse

If you are able to catch one of the historical interpreters who would likely be wearing clothing from the era, they can provide you with a lot of insight into what life was like in a world devoid of modern conveniences like Wi-Fi.

Find out firsthand the type of chores they had like maintaining their gardens and animals or even learn about special things like how coffee was made in the 1860s.

One of the best things about a living history museum like this is that it’s a prime place to ask all of the questions you can. Many of the interpreters have dedicated years to the farm and possess a wealth of knowledge that they are enthusiastic to share. You can certainly learn a ton. So don’t be shy!

In between the farms there’s an interesting little area called “gazebo island” which is a very relaxing place to get a break from the sun and just to chill out, while enjoying the company of some pretty ducks.

It’s surrounded by beautiful greenish water and it opens up to Ketring Lake. There’s also a fishing dock so you might want to check with the museum about fishing opportunities.

After checking out the water, we made our way to the 1890s farm which houses a farmhouse, garden, windmill, blacksmith shop, and barn.

As mentioned earlier, the blacksmith shop, which is a reconstruction set in 1903, was not open for us. That wasn’t a huge problem because we had just visited the Four Mile House Park, which also has a blacksmith shop that we were able to explore.

Four Mile House is a very similar type of destination and houses the oldest standing structure in the Denver area — a house that was once used for weary pioneers coming in on the Cherokee Trail and Smoky Hill Trail.

Littleton Museum blacksmith

But back to our visit, we made our way inside the barn where an interpreter was actively engaged in the delicate art of cow milking — a captivating sight to behold and something I had never seen with my own eyes before.

The interpreter, armed with a wealth of dairy knowledge, gladly spilled the beans (or rather, milk) about all things related to milking cows and the history behind it. I was intrigued to learn about the diverse breeds of cows and the varying levels of fat content and protein composition they are capable of producing.

Littleton Museum farm house

From there, we ventured into the main building of the museum, where a history exhibit of Littleton awaited us. This exhibit delves into the city’s rich past, shedding light on its connection to the dairy industry and other noteworthy sectors.

It’s also a great place to learn about the complexities involving water rights in the area along with the catastrophic 1965 flood that we had previously learned some about when we visited Confluence Park — one of the main recreation spots in Denver.

Littleton Museum

I really enjoyed learning about the various aspects of Littleton, including the individuals who established the city and its eventual shift from agriculture to industry.

Littleton Museum

After this visit and our previous visit to the Aurora Museum, I really started to feel like I was able to piece together a lot of the the fragments of Denver’s history, spanning all the way back to the 1800s.

I think there is something to be said about checking out these smaller museums as they offer a long-tail method of delving into the history of a region, in a way that the huge museums just can’t quite pull off.

Something else interesting about the Littleton Museum is that they put on concerts on Wednesday evenings in the front lawn. You’ll have a chance to hear a little bit of everything here, spanning from the calming tunes of acoustic folk to the electrifying rhythms of Chicago blues and rock ‘n’ roll.

These concerts take place all through the summer and you can bring your own food for a picnic while other times tantalizing food trucks join the festivities.

You can check out their Facebook page for more details about the concerts but it’s a great opportunity to take part in the Littleton community.

Final word

In conclusion, the Littleton Museum offers a captivating journey through time, allowing visitors to explore original structures from the 1800s and experience the daily lives of pioneers and settlers.

Despite our timing not being ideal due to closures and staff shortage during our visit, the museum still provided a delightful experience with well-cared-for animals and a knowledgeable interpreter.

With its captivating displays, live animals, and entertaining concert evenings, the Littleton Museum delivers a unique and memorable experience.

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