Monthly Archives: June 2014

Monday Memories: Riverview Pool’s Part in Omaha’s Zoo


How places come to be is always interesting to me.  Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo definitely has a history!  First there was a park formed by the city of Omaha through condemnation proceedings on area properties in 1894.  Over 100 hilly wooded acres were set aside for what officially became Riverview Park Zoo.  In a short span of only four years, 120 animals were park residents.

Omaha Riverview Pool

In 1916, the park added another feature as the Riverview Pool quickly became a place for refreshment in Omaha.   For about 34 years, the pool was open to patrons.  Then the polio epidemic began and going out in public areas scared families away.  Covered over in 1944, the pool was almost forgotten.

Omaha Riverview Pool Past

Unfortunately the story behind the pool is gradually fading away.  Hopefully they will fix this, so that patrons can continue to appreciate the past life of the pool.

Around 1970 the buried pool was given a new life.  Mentioning to the caretaker his plans for a sea lion pool, the current Henry Doorly Zoo director was startled to learn a bit of history that had been set aside.  Rather than building a new swimming area, the caretaker suggested that he simply unearth the pool that was already there.  This once enjoyed pool became a new home for the sea lions.

Omaha Zoo Sea Lion Pool

The sea lion pool in 2014.

Despite what my children think, I was not around when this happened.  While I do remember loving watching the sea lions frolic and play in the pool when I was a child, this process was before my time.  Exactly how much of the original pool remains is a bit of a mystery, but the pools are definitely on the same site.  I appreciate the fact that they are trying to preserve parts of Omaha history.

A special thank you to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo for their assistance in this story.  All other references that I used can be clicked on above.  To learn more about early Omaha parks, you can read the Nebraska Historical Society’s PDF on the History of Omaha Parks & Rec.  Sometime later this summer I will be doing a longer feature post on  Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.  This zoo is definitely one of our family’s favorite places to visit!

P.S. I have recently been honored to join a Midwest Travel Bloggers Group.  The topic of the month just happened to be zoos.  To learn about more great zoos across the Midwest United States, here is what you need to do.  First, read this excellent post about the Walking Tourist’s Camel Ride at the Kansas City Zoo.  At the bottom, links are included to all of the other June posts about zoos.  This is great way to find out about other wonderful travel bloggers, as well other zoos around this area of the United States!


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Friday Flashback: Nebraska’s Ashfall and the Missed Photo Op

In 1996, I was privileged to go on road trip with two VIP’s.  At least they definitely were to me.  Weeks away from starting my first “grown-up” job teaching fifth graders, I went up and stayed with my grandparents for several days late that summer.

They were the ones who initiated the outing.  At age 84 and 88, they still got around quite well.  Although they did have me drive, they picked the destination.  Ashfall.

Ashfall text

I loved the time we spent there!  The above picture of a picture almost captures the fun adventures that await for anyone that chooses to visit.

Ashfall Scrapbook 2

In fact, I captured the experience in one of my very first scrapbook layouts.  Documenting the landscape and the fossils complete with stickers of the animals that once were found here in Nebraska in ages long ago (probably right before Noah’s great flood), I still enjoy remembering that trip.  I would have enjoyed seeing all of those animals.  Hopefully sometime we will get to take our kids there!

Ashfall Scrapbook 1

My biggest regret: while I managed to document the place, for whatever reason I did not document the people.  No pictures exist of the couple that day that wanted to make a memory with their oldest granddaughter. I can still picture them then – Grandma guiding Grandpa along as he was no longer quite as steady.  Arm-in-arm, they walked the paths, just as they traveled through life.

They are both gone now – on to meet their Savior.  I still miss them.  In fact, tears are streaming down my face as I type this.  I am hopeful that maybe a picture of them together that day still exists in one of my many boxes of snapshots waiting to be documented.  But I am afraid that I will just be forever relying on the pictures in my head, rather than on the page, for the memories that day.

I still take many, many pictures of places.  But today, as we were on yet another adventure, I was intentional about capturing my kids in the moment.  For that is what will really matter someday.


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Ashfall Fossill Beds: Ancient Adventure in Nebraska

As you  maybe guessed from my title yesterday, a guest blogger is being featured on “Odyssey Through Nebraska” today.  This post is by my dear friend, Lynnette, a fellow homeschool mom.  Our kids are very close in age and get along very well.  Almost too well as they have gotten into some mischief on occasion … 🙂  I know you will enjoy reading her recap of one of my favorite Nebraska places.


As a transplant to Nebraska, I get to learn about the state right along with my kids. I learned about Ash Fall Fossil Beds a number of years ago- perhaps at Morrill Hall, and my mother-in-law was very excited about doing this trip with us. (She was a high school science teacher before kids, then a preschool teacher for a number of years. The perfect traveling companion for a trip like this with five kids!) We had been waiting for the kids to be old enough to learn something, as well as for me not to be pregnant or nursing. 🙂  The time had finally come!


Ash Fall Fossil Beds is open from May 1 – October 12 for the 2014 season. Depending on when exactly, the hours are slightly different. We went in October of 2013, and spent a few hours there. It was plenty of time to see and do almost everything. There is an entrance fee, and you also need a valid park permit for your vehicle. If you have a Morrill Hall membership, you can add a “Friends of AshFall” for $10. (A huge benefit of this membership is the passport program which gets you into other science museums around the country for free or reduced costs)

From Lincoln, it is about a three hour drive. An adventurous and ambitious family could make this a day trip. A long day, but doable. We decided to make it a longer adventure, and rented a cabin at Niobrara State Park, so traveled another hour further north. (This is another trip worth doing on it’s own! Beautiful!)

After a long car ride and a beautiful evening at the park, we woke to cold, dreary, gray skies. We found out one reason why this site is closed in winter- no heat in most of the buildings! So bring a sweater if you plan to visit early or late in the season. This site is literally in the middle of fields, so plan your day accordingly by bringing a lunch or eating a big breakfast. It will be a bit of a drive to get to the nearest fast food.


We started our trip by checking in at the Visitor Orientation Center. Here we got a map and an overview of the grounds. There’s a gift shop and a couple of displays. One wall is glassed off and gives you a peek into a lab. During the summer you may be able to observe scientists at work!

We enjoyed the displays of fossils, shark teeth, and bones found in the area. But we spent most of our time at the interactive station where the children could examine samples for themselves.


From there we headed outside. On our short walk to the education building, we stopped by two more displays. The first had fossil samples on tables outside of the Visitor Center, the second was a place to stop and dig for bones.


The building we were headed to (that I can’t remember the name of) is an education building that provides many interactive opportunities for children. We were the only kids there (the benefit of homeschool means we can take a trip like this during a weekday in October). Displays included bones from several animals’ legs, a 3d camel, fossil vs petrified wood, puzzles for preschoolers, and the ever-popular digging experience. Later I learned that these (and the ones you can uncover at Morrill Hall) were made from casts of skeletons found here!


After examining every display, we made our way to the Hubbard Rhino Barn. Lots of education happened here! There are numerous posters and displays and even volunteers on hand. The main fossil bed is protected within the barn, but on the walk there, we passed several exposed and labeled fossils. Within the building, you can look down from above, you can see the areas that have already been excavated, you can see the exploratory trenches that determined the size of the fossil field, and you can view exposed fossils. That volunteer was great at pointing out things of interest for both adults and kids! She helped to make sense of what we were seeing. During the summer, when scientists are working in the field, there are cameras and video screens that give you a closeup view of what they are working on (the downside of being here during a non-peek time means no scientists). The students who come here for internships get the lovely job of sifting the sand looking for smaller fragments. One of the biggest lessons my kids learned is that being a paleontologist is tedious and time consuming. They’ve been excavating this site for decades!


Even a trip to the bathroom is an educational experience! The sidewalks were lined with Nebraska rock samples.


If it had not been so cold and rainy, we would have taken a walk on the beautiful one mile trail.  Perhaps we would have eaten our lunch at the picnic tables.  Although our family could easily have enjoyed a couple more hours here, we did not feel we missed out on anything since we did get to spend 3-4 hours exploring.



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Wordless Wednesday: Where Were My Friends (in Nebraska)?








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Tuesday Travel Tips: Charge It!

Before you start thinking that a credit card company offered me lots of bonus miles to promote them, this column has nothing to do with plastic rectangles.  Nor does this have anything do with the Alamo since that event did not happen in Nebraska.  This little post has everything to do with the item I think I can no longer live without: my cell phone.

Just a decade ago, we did not even have our own cell phone.  I think my husband had one for work.  Then a tornado passed quite close to our Hickman home.  Right before, I had been driving home with our 18 month old from a graduation party.  We decided that being able to stay in touch could be a good thing.  After that, my parents passed down their old flip phone to us.  Of course the fact that I frequently forgot it at home was not especially helpful.

I still remember several falls ago when my husband convinced me that we should upgrade to a smart phone.  Pretty sure he regrets that decision at times now (sorry, Honey!)  Suddenly the world was really at my finger tips – kind of a fun thing for a homeschool mom.  Our Android was definitely an upgrade, but the last few months of ownership, the phone would hardly hold a charge for more than a few hours.  Not exactly the most reliable on even short trips since we could never get the car charger to work.

When my husband switched jobs this spring, he needed to get his own phone.  He convinced me that I needed to upgrade at the same time, so that we could have the exact same phone.  Easier to learn and to help each other.  We walked in to get simple Samsungs and walked out with I-phones.  Now I am really not going back.

I really like my I-phone.  Using my apps on this phone is SO much better.  With my Android, they would seem to stutter.  I am probably on my phone too much now.  Okay – I am on my phone too much.  This is an area I need to moderate – we all have room for growth, right?  Unfortunately I still have a charging issue.  But for a different reason now.  The camera.

Lewis & Clark FORT text

One of my favorite pictures from last week!

Taking pictures with my I-phone is now my preferred method of photography.  Especially when I use the HDR setting.   The pictures are amazing! As you can imagine, once you take 100+ pictures, which is what I can easily do on an outing, the battery no longer seems to like you.

Last week, we went to a small Nebraska town.  Sure enough, by the end of the morning, I had very little battery.  And SO many pictures I still wanted to take.  Thankfully I did have our car charger.  When I went to go pick up our lunch, I was able to charge it a little bit.  But I knew I needed more.  So I just might have left the key in the ignition, letting the phone keep charging while I grabbed the food.  Thank goodness for small towns!  Although I must admit I still prayed that both the car and the phone would still be there when I returned!  Oh the predicaments we get into ..

I think I have finally learned a few key charging lessons!

1) Keep the phone on the car charger the whole way to our destination, even if the phone is already charged.

2) Bring the outlet plug-in charger along.  Maybe they will have a movie we can watch where plug-ins are nearby, so that the phone can charge while we learn!

3) Even though it is bulky. I need to bring my Nikon along when we have several destinations.  With extra batteries of course.  I missed some of the pictures that I wanted to take because the phone was almost out of batteries.  Plus I may actually need to use my phone for its originally intended purposes.  Having a phone full of great pictures is a bit useless if I cannot get a hold of someone because the phone has died.

Charge it

Our charging station.  Simple now.  Probably will be more completed once we add a few kid phones.   But that will be many years from now, much to our kids chagrin!

Probably I should check into getting one of the solar chargers that they have now!  How about you?  How do you charge on?


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Moving Monday: Opening Doorways to Hope in Lincoln

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  Walt Disney (found at Brainy Quote)

Inept.  That is the most accurate word that describes how I am feeling as I am trying to present this unique art display that is currently happening in Lincoln, Nebraska.  This is not the first time that a community wide art project has taken place in our Capital City.  Yet I think that the theme and the concept this time is SO powerful that capturing the essence of what the Doorways to Hope is all about is a bit daunting.  This joint public art project between the The Lincoln-Lancaster County Habitat of Humanity and the Lincoln Hildegard Center for the Arts has artwork displayed all around town.

To my faraway reader friends, I want to convey the power of these sculptures, so that you feel like you are experiencing them in person.  For my nearby Nebraska friends, I want you to feel so inspired after learning about this display that you feel compelled to go and check all of the “Doorways to Hope” out in person.  Above all, I want you to learn more.

Doorways to Hope Logo

This is what I decided to do.  I am going to present pictures of the 5 (out of 21) doors that we have visited so far.  Once we have completed our tour, I will do an additional post featuring the pictures of ALL of the doors.  I will also prepare a document that you can click on that will explain our impressions of each of the doors. I think this will be especially great for my out-of-town readers who cannot make it to see the doors in person.

So far we have been to the four library locations and to the one at the International Quilt Study Center.  Each artist collaborated with different members of the community.  The latter one was created by Julia Noyes of the Noyes Art Gallery.  The door is entitled “The Monarch, The Metamorphosis.”The Monarch, The Metamorphosis

Eisley Library features the youngest participants in their creation, “Helping Hands.”  This is the one that featured the puzzle pieces, demonstrating that we all need to work together and fulfill our part!

Helping Hands

Using a car door as inspiration, the piece “A View from the Outside In and Inside Out” is so creative and might possibility have the most interesting story.  Linda Thomas created this with help from her son, Mark, colloborated with the St. Marks United Methodist Church Transportation for Humanity.  The symbolism and meaning of this artwork are compelling!

A View from the Inside Out and Outside In

My longtime friend, Tamara Kaye, led group of students to create the doors at the other two libraries.  She owns Art Planet in Lincoln – a wonderful place for students of all ages to learn to create.

At the downtown Bennett Martin library, the piece is entitled “To Hope.”  Behind every closed door is the word “hope” in various languages.  My daughter was really excited when she found the “English” door.  Hope just happens to be her middle name!

Doorways of Hope - To Hope (Open Doors)

Located in the middle of Lincoln, Gere Library is hosting Tamara Kaye’s other “Doorway to Hope.”  The symbolism behind “Window of Opportunity” makes this door incredibly memorable.  This is one that you need to examine with a close-up eye to catch all of the meaning that the artists are conveying.

Window of Opportunity

As you can tell, these doors inspire stories of their own.  Which door is your favorite so far?  Have you personally been to any of the “Doorways to Hope” in Lincoln yet?  You can download the map and begin your own adventure today!  If you want to know more, please read this excellent article by Erin Andersen, “Opening, Doors, Opening Hearts,” found in the Lincoln Journal Star.


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Stopping Modern Day Slavery in Nebraska

Writing about the Underground Railroad on this blog last week was so much easier.  Partly because I want to stick my head in the sand and pretend that nothing so horrible as enslaving others is still going on today.  While the shackled may no longer be working the cotton, many are still forced into a lifestyle that is NOT of their own choosing.  This is even true in Nebraska.  (Thanks, Jen, for forcing me to recognize this fact even though I still really want to pretend that it does not exist!)

Sex Trafficking Haunts Nebraska Events

This compelling article from NET tells a story that I do not really want to read.  As the two game elimination series happens at the College World Series tonight, for me it is all about a great baseball game.  For others, it is not.  Big profile events perpetuate crime opportunities.   Even small towns can still hide evil.

File:Springview, Nebraska street signs.JPG

Image from Wikimedia Commons

On my Sacred Line blog this morning, I wrote a bit about my own personal reflections and what I hope to do about this issue.  Being only one small voice, I now want to point out organizations that are working so hard in our community to stop the horrific spread of modern day slavery.  How we can make the biggest impact is by coming alongside others who are already aware of exactly what is going on and are taking the stops to stop the injustice.  (A big thank you to Colleen for letting me know of several more groups that are making a difference!)

I’ve Got a Name This is the best site to learn about how this issue is impacting the Nebraska area.  They have resources to help you get informed and then ways that you can get involved in fighting this issue that does affect us here at home.

Tiny Hands International (Headquartered in Lincoln – they fight slavery here and across the world)

Restore Innocence (While this group may be located in Colorado, they do provide support to victims in Nebraska)

Innocence Lost: Ending Child Prostitution (FBI site) – their office out of Omaha is working directly on cases that may happen in Nebraska

Nebraska University Students Against Modern-Day Slavery (NUSAMS)

“Freedom Change” (A smaller group of students also trying to make a difference)

International Justice Mission on Facebook an international organization that is making a difference around the world!

Love 146 While this organization is based out of Connecticut, I appreciate the work and education that they seem to be providing here and around the world.  The below quote by their founder is the reason why I wrote this uncomfortable blog post and is why this issue is so important!

“Child trafficking isn’t just a cause full of mind-numbing stats.  It’s about somebody’s son or daughter.”  Rob Morris, Love 146 co-founder and president.


Categories: Causes Across Nebraska, Frontier Trails, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Metro, Panhandle, Pioneer Country, Prairie Lakes, Region or City, Sandhills | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Watching other “football” in Nebraska at Lincoln’s Pinnacle Bank Arena

Perhaps my post should really read “futbol,” but no matter how you say the word, it sounds the same, although the two footballs obviously have drastically different meanings.  A new kind of football will be featured in the Capital City tomorrow!  Perhaps you are going futbol crazy watching men down in Brazil kicking a ball around.  Maybe you want to kick your game watching up a notch. Maybe you are wanting to kick off the patriotic 4th of July season a bit early.  Or maybe you just are ready to get out of the house, yet still be inside for the afternoon.  Possibly you have been wanting to make it down to the new Pinnacle Arena in Lincoln but have just not had a good enough reason yet.  Boy, do I have an outing for you!

 File:Soccer ball animated.svg

Image copied from Wikimedia Commons following licensing

Tomorrow late afternoon (following church and meal out, of course, if you are like my family) you can watch the United States versus Portugal at Lincoln’s largest venue for FREE.  Here is the information copied directly from Pinnacle Bank Arena’s website.

If you can’t get to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, don’t despair. Soccer fans of all ages can beat the hot temperatures and watch the U.S.A. national soccer team take on Portugal on Sunday, June 22 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The match is set for 5:00 p.m. with doors opening at 4:00 p.m.

The public is invited to watch the game on the arena video boards. Admission is free with specials available at select concession stands featuring free popcorn, $2 hot dogs, and $3 beers (12 oz).

“Cheer for Team U.S.A. and watch the game in a fun atmosphere with hundreds of your friends,” said Tom Lorenz, Pinnacle Bank Arena general manager.

Fans can enter the arena from the main and north entrances. Free parking will be available in the Pinnacle Bank Arena Premium Garage, Gate 4 and Festival Parking Lot.

Go, USA!

Categories: Concerts and Performances, Family Outings, Lincoln, Metro, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Nebraska Path to Understanding the Underground Railroad

Discovering that the small Mayhew Cabin is not actually in its original location (due to a highway being built) was surprising.  Learning that the current “cave” tunnel was not even in existence during the time of the Underground Railroad was almost disheartening.  I almost wondered why one would even visit this site that is shrouded in mystery as many of the details of its part in the Underground Railroad cannot be confirmed.  Until I heard footsteps …

Mayhew Cabin Cave

Underneath the original Mayhew Cabin through the cellar door you can climb into a cave.  One that has been reinforced for safety and connected with a long winding tunnel to allow you to exit.  I was sitting there waiting for my children to come back.  My oldest had come down and offered to find the others.  He started by looking through the cabin.  Once I heard him walking around above me, the need for this place made me sense.  While I knew who was above me, I was instantly filled with an unexplainable fear.

Mayhew Cabin looking up from the cave

The vent may have not been there originally, but it did add to the realism of the experience.

My imagination took me to a place in time over 150 years previously.  Being down in the cave, I suddenly realized what being a fugitive must have felt like.  To hear the heavy thud of footfalls above that might mean discovery.  Was the person friend or foe?  One providing safety or capture that would lead to death or an even worse fate?  Having to hide to preserve your very life and the life of your children must have been incredibly frightening.

My children seemed to “get” slavery for the first time.  They pretended to hide from me the slave owner.  As we were the only visitors at the time, this worked, and thankfully they let me in on this game eventually.  This cabin, cave and tunnel helped history come to life for my family!

Mayhew Cabin children in tunnel

As you walk along through the damp and drafty tunnel, rooms have been chiseled out giving you an additional feel for what a fugitive would have experienced.

Mayhew Cabin tunnel room

Beside the tunnel, the interior of the museum also gave us glimpses of slavery life.  Including a black curtain closet with a plank ceiling where you could pretend to hide from the slave owners.   While I was talking to the museum docent, my boys managed to silently hide there before I finally found them!  They also have a wagon showing a “slave” escaping in a wagon.

Mayhew Cabin slave wagon

Can you see the “person” hiding?

They also have shackles that you can try on to experience the misery of not being free.  Do you like my son’s attempt at a mournful expression?

Mayhew Cabin Slave

While perhaps this is not the largest or most polished of the recreated Underground Railroad Stations, at the Mayhew Cabin and John Brown’s Cave they do an excellent job at helping to bring history to life, especially for children.  In addition, you can watch a short video, filmed by a Mayhew descendant, about the history of the cabin.

Mayhew Cabin movie

To learn more or to schedule a tour, please visit the Mayhew Cabin website.  Note: this is one of the many fine places to visit in Nebraska City.  To learn more about other Underground Railroad significant locations across the United States, please visit the Network to Freedom website.

Categories: Family Outings, Nebraska History, People Behind the Place, Pioneer Country, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Underground Railroad in Nebraska

Upon examining slavery in Nebraska, one would naturally conclude that this issue did not have an impact.  After all, the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves happened on January 1, 1863.  The Civil War officially ended in April 1865.  Nebraska became a state March 1, 1867.  With statehood not even happening until after the slavery issue had been resolved (at least on paper although possibly not in practice), what difference did slavery really make in the 37th state?  More than one would realize.  Especially when you factor in that Nebraska had been an official territory since 1854.

Dividing the land was directly determined by slavery arguments.  Hoping for possible political  and personal gain and to end the perpetual debating, Senator Stephen Douglas proposed that territories being annexed into the United States should determine their slave status.  Thus the Kansas-Nebraska Act was formed.  Pro-slavery citizens and Abolitionists  descended upon the territories, resulting in  heated arguments and a new nickname, “Bloody Kansas.”  These new sections of land were cause for debate for everything from railroad routes (free soil or slave land) to immigration of citizens from Eastern states.  This so-called compromise had further pushed a divided nation toward war.  You can read more about all of this on the excellent site, Civil War on the Western Front, where I did compile much of this information that I could no longer personally remember from my own study of U.S. History and from my tour that is mentioned below!

How does all of this specifically affect Nebraska?  Well, being further south, most Kansas adapted the bent toward slavery.  Except for on the fringes, much of Nebraska was against slavery.  A few of these Nebraska territory settlers had brought along slaves.  Of the 15 slaves found in Nebraska during the 1860 census, ten of them lived in Nebraska City.  To be involved with fighting against slavery, one had to be a bit discreet.  After all, Southern sympathizers were obviously a part of the community.  Why was far off Nebraska Territory even a part of this issue?  Fifteen slaves is not exactly very many.  Yet the Underground Railroad did come this far West because of the neighboring state of Missouri.

Mayhew Cabin Lane Trail map

In 1820, the state of Missouri had entered the Union as a slave state, with Maine being free.  Due to their Southern and Northern locations. this made sense.  When thinking about the need for slaves, often only cotton states come to mind.  Yet at the time of the 1854 Compromise, Missouri had had 24 years of welcoming slave owners.

The Nebraska Territory shared a part of its Southeast border with Missouri.  An escaping slave could follow the Missouri River up past the Nebraska towns of Little Nemaha and Camp Creek.  Once arriving at Nebraska City, the fugitive could cross into the free state of Iowa, then gradually head to Chicago and blend in there a bit easier before fleeing to Canada.  Exactly how many slaves used this route is impossible to determine.  Observing the map, one can see that this escape route must have been used by groups of Underground Railroad passengers.

While the math may initially not add up, slavery did affect Nebraska.  I am grateful to Bill and to the Mayhew Cabin for enlightening me on this issue.  If you click on the link, you can learn more about this location’s part in the fight against slavery.  Even better, please go visit the Mayhew Cabin in Nebraska City in person.  The admission cost is low, and the self-guided tour will impact even little visitors.  All four of my children LOVED exploring the site!  In fact, I plan on writing my next post about the impact this visit had on our own personal understanding of the Underground Railroad.



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