Dancing With a Spring In Your Step

Most people like to work in buildings that have a solid floor underneath them.  The fact that this place has a floor with springs is what has kept it around for over a century…

An Important Product to Keep the Economy Afloat

This city had one important product that kept its economy afloat.  That’s because the product, actually floated.  Sound confusing?  We’ll unravel the story…

Sly As A Fox

The Fromm Brothers might be said to have been as “sly as a fox.”  That’s because their business plan led them to develop the silver fox, an animal that brought them fame and fortune…

The Center of the Hemisphere

FJM-HV-Hawaii2014Head west on highway 29 from Wausau, Wisconsin, then turned north, back west, then back north…and then, find yourself next to a sign on the edge of a large farm field.  Many would say you’re in the middle of nowhere.  Not so fast…if you stand here…you’re actually in the middle of everywhere…

A Recognizable Last Name

FJM-HV-Hawaii2014It all began with Albert, Otto, Alfred, Charles, and John. Without their last names, those first names might not mean anything to you. Put together with the phrase “prepare to be amazed,” and you’ll definitely recognize the names…

A Recognizable Railroad Depot

FJM-HV-Hawaii2014There’s a good chance you’ve never been to this railroad depot.  However, if you’re over forty years old, there’s a high likelihood you’ve seen pictures of it, for it was this historic spot that made its way into the logo and ads of a prominent insurance company…

Graffiti on a Ship

FJM-HV-Hawaii2014Most people consider graffiti a visual nuisance, something to be removed and forgotten.  The type of graffiti on this ship was different though.  It actually contained a snapshot of uncertainty for men heading to war.  We go inside a most intriguing exhibit…

Inside the General Nelson M Walker

FJM-HV-Hawaii2014In the 1960s, ships like the General Nelson M Walker took thousands of men across the Pacific to the war in Vietnam.  Many of those ships have now been scrapped, including the Walker.  However, before she was dismantled, an interesting project unfolded…

Seven Great FREE Places to Visit with the Family this Summer

Here are seven places my family and I have discovered in the American Countryside listening area that are not only fun to visit, but also free. The list isn’t ranked, because any of them might be a great fit for you and your family!

275px-Bob_Waldmire_van_at_Route_66_MuseumPontiac, Illinois
Pontiac boasts four free museums: the Route 66 Museum, the Pontiac-Oakland Auto Museum, the International Wall Dog Museum (the billboard art once painted directly onto the sides of buildings and barns), and the Livingston County War Museum. Plus you can see their historic swinging bridges and do a “Looking for Lincoln” self-guiding tour of famous sites associated with our 16th president.
 
 
The Money Museum in Kansas City
925_Grand-former_Federal_Reserve-KCMOThis is one of two such museums (the other in Denver) operated by the Federal Reserve. You can visit the cash vault with millions of dollars inside (you’ll be behind the glass but “in” the vault), plus see many interactive exhibits that are fun for both kids and adults. The Kansas City location is also next to Union Station, which often has a mix of free and paid exhibits for visitors.
 
 
live_bird_at_milford_nature_center1_mediumMilford Nature Center & Fish Hatchery, Junction City, KS
Almost like a zoo–but better. You’ll find a large variety of animals both indoors and outdoors, interactive exhibits, hiking trails along Milford Lake, tours of the fish hatchery, and a great playground to boot. Don’t forget nearby Ft. Riley with the U.S. Cavalry Museum and 1st Infantry Museum, both free of charge.
 
 
TropicalIllinois State Museum, Springfield, IL
The lower level is full of great interactive exhibits for the kids. The main floor has displays on a wide range of state-minded exhibits, and the upper floor is an art gallery. This free museum is also close to many other museums and sites in downtown Springfield, some of which are free as well.
 
 
DisplayMustardMuseumMtHorebWI2007National Mustard Museum, Middleton, WI
Barry Levenson was the assistant attorney general for the state of Wisconsin. Then, in 1986, after his beloved Boston Red Sox lost the World Series, he had a vision to begin collecting mustards. The new found passion for mustard led to the creation of the National Mustard Museum. Meeting Barry is half the fun, and visiting his free museum is quite a treat as well. Middleton is a suburb of Madison, so you’ll find plenty to do in the area.
 
 
State Capitols: Indianapolis, IN and many more
State capitols in almost every state are a great option for a family outing. The one in Indianapolis just happens to be the first one we hit as a family, at the request of our five-year-old son, while I was in town for a convention. Capitol buildings are grand structures that are fun to explore. Many offer free museums somewhere within the building. They also serve as a place to begin to learn about the workings of government. If you go during Spring, Summer, or Fall, the grounds are often well kept and can offer a fun place to relax, or in some cases, even eat a picnic lunch.
 
 
2007-06-04-Gothic_HouseAmerican Gothic House, Eldon, IA
American Gothic by Grant Wood is said to be the second most-recognized painting in the world next to the Mona Lisa. The home in Eldon is the backdrop for that famous painting, which actually used Wood’s sister and his dentist as the models for the picture. The visitor center is free of charge. They even supply various sizes of overalls and dresses for people to put on. You can then take your own picture in front of the famous home and become your own stars in the famous picture (all for free). Or bring your version of clothing and make a Christmas photo or another image you send to friends. The center does a nice job of creating activities for the kids as well.

Trying to Hold Harry Houdini

They threw him in jail cells, put him in straight jackets, handcuffed him underwater, suspended him in the air from cranes, all in an effort to keep him from escaping. It seemed nothing could be done to hold him…..

Harry Houdini

When you mention the name Harry Houdini, you, of course, recall him for his famous card tricks. Probably not. However, if he had not been discovered we would have missed out on the amazing illusions and escapes that he could perform…..

Lindberger Cheese

It’s a story that radio can not do justice. Not because you need to see it, but because you need to smell it.

Taliesin

Ask an American who is the most famous architect in their country’s history and this man’s name is probably at the top of the list. However, many can’t tell you much about the man’s life or home…..

An Architect’s Inspiration

Most people know him as a famous architect. They don’t realize his early years and perhaps the inspiration for his own home, grew from his life on the farm……

A Museum with an Outhouse

This is an intriguing hands-on museum–especially when you consider it has an outhouse standing in the middle of it…..

The Paper Discovery Center

Green Bay may be known for the Packers, but the area is also known for its paper mills. You may be surprised to learn why so many are located here…..

The Hearthstone Mansion

Reports say the lights in this home made it seem like night had turned to day.  In fact, the lights were so bright, people from all across the city came to see the sight.  So exactly how much light did they come to see?

70 Truckloads of Butter a Day

We all know Santa’s elves must work year round to meet toy demand at year’s end, but who knew this family dairy operation would need to ramp up for the holidays too. We’re in Greenwood, WI loading 70 semi trucks a day of this important product…..

Butter from Wisconsin

Folks in the heart of dairy country know that this fourth generation business touches the diets of almost every
American…..

The Portage at Portage

It is still revered as one of the most difficult canal building projects ever undertaken–a project to tame a rapidly descending river by building locks and dams to connect two important waterways. Much of it is still operational today, but there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it…..