Saturday, May 2, 2020

One Tank Trip: Hodgenville and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park

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Kentucky Family Fun On One Fill-up: Hodgenville and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park

My third grader was learning about Presidents and my first grader about the Civil War so when searching for a day trip option that would be fun, a trip to Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park was perfect.   We had glorious late winter weather which made it just lovely.    The park is in Hodgenville, KY so a trip to explore has to be combined with some local spots.

Start Your Day

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park opens daily at 8am so we headed out early.  We arrived at around 10am and went to the visitor's center first.  We were greeted by a friendly park ranger who told us about the Junior Ranger program.  My kids loved it!  They received a really well-done booklet to take around that park and do as they explore and learn.  The activities were age appropriate for elementary-school-age children and engaging.  The ranger told them that if they worked on it while they explored, they can show him later and he would swear them in as official junior rangers!  We browsed through the exhibits at the center and watched the ~10 minute movie about Abraham Lincoln as the area we were about to see.  Everything was very well done.

We went outside and walked through the paths. They had a wonderfully shaded "boardwalk" through the woods that led up to the memorial.  Inside the memorial, there is authentic log cabin.  For a long time, it was thought to be THE log cabin that belonged to Abraham Lincoln's family but the ranger at the memorial told us that just over a decade ago, they discovered it was actually the cabin of a neighboring family and not the Lincoln's.   We made our way down the steps (I won't tell you how many, you'll have to learn that fact and it's significance) to the well. The well served as a clean water source for Lincoln's family.  The kids and I found this fascinating.  They took a sip from a modern fountain nearby and thought they were drinking the well water :)

At the top of the hill, there is a device that recites some of Lincoln's speeches and just beyond the well, there is a short (under a mile) walking path.  We peaked inside of the other log cabins on the property and returned to the visitor's center so the kids could be sworn in - which was really cute.  They had a lovely gift shop and the kids picked up a souvenir.  The bathrooms were very clean and convenient in the visitor's center.  Across the main street leading into this area, there is another picnic area and set of hiking trails.  We did not visit that area but it was very close.

Lunch & Town

After just a 10 minute drive following signs, we found the heart of Hodgenville.  It is a quaint town circle with just enough to walk around and have a great local lunch and dessert.  We walked around for a bit and read the historical markers.  The center was a tribute to Lincoln with a boyhood statue, a Presidential statue and notable speeches engraved in the pavement.  In the town, there were gift shops and a bookstore as well as a museum about Lincoln with a gift shop.  We didn't tour the museum because we were getting hungry but we did learn about Lincoln Days (early October) and I think we'll look at going back to experience it!

We ate at Laha's Red Castle Burgers after seeing it on Trip Advisor. You could smell it when you parked the car - in a good way.  They are known for their onions, not just the burgers.  The place is a shoebox with a counter and just what they need to serve up a few menu items.  We took up the entire place. There were three women working behind the counter zipping around getting it all done.  The burgers were small (perfectly small) and fresh.  The flatten them on the grill and cook them with finely chopped onions and then steam them a bit with the bun - they just melt.  They were fantastic.  The sides were nothing in comparison - next time I would just get 3 of those burgers and a coke and call it a day.  The prices were incredible - 5 of us ate for less than $30. The one thing that did put me off a bit is that I was with my parents who LOVE hole-in-the-wall/mom & pop places like this and my mom was being so friendly and when she asked the owner "do you get a lot of out of town guests?" - the owner said "Yes, probably more than I'd like" and that just took a little bit of the fun out of the experience knowing we sought out this great place and thought it was fantastic only the be directly told that they really don't like visitors?  Hopefully she was just having a bad day............

We saved room for dessert and went to The Sweet Shoppe.  Seriously....I have never seen so much fudge.  Truly.  And, they make it all there and it was really reasonably priced.  3 huge pieces for $15. We got the Oreo, chocolate and a peanut butter/chocolate combo. I really couldn't decide!  And, it was perfect - so so very good.  They also had baked goods, candy and a variety of ice cream options.  My father got a shake and I lost count on how many scoops of ice cream they put in!

End the Day

We drove about another 15 minutes to find Abraham Lincoln's Boyhood Home park.  The park main building is only open April through October so we only explored outside - which was fine.  Also, they have really clean, updated bathroom facilities.  We walked around the log cabin, and went down by Knob Creek where it is said Lincoln almost lost his life as a young boy.  The kids explore, looked at rocks and imagined life 150 years ago right there and what it would have been like.   We stayed there for about an hour before heading back home for the day.  If you are prepared for it, they do have some serious hiking trails at this location.   Also, prepare to check for ticks and dress/spray to prevent taking one home!  Shower when you get home!  Like being out in any forest, you can come home with any number of rashes/bugs like we did.  Nothing that truly caused issued but definitely something we will prepare better to prevent next time!


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