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Tips For Visiting Presidents’ Libraries With Kids

Read more about the presidential libraries at Hyde Park.

I always imagined presidential libraries to be dusty document archives that only a grad student or serious history buff would be interested in. But wow, was I wrong. They are fun, interactive immersive museums that give remarkable attention and detail to one president and his period in history. They’re great for kids and parents alike – and how often an you say that?

Roosevelt’s Hyde Park is part of the National Parks system, but his library, like all others, is run by the National Archives.

What To Expect at Presidential Libraries

Each library is of course full of documents of historic importance. Roosevelt’s letters include at least one from King George. But each has quirky and unique things that reflect the individual president’s personality and style. At Hyde Park you’ll see FDR’s desk cluttered with Knick-Knacks and the car that was designed so he could accelerate and break by hand. At the Reagan Library you can board Air Force One and stand at a modern speech podium. At the Kennedy Museum you can admire some of Jackie’s gowns.

Details like this in between all the historical documents, recordings and maps make the museums interactive and help to mix fun with history for kids.

Given all the libraries offer though, they are probably bigger than you expect. Think of them as a place to spend a good chunk of your day, not just an hour or so.

When To Go

Even with al the novelties there is a lot of history. I think starting at age 7 or 8 kids can get something out of a visit to any of these places. But the more context they have going in, the less explaining you’ll have to do. So I think the ideal age for a visit to a particular library corresponds with when you kids learn about the president and his period of history at school.

How They Compare

Below is a round-up of our MOMtravelchat with folks from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY; the John F Kennedy Library in Boston and the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA.

Feel free to add to the conversation below:


  1. October 1, 2014 at 3:24 pm — Reply

    The LBJ library is about 30 minutes from my home, yet I’ve only taken my kids there once.. It kind of fell off my radar, so this post has reminded me that I it’s time for me to stop by again. I think the JFK library would be so fascinating to explore.

    • October 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm — Reply

      This is why staycations can be fun once in a while. Be a tourist in your own area and get around to things like that.

  2. October 1, 2014 at 11:14 am — Reply

    I LOVE the idea of these mom travel chats, what a great way to get information from tried and true sources! And great post, like you, I always thought these libraries were primarily for historians or grad students;-)

    • October 1, 2014 at 12:40 pm — Reply

      thank you! feel free to join us any time. I love your insights into NYC.

  3. September 26, 2014 at 5:00 pm — Reply

    Have you been to the Lincoln Library in Springfield IL? Its the best of them all IMO, and Ive been to most (havent been to FDRs though)

    • September 29, 2014 at 10:44 pm — Reply

      I have not, but I believe it’s worth a visit.

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