Tag: Hidden Gems

Looking for Diamonds at an Arkansas State Park

Looking for Diamonds at an Arkansas State Park

How cool is this?

Not only is there a state park in Arkansas that lets the public go looking for diamonds, they also let visitors keep any diamonds they find!

looking for diamonds arkansas

Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro, Arkansas contains over 37 acres of plowed field in which diamonds are found daily. For an admission fee of $10 per adult, you can search through the soil, looking for diamonds to take home.

And yes, you can take them home, because the state park has a “finders, keepers” policy. Whatever you find is yours to keep.

The History

For years, locals wondered about the unusual green dirt two miles south of the small farming community of Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Geologists examined the soil in the late 1800s and found it to be similar to diamond-bearing volcanic material elsewhere in the world.

A local farmer named John Wesley Huddleston purchased land near Murfreesboro which included part of this volcanic material. In August 1906, he discovered the first diamonds on his property. Known as Arkansas’s “Diamond King,” Huddleston soon sold his land to a commercial mining company for $36,000. A diamond rush developed as soon as word of the finds got out. The Conway Hotel in Murfreesboro is said to have turned away more than 10,000 people in just one year who could not be accommodated.

The property changed hands many times after that, ultimately being sold to the state in 1972.  It was developed into the state park at that time.

What should I bring?

Where can diamonds be found within the park? Visitors have found plenty of gems both on top of and in the soil. Tools are not necessary for diamond seeking, and a good way to search is to walk up and down the rows looking for diamonds lying on top of the ground. However, most diamond hunters like to dig in the soil. Therefore, you have the options of bringing your own tools from home, or you may purchase or rent tools here at the park.

How can I tell if it’s really a diamond?

Diamonds found at the Crater are typically smooth and rounded. Their shape resembles a polished stone with smooth sides and rounded edges. The average size of a diamond is about the size of a paper match head, approximately 20-25 points weight. (Points are a measurement of diamond weight. There are 100 points in a carat.) Look for something small. A 1-carat diamond is about the size of a green pea, based on its crystal shape.

Diamonds may feel like they have an oily film on them, and because of this characteristic, they tend to not be very dirty. Diamonds also have a metallic luster like new steel or lead. They will not be clear like glass, but translucent. You can typically see into them but not through them.  The colors of diamonds found at the park are white, brown, and yellow.

looking for diamonds color variations
Diamonds found at the park range in color from white to dark brown.

The park offers free rock and mineral identification at the Diamond Discovery Center. Diamonds are weighed and certified free of charge for the finder.

Has anyone actually found a diamond here?

On average, two diamonds are found at the park every day. Most are small but an 8.66 carat white diamond was found at the park in 2011… not that long ago!  The biggest diamond found to date was 16.37 carats, found in 1975.

Looking for diamonds crater of diamonds state park arkansas
The 8.66 carat “Illusion Diamond” found at the park in 2011

From 1972 to 2016,over 32,000 diamonds have been found in the Crater of Diamonds State Park, and 963 of those have weighed more than one carat.

What else can I do there?

If looking for diamonds doesn’t yield any results, there are other things to do and see in the park. There is a wildlife observation blind that offers great opportunities for photographing wildlife.  In addition, visitors can go fishing for large mouthed bass and/or catfish.  And there are three hiking trails in the park to explore.

The Crater of Diamonds State Park is located at 209 State Park Rd, Murfreesboro, AR 71958. Telephone: 870-285-3113. The park is open daily throughout the year with the exceptions of Thanksgiving Day, last half of the day on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Hours vary by season.

60+ Washington DC Free Attractions

60+ Washington DC Free Attractions

Anyone who has been to Washington DC knows that it can be a pretty expensive city to visit.  Most studies rank it somewhere in the top ten list of the most expensive American cities. For someone who is making a non-DC salary and visiting the nation’s capital, the expense of everything can be daunting.

Fortunately, Washington DC free attractions are plentiful.  Here are over 60 places you can explore without paying for admission, listed by neighborhood:

The National Mall Area

Washington DC Free Attractions

  1. Abraham Lincoln Memorial
  2. World War II Memorial
  3. National Museum of American History
  4. National Air & Space Museum
  5. Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden – modern art
  6. National Museum of African Art
  7. National Museum of Natural History
  8. Smithsonian Castle
  9. Washington Monument – currently closed for elevator upgrade – check before you go
  10. National Archives
  11. National Gallery of Art
  12. Multiverse Light Sculpture between National Gallery East & West Buildings
  13. Freer Gallery – Asian art (closed until October 14, 2017)
  14. Sackler Gallery – Asian art
  15. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
  16. Korean War Veterans Memorial
  17. Vietnam War Veterans Memorial
  18. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  19. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  20. American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial
  21. US Holocaust Memorial Museum – free but requires timed tickets March through August
  22. National Museum of the American Indian
  23. National Museum of African American History & Culture
  24. Albert Einstein Memorial
  25. Bureau of Engraving & Printing (free, but reservations required through September 1)
  26. National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden

 

Brookland Area

Washington DC free attractions in Brookland area

  1. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
  2. Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

 

Capitol Hill

Washington Dc free attractions capitol hill

  1. National Postal Museum
  2. Library of Congress
  3. US Capitol
  4. US Botanic Garden
  5. Folger Shakespeare Library
  6. Historic Congressional Cemetery

 

Capitol Riverfront

Washington DC Free attractions capitol riverfront

  1. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
  2. National Museum of the US Navy
  3. Yards Park

 

Anacostia

Washington DC Free Attractions Anacostia

  1. Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
  2. Anacostia Community Museum

 

Upper Northwest

Washington DC Free Attractions Upper Northwest

  1. National Cathedral

 

Georgetown

Washington DC Free ATtractions Georgetown

  1. C&O Canal Paths
  2. Old Stone House (the oldest home in DC)
  3. Theodore Roosevelt Island
  4. Rock Creek Park

 

Penn Quarter/Chinatown

Washington DC Free Attractions Penn Quarter Chinatown

  1. National Portrait Gallery
  2. Smithsonian American Art Museum
  3. Lunder Conservation Center
  4. Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site
  5. Archives of American Art Gallery

 

Dupont Circle

Washington DC Free Attractions Dupont Circle

  1. Anderson House

 

Woodley Park

Washington DC Free Attractions Woodley Park

  1. National Zoo

 

Foggy Bottom

Washington DC free attractions Foggy Bottom

  1. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts (free tour)
  2. Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center (free performances)

 

Downtown

Washington DC Free Attractions Donwtown

  1. White House Visitor Center
  2. White House tour (request through Congressional representative at least 3 months in advance)
  3. Renwick Gallery – American contemporary art

 

Shaw

Washington DC Free Attractions Shaw

  1. African American Civil War Memorial
  2. African American Civil War Museum

 

H Street NE

Washington DC Free Attractions H Street NE

  1. US National Arboretum
  2. National Bonsai & Penjing Museum – inside National Arboretum

 

Arlington, Virginia (technically not DC, but just across the river)

 

  1. US Air Force Memorial
  2. US Marine Corps Memorial (aka Statue of Iwo Jima)
  3. Arlington House, former home of Robert E Lee
  4. Arlington National Cemetery
  5. National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

 

As you can see, there are plenty of Washington DC free must-see attractions… and a few that are a little off the beaten path.  With so many choices for things to see and do at no expense, Washington DC can be an affordable vacation destination after all.

 

Beachcomber’s Paradise: Metompkin Island, Virginia

Beachcomber’s Paradise: Metompkin Island, Virginia

You Want to Do What?

I’ll be honest, when my husband told me that he wanted me to join him on a long canoe ride the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I was not too excited.  Canoeing is definitely not my kind of fun. Faced with unseasonably warm weather and a promise that I would enjoy it, I begrudgingly agreed.  We began our Saturday morning with a very long drive to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is the third and southernmost part of the Delmarva Peninsula (Del=Delaware, Mar=Maryland, Va=Virginia). The Delmarva Peninsula has the Atlantic Ocean to its east and the Chesapeake Bay to its west.  The Virginia portion of the peninsula is so isolated from the rest of its state that I’ve often wondered if its residents feel like everyone else who calls the state home doesn’t even know they exist.

metompkin island map best seashell beaches
The Eastern Shore of Virginia – everything south of the gray dashed line.

You Want to Go Where?

We drove and drove until we reached an area called Gargatha. There is a public boat ramp at the end of Gargatha Landing Road, and that’s where the water leg of our journey would begin. It would end on Metompkin Island, which I had never heard of before.

metompkin-island-map-zoomed-in best seashell beaches
This map is the zoomed in version of the one above.  In both cases, the red pin marks Metompkin Island – our destination.

So this is fun?

We got the canoe in the water and headed out.  The wind was blowing against us, which is pretty much my worst nightmare when I’m in a canoe.  You have to paddle twice as hard to cover the same distance in the same time.  Basically, for every two strokes, we were only advancing one. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that we kept getting pushed off course.

At one point, we ended up stuck in some tall grasses. We were so tired and frustrated that we decided to just sit there, eat our sandwiches that we had brought with us, and rest for a few minutes. Then it was time to paddle some more. We hadn’t gone much farther when I saw this:

metompkin-island-danger-sign best seashell beaches

This was most definitely not what I wanted to see, especially since there were no details offered. What danger? Dangerous for whom? Hubs assured me that it was for larger boats, not canoes or kayaks. Apparently the water isn’t very deep there.

I could hear a very loud but distant noise and we seemed to be moving toward it. It turned out to be the ocean, which meant we were close! I was so relieved to see the beach ahead of us! We pulled our canoe up on the land and went out to explore.

Surprise! It was worth going after all.

I couldn’t believe how many shells there were – the beach was absolutely littered with them!  It has to be one of the best seashell beaches in the mid-Atlantic, and certainly the best I had ever been on!

best seashell beaches metompkin island virginia

I told Hubs that I hoped I would find a piece of sea glass while we were there. Three steps later, I found myself looking at a spot of cobalt blue off to my left. It was roughly 2 inches square, part of an old glass Milk of Magnesia bottle.

Sadly, I didn’t find any other pieces of sea glass that day.  However, I hit the jackpot when it came to seashells, as you might have guessed. There were clam shells, oyster shells, whelk shells (at least two kinds), periwinkles, scallops, limpet shells, cockle shells, and sea snail shells. I also found some non-shell items like a mermaid’s purse and a whelk egg case.

Fortunately, Hubs thought to bring one of my extra big Thirty-one utility tote bags, because when I got out to the water I was running all over the place and picking up shells like a kid who had (a) never seen a beach and (b) had consumed a week’s worth of sugar. “Oooooohhh, look at this one,”  I’d yell, and hold it out for him to see. I wouldn’t even wait for a reaction before I’d start looking for more.

There were really big shells:

metompkin-island-big-shell best seashell beaches
Women’s size 9 flip flop shown for scale.

And there were tiny little ones:

metompkin-island-tiny-shell best seashell beaches

For some reason, I always said “Awwwww!” whenever I found a tiny one. Like it was a puppy or something.

After just an hour of combing the beach and gathering cool shells, our bag was full – and heavy:

metompkin island bag of shells best seashell beaches

We left it at the canoe and headed off in the opposite direction, determined to not pick up any more shells.

Well, that resolve faded faster than most New Year’s diets! By the time we spent another hour on the beach, all of our pockets were full, we were carrying some in our arms, and we had even filled an empty tortilla chip bag full of shells.  Clearly, it was time to leave. If we had stayed longer, we might not have had room in the canoe for us!

Yeah. It’s a little addictive.

I cleaned, dried, and sorted all of my new shells after I got home. Curious, I decided to count them too. I picked up close to 300 shells! Now, all I have to do is figure out what to do with them.  🙂

Not that a lack of ideas will keep me from going back. It’s at the top of my list for things to do once it gets warm again.

Metompkin Island is part of a 60 mile chain of barrier islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Some of the islands are not public lands, and regulations prohibit certain activities on the public ones. Check before you go.

Hidden Gem: DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum

Hidden Gem: DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum

I am so excited to tell you about this hidden gem! It is one of those rare places about which I simply cannot say enough good things.

I found it almost by accident. When my son was in high school and my daughter was in elementary school, I wanted to come up with some summer activities that would be the perfect combination of fun and educational, but also inexpensive (or preferably, free). There were not many things that fit the bill, but DiscoverSea certainly did.

I headed out with the kids and when we got to Fenwick Island, my GPS had led me straight to a souvenir shop. Not a museum. I had a moment of panic where I thought that the museum had closed and I had been looking at an out of date web page. I pulled into the parking lot of a souvenir shop with the intention of asking the store clerks if they knew of the museum. Imagine my surprise when they told me it was upstairs.

The kids and I went up to the second floor and started look at the informative and nicely displayed exhibits. There were beautiful things, like these necklaces:

DiscoverSea Amethyst Necklace

DiscoverSea Victorian Necklace

There were things that the ocean had tried to claim as its own:

DiscoverSea Crystal Bowl

There were coins, of course:

DiscoverSea British Coins

DiscoverSea Gold Coins

And there was the just plain weird:

DiscoverSea Walrus Bone
The sign reads, “Believe it or Not:  This is a walrus penis bone club called an oosik by the Eskimos.  It is made from the penis bone of a walrus and was made by the Eskimos as a club for killing other walruses.”

What made the visit go from great to spectacular, though, was meeting the owner, Dale Clifton Jr. He engaged both of my kids in conversation about the exhibits and even let them hold some very valuable artifacts. It was easy to see that he has a lot of enthusiasm about maritime history and for the items recovered from shipwrecks.

DiscoverSea Treasure Chest

If you’re anywhere near Fenwick Island, Delaware, go to DiscoverSea. You’ll be glad you did!

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum is located at 708 Coastal Highway in Fenwick Island, Delaware. Telephone 302-539-9366. Hours vary by season; please check website or call for opening and closing times when planning your visit.

The Calmest, Quietest Spot in the Magic Kingdom

The Calmest, Quietest Spot in the Magic Kingdom

I didn’t even realize it was there the first time I went to Disney World. But in the course of planning our second trip, I found a brief mention of it in an online forum: Tom Sawyer Island. The person who commented about it said that it was an oasis of calm in an otherwise frenetic place.

Sign me up! I think even the biggest Disney World fans can find it to be a bit overwhelming at times. How could you not? There’s the heat, the crowds, the parents yelling at their children that they better have a good time, the kids who are crying and screaming because they are overwhelmed and exhausted, etc. Yes, I think an “oasis of calm” is exactly what the doctor ordered. So I made a point to check it out on our trip to the Magic Kingdom.

You get there by log raft from Frontier Land, and the first thing you see is this sign.

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From that point, you’re on your own to explore, reflect, rest… whatever suits you. There are lots of trees and shady spots to escape from the Florida heat. Dusty paths lead you to suspension bridges, caves, and and an old fort.

There is also Harper’s Mill, which has a water wheel.

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Inside the mill, you will see an homage to one of Disney’s earliest animated films, The Old Mill.

In Injun Joe’s Cave, you’ll find a rock formation that looks like a face. There is also a wooden bridge over what appears to be a bottomless pit. Outside the cave you will find a sign from Tom that says:

Do not wurry…Injun Joe aint been seen in thess parts for along time. Hiz cave is deeserted! p.s. if’n you want to maybe you could wurry just a little bit – Tom

Fort Langhorn was originally named Fort Sam Clemens, but was renamed for the release of the Disney movie “Tom and Huck.” It is outfitted with a blacksmith’s shop where guests can see an audio animatronic blacksmith. Above the shop, guests will find cannons, which do not actually fire. If guests want to find something that does shoot, they can climb up the watchtowers located in the fort where they can take up rifles and shoot (blanks) at passing boats.

There is a crooked bridge that leads to Potter’s Mill. Visitors can go inside the mill for a picturesque view of the Rivers of America and Frontier Land.

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Another location on the island, Old Scratch’s Mine, offers guests the chance to explore. After traveling through the dark passage and hearing bats chirp overhead, guests will come upon a large deposit of gems.

I have explored many old mines, but this un is the best ever! strange things happen in here so keep a sharp eye out and don’t stop for nuthin!

The appropriately named Scavenger Fort was designed for children under 12 years of age, and is essentially a playground that appears to be made from ship parts, lumber, and barrels.

For families traveling with younger children, a stop at Tom Sawyer Island is a must!

Tom Sawyer Island is located in Frontier Land at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World.

My Favorite Carousel

My Favorite Carousel

No trip to Ocean City Maryland is complete without a ride on Trimper’s Carousel. Since my childhood days I have loved that merry-go-round. No other carousel can compare, not even the one in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

The carousel is 50 feet in diameter and features more than just horses. There is a tiger, an ostrich, a sea serpent, a frog, a zebra, a tabby cat. And the horses have real hair tails. It also has three chariots, like this one:

carousel 1

Best of all, for little kids who are scared of moving up and down, some of the animals are stationary.

carousel 3

carousel 2

The animals are beautifully painted, and the brass poles gleam like gold.  It has been exceedingly well maintained and never fails to send me on a trip down memory lane.

For those with an interest in the supernatural, they say that the carousel is even haunted. Joanne Trimper, wife of the wife of the owner, also loved the carousel and had a favorite horse — a white horse with a turquoise sash. That horse has been named in her honor “Forever Joanne.”

Employees and visitors have said that they can often smell her perfume when no one else is nearby.

Trimpers Amusements is located on the boardwalk at South First Street near the Ocean City inlet. Telephone:  410-289-8617. Hours are seasonal.

 

My favorite ice cream place

My favorite ice cream place

There isn’t much to do or see in Bridgeville, Delaware. It’s the type of small town that you mainly just go through on your way to someplace else. That’s why it’s funny that their slogan – in bold letters on all of the town signs – is “If you lived here, you’d be home NOW.”

I never gave much thought to what was in Bridgeville. But that all changed about six years ago when I saw a flag by the side of the road that said “Ice Cream.” I may not be an expert in modern art, but I surely am an expert in ice cream.

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I stopped, with four Girl Scouts as my willing accomplices. I told everyone they could get a waffle cone, single scoop.  My bill came to $12.50. For FIVE ice cream waffle cones! And the “single scoop” was not a literal single scoop – it was more like two scoops and then some. I had to ask, “Are you sure?” but they insisted it was correct.

Prices have gone up a little bit since then, and now that word has gotten out, you’ll be hard pressed to find a day when they don’t have a parking lot full of cars. In the summer, when folks are heading to/from the beach, there are times when customers have to park on the side of the road.

Vanderwende’s offers about 25-30 different flavors of ice cream. My favorites are Lemon Chiffon and Salty Pretzel. They also have milkshakes, sundaes, and even a dog sundae that comes with two dog treats in it.

Bonus: you can eat your ice cream outside, right next to a pasture full of dairy cows. That is, if the wind is blowing in a favorable direction. Otherwise, you might want to stay inside.

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Vanderwende Farm Creamery is located at 4003 Seashore Highway (Route 404) in Bridgeville DE. Telephone 302-349-5110. The web site says they are open every day from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, but if you are going in fall/winter it may be best to check before going.

 

 

Trail of the Whispering Giants

Trail of the Whispering Giants

As I’ve explained, I live pretty close to the Atlantic Ocean, lucky girl that I am. I lived slightly farther away when I was growing up, but still close enough to go several times each summer. Every year, we would come over the bridge that spans Assawoman Bay (yes, that really is its name) and enter Ocean City, Maryland. Then we would follow the twists and turns in the road to head to the big inlet parking lot. Almost immediately after our last turn, we would see a huge carving of an Indian head:

rsz_maryland_toth_indian

Not once did I question why it was there, or what significance it had. For me, it was just a part of Ocean City in the same way that the boardwalk was. Then about five years ago, when I was taking my Girl Scouts on a scavenger hunt, I learned more. One of the things we had to find was information about the Indian. We walked over to it and read the plaque.

As it turns out, the “Inlet Indian” has a story – and several cousins.

Between 1972 and 1988, Hungarian-born artist Peter Toth carved a number of Native Americans from large wood logs, at least one for each state in the US.  He called his art project the Trail of the Whispering Giants. All told, there are 74 Whispering Giants ranging from 15 to 40 feet in height, and all resemble natives of the region in which they are located.  The Maryland Whispering Giant is an Assateague Indian, and it is carved from a 100-year-old oak log.

Learning that, coupled with my intense love of list-keeping, sparked a desire in me to see all of the Whispering Giants. So far, in addition to Maryland, I have also seen the Vermont Whispering Giant, Chief Grey Lock in Battery Park, Burlington:

vermont toth indian

and the Delaware Whispering Giant, Chief Little Owl, in Bethany Beach:

delaware toth indian

Many of the sculptures have suffered damage from over three decades of being exposed to the elements. Some, such as the Delaware Giant, have been replaced. Others, like those in Maryland and Vermont, are in desperate need of restoration and repair or they will disappear as well.

Do you know where your state’s Whispering Giant is? You can find a complete list here.

"Vasehenge" in Zanesville, Ohio

"Vasehenge" in Zanesville, Ohio

Right after we crossed the Y-shaped bridge in Zanesville, Ohio, we happened upon a large circle of giant vases that the locals refer to as “Vasehenge.” Each of the vases has been decorated with a different theme. There are additional vases at other locations in the town.

Giant Vases Decorated Ohio Pottery

The vases were inspired by Weller Pottery, which at one time was the largest employer in Zanesville (1500 employees). Many Weller Pottery pieces are highly collectible today. One hundred of the giant vases were decorated by artists and placed at several locations in the community as a fund-raising project in 2005. The unsold vases were placed in this empty lot in a circular formation that calls to mind Stonehenge. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thomas Kincaid Style Painting of Lighthouse on Vase

Vase Weller Pottery Zanesville

Weller Vase Pottery Zanesville Ohio

Zanesville is known for its pottery, and it hosts an annual pottery festival. If pottery is your thing, be sure to check out Vasehenge as well as the Zanesville Museum of Art.

 

Hidden Gem: National Postal Museum – Washington DC

Hidden Gem: National Postal Museum – Washington DC

Not all of the museums that make up the Smithsonian Institute are located on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The National Postal Museum is located across the street from Union Station. It’s not as well-known or visited by as many people as its counterparts on the Mall, but it’s just as interesting.

Now, you may be tempted to think that the National Postal Museum is just for stamp collectors. Not so! There were many really fascinating exhibits about the history of mail, the role of mail in historic events, and how mail is handled around the world.

The building itself is, appropriately enough, located in the historic City Post Office Building, which was constructed in 1914 and served as the Washington, D.C., post office from 1914 through 1986. If you’ve ever been in a post office that old, you know that it is a beautiful place. Far from the generic gray laminate countertop and fluorescent light spaces that they occupy today, post offices in that era were elegant.  They were places of importance. Marble countertops, high ceilings, and shiny brass fixtures that gleamed like gold were prominent features. The National Postal Museum has retained some of that elegance.

One of the first exhibits we saw was about The Inverted Jenny.  It was a 24-cent stamp used in 1918 depicting a plane (the Curtiss JN-4). Unfortunately, during the printing process a mistake was made, and one sheet of 100 stamps was printed with the plane upside down. These stamps are highly sought after by collectors today, and a single one of them can sell in the ball park of $1 million.

Then we saw an envelope that had been postmarked in space.

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The astronauts aboard the Apollo 15 mission postmarked this envelope and the new space stamps on the last day of their mission in 1971. Meanwhile, 238,000 miles away on Earth, post offices around the country issued the stamps for the first time.

We also saw a mailbox that had been located across the street from the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It held up surprisingly well, all things considered.

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We got to see displays of stamps and mail from around the world, then we went into a hands on area. There, visitors could design a stamp on a computer monitor, or sort through bins of the real thing to find a few for a new or existing collection. I loved looking through the stamps. I’m not a collector but I did find that they came in handy as embellishments for my scrapbook pages!

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We learned about Owney, the little dog who served as a mascot for the US Railway Mail Service. He was a stray who wandered into the Albany Post Office and ended up getting adopted by a worker there. Owney usually slept on the mail bags and whenever they were moved, he went with them. He was a faithful guardian of railway mail and the bags it was carried in, and would not allow anyone other than mail clerks to touch the bags.

Owney’s trips grew longer as the Railway Service expanded and became more widely used. The postal workers in Albany became concerned that if anything would happen to Owney on his travels, he could end up lost. They bought a dog collar with a metal tag that read: “Owney, Post Office, Albany, New York”. Other railway mail stations added a tag, and eventually Owney looked like this:

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Bless his heart. In his many years of travel with the postal service, he was given more than 1000 medals and tags to wear! (And in case you are wondering, that really is Owney. They had him stuffed after his death.)

From there we saw the various methods of mail transport used over the years. There was a stagecoach, a tractor trailer, and an airplane.

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There was a great walk through exhibit about the Pony Express, which contained this fascinating bit of trivia:

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Makes griping about the cost of a stamp seem petty, doesn’t it?

The special exhibit when we were there was “Fire & Ice,” which showed how not all of the casualties on the Hindenburg and Titanic disasters were human.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the National Postal Museum and I would highly recommend visiting there the next time you’re in our nation’s capital!

BARGAIN ALERT!  The Postal Museum provides a selection of postcards for free.  You only have to pay for the postage to mail them.

The National Postal Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington, DC 20002.  Telephone 202-633-5555.  Open daily 10:00 am t o 5:30 pm except Christmas Day. Admission is free.  The nearest Metro station is Union Station on the red line.  Use the Massachusetts Avenue exit and as you come up the escalator, the museum will be directly across the street.