Countless readers remember the white fences and riverside scenery described in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But fewer have visited the quaint two-story house where author Mark Twain spent his childhood, gathering inspiration for his famous stories. The spot, first converted into a museum in 1912, was named one of the Top 100 Places to Take Your Kids by Frommer's. Visitors today continue to peruse one-of-a-kind relics from Twain's life, such as his tobacco pipe, his pocket watch, and his Oxford gown. Seven other historic sites surround Twain's boyhood home, among them a museum gallery with 15 Norman Rockwell paintings that depict imagery from Twain's works and the Huckleberry Finn house, the former home of the character's real-life inspiration, Tom Blankenship.
Less than 90 minutes from St. Louis, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum houses the world’s largest collection of original Lincoln artifacts, complete with the Gettysburg Address. A life-size replica of Lincoln’s log cabin set back in a forest of artificial trees stands 40 feet tall just like the President’s iconic top hat. The museum also houses a re-creation of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre, where the president was assassinated, and the state-of-the-art Union Theater, which projects films such as Lincoln’s Eyes, a broad overview of Lincoln’s personal and political life with a special focus on slavery. In the Ghosts of the Library exhibit, transparent phantoms of Lincoln and his contemporaries drift around powered by Holavision technology. Youngsters, supervised by parents, can try on period dress, pose for photos with life-size cutouts of young Abe, or reenact historic scenes in the Lincoln Home dollhouse located in Mrs. Lincoln’s attic, the hands-on learning center. Before heading home, patrons can browse the museum store—more than 3,500 square feet of artifact replicas and Lincoln-themed merchandise.
The sun and the stars serve as constant companions at Hillcrest Event Center, where a 9-hole golf course, a swimming pool, and camping grounds entertain visitors day and night. A breezy par 30, the executive course caters to all experience levels, inviting beginners to take on its short holes while letting seasoned golfers hone their approach shots. After navigating the water hazards, guests can purposely head to the Olympic-sized swimming pool, which ripples at the center of a 3,000-square-foot sundeck where waiters serve poolside food and drinks. Or, dine at The BBQ Pit, home of the Illinois BBQ Fest.
As the sun sets, the crackling glow of fires peppers the campgrounds, illuminating the nylon sides of tents or canvas hulls of mobile RVs. Tent sites include access to the resort's hot showers and restrooms, while the RV facilities' hookups pump water and electricity into mobile homes so residents can bathe in private and use electric carving knives for whittling. When the sun rises, residents can begin their day with a hike on the resort's nature trails.
Mike Mott and Cole Chaplin share more than just alliterative names; their mutual passion for promoting Iowa's tourism industry led them to found IA Segway together, and they continue to introduce visitors to the cultural richness of the Quad Cities with informative Segway tours. Mike and Cole command a fleet of Segway i2s—the company’s most current model—and teach tour groups how to safely operate the self-balancing steeds before blazing trails to spots of local and historic significance. Tours swing around scenic destinations such as the Figge Art Museum, McClellan Heights, and Credit Island, whose battlefield is strewn with denied credit cards that date back to the War of 1812.
Kicking back with a beer in one hand and a brush in the other, visitors to Brush and Barrel can rest assured that visits will not only be relaxing, but fruitful, too. During classes, instructors provide easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions on completing a colorful composition, with subject matter ranging from urban scenes to serene landscapes. Meanwhile, Thursday afternoon classes designed specifically for kids allow young artists to explore their creativity in a fun, encouraging setting.