Teddy Roosevelt may be synonymous with the rugged outdoors, but he began life as a city kid. A family outing to the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site just off Union Square provides a fascinating look at the life of the only president born in New York City. Follow your park ranger guide up the townhouse stairs and you’ll enter the genteel world of 19th-century New York, where period furnishings and historical treasures will show your kids a very different way of living.
To keep little ones from getting too restless, you’ll have the modern touch of your guide’s iPad, filled with images that bring T.R.’s story to life. You’ll learn how he overcame his childhood frailty–he suffered from severe nighttime asthma attacks–with a dedication to “The Strenuous Life,” which meant skinny-dipping in the Potomac in wintertime (and being blinded in one eye after being hit too hard by a sparring partner) while serving as president.
The kids will be curious about the archaic medicine ball and equipment near the young T.R.’s terrace gym. Parents will appreciate the tour’s grounding in history, as Roosevelt’s legacy of conservation, trust-busting, and the Panama Canal are explained. You’ll also be inspired as you learn how Roosevelt recovered from losing his wife and his mother on the same day, Valentine’s Day 1884. On the ground floor, an exhibition space provides more inspiration, as kids see the bullet holes in the speech that saved Roosevelt from an assassin’s shot in 1912 (he went on to deliver the speech; the bullet was never removed). Not bad for an sickly kid from New York City.