If you ask any grade school-aged kid, in Georgia, to name someone famous from our state, chances are they’ll say Jimmy Carter. Plains, Georgia is synonymous with peanut farming and the 39th President of the United States. Families visit this small agricultural city every year to visit the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park with kids. From his boyhood farm to the high school he attended, which is now a museum, Plains is full of unexpected presidential history.
If you’re thinking of making the trek to this middle-Georgia city, with your kids, I’ve got everything you need to know to ensure an educational and fun visit!
The city of Plains, GA is one where you drive by the welcome sign, drive a few miles later, and you see a “thank you for visiting” sign as you’ve already passed through the main road. It’s astonishing that a young boy from Plains had the vision and career fortitude to make his way to Washington D.C.
Then, he loved Plains so much that he decided to come back home and live out his life in the city that he grew up in. That’s unheard of with today’s former Presidents, but Jimmy Carter’s love of Georgia is very apparent.
Visiting the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park isn’t about what political party you associate with or who you voted for in the past. It’s about understanding Jimmy Carter’s roots that helped him carve a path to presidency and go on to do amazing philanthropy work. That’s the biggest take-away that I wanted my kids to learn from their park visit.
If you need a family-friendly lodging choice for visiting the area, check out the Historic Windsor Hotel in nearby Americus. To plan your getaway, check out Visit Americus & Sumter County for more travel tips.
5 Tips For Visiting The Jimmy Carter National Historical Park With Kids
Both the farm and the high school museum are stroller-friendly areas. Plains High School is the main visitor center for the park and is completely air-conditioned. The farm is mostly outdoors areas and the inside buildings are not air-conditioned. Wear comfortable shoes for your visit, bring water and sun protection if you’re visiting during the summer months.
The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is fee free! Don’t worry about paying for parking or admission to visit the park. Download the National Park Service app to use during your visit.
The Junior Ranger Program
If you’re unfamiliar, every National Park participates in the Junior Ranger program. It’s a free educational program, designed for kids over the age of 6, where they can complete a workbook in exchange for a prize that includes a Junior Ranger badge.
I recommend visiting the farm first, and then going to the high school museum. Pick up your Junior Ranger workbook at the Plains High School museum. The kids can recall what they saw on the farm and use the museum to complete the workbook. It’s a great way to incorporate a hands-on educational tool and the kids adore their free souvenir that they earn after completion.
Step Back In Time With Immersive Hands-On Experiences
Kids can walk through the farm and feel like they’ve walked into 1928 – the year that the Carter family moved to the farm, when Jimmy was just four years old. Kids will notice that there’s no electricity, observe the chores that Jimmy did as a boy and be in awe of what a home looked like during that time period.
Park rangers are on hand to answer any questions that kids have, but there’s also stations, on the farm, with audio clips of Jimmy Carter speaking about his childhood. It really paints a picture for kids to understand what life was like on the farm.
Animals At Jimmy Carter National Historical Park
Kids love the animals at Jimmy’s boyhood farm. There are seven farm animals that live on the farm. Visitors can see mules, chickens, cats and goats up close. With the assistance of a park ranger, kids might even get the chance to feed the animals if you visit in the morning. Fun fact: the eggs that the chicken lay, on the farm, are enjoyed by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in their nearby home.
Show Kids The Differences Between School Today vs. Then
One of the most relatable exhibits in the Plains High School Museum is the school room. Kids can sit in vintage school desks, learn what disciplinary action looked like and even see the topics that children studied during the time.
Most notable, the exhibit showcases the differences in opportunities that white children had versus black children during the time that Jimmy attended school. The visual representations that the museum uses to portray the double standard is easy enough for young kids to understand. My kids left with a better understanding of past inequalities in education, thanks to the museum’s school exhibit.
Learn Beyond Jimmy’s Presidential Years
During his presidency, The Carters demonstrated their commitment to social justice and basic human rights. They continued their passion after leaving the White House with some amazing philanthropy work. For example, the Carters have an ongoing partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.– Jimmy Carter
The Plains High School Museum has an exhibit entirely dedicated to what Jimmy did after his time in D.C. Kids leave inspired to go forth and do good work for humanity, just like Jimmy. It’s the last exhibit that you walk through and it gives parents the chance to start with conversation, with young kids, on how they can change the world for better.
So while Plains, Georgia might look like a tiny dot on a map of middle Georgia, it’s full of presidential history and inspiration. I recommend a visit for kids of all ages, but especially for grade-school kids who are learning about Georgia history. You’ll leave with a deeper appreciation of the hard work that Jimmy did to go from a small town to the White House, and return back because of a deep love for the area.
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