Here’s a copy of the spreadsheet I kept to reference about our booklets. Feel free to print and use.

We don’t have a set history curriculum in our homeschool. Instead we experience history through biographies, historical fiction, and National Park Junior Ranger Badges.

Federal Hall has a video that says if you visit all Manhattan area National Parks (about 12), you have a wonderful basis of the history of New York City. The NPS website boasts that the parks cover about 400 years’ worth.

So for Spring Break, that’s the history we covered. Some booklets were unavailable online, and therefore it was difficult to imagine how long it would take at each sight. As a planner, this was a bit frustrating for me; so I offer this information in case there are other nervous planners out there.

In addition to individual park Junior Ranger programs, there is also a Manhattan Parks booklet available online. You can only acquire the badge at Hamilton Grange, though we asked at all the parks.

Unless otherwise stated, we print the booklets in color or black and white, complete as much as possible at home, and turn them in at the site when we visit. This keeps our visit at the site focused on the experience.

Statue of Liberty

The Junior Ranger booklet is one page front and back. It was easy to complete, and gave options for drawing for children who aren’t literate yet. The booklet is only available in the museum. There are benches near the old torch where you can sit to complete your work. It gives an opportunity to draw the replica of the face of the statue as well as a location to compare the current torch with the original that is on display.

Ellis Island

This Junior Ranger Booklet is only available at the Ranger desk when you arrive on the island. It feels long, but is mostly simple. For example, on one page, the kids are asked three questions an immigrant would have been asked. “Do you have a job? Do you have money? Can you read and write in your home language?”

There is a table in the Great Hall where you choose a family and what state you would have assigned them to based on the facts listed. This can be done quicker if your children work together. There are a number of benches in the hall where the children can sit and work on their booklets. The hardest questions required walking through some displays that require reading. However, the rangers were very helpful when we didn’t know the answers.

As far as planning goes, if there’s any place we needed more time, it was Ellis Island. If our kids were old enough to join, my dad and I probably would have done the Hard Hat Tour. However, there is a great display of things that were left when the buildings closed and what they looked like when “found” again displayed on the top floor. We almost missed them, and I was so glad we didn’t. 

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

There are actually some quite fascinating facts in this house. The Roosevelt sisters were the ones who started this memorial to their brother and turned it over to the NPS. They share a photo of Teddy and his brother looking out of their window at the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln. A future president looking over a past president. There is a good video of Teddy’s early life that discusses his interest in pugelism (boxing) and when he realized he needed glasses.

The Junior Ranger booklets are available online. A tour is technically required to complete them. A virtual tour is currently available online. I think that might have helped our schedule. The tours were only at 10, 11, and 1 when we were there. (There were likely some after, but I didn’t hear them mentioned.) However, I did see the rangers give badges to a family who could not stay for the tour. The tours take about 45 minutes, and the rangers are very detailed/dedicated in their review. We needed them to cut ours short or we would have missed the ferry to our next activity. I believe we were there for about 1.75 hours.

President Grant’s Tomb/General Grant National Monument

The website claims the booklets are only available at the Ranger Desk inside the tomb. However, rangers willingly emailed a PDF version when I contacted them. When we were there, they were actually out of badges and patches, and were hoping to receive some in about a month and a half. They invited us to mail our booklets in after that time. There is a visitor center, but it was closed for the season, and frankly, I wasn’t sure where it was.

Since the site is located near Harlem, north of Columbia University, we had to think about how to get there. It is about an 8 minute walk uphill from the Manhattanville subway stop. Consider the weather and your available time when visiting. This is not a recommendation for skipping!

Hamilton Grange

Remember, there are two badge options here, Hamilton Grange and Manhattan Sites. There is also a Girl Scout patch, but I didn’t hear what is required to earn it. The house is only open over weekends, so be sure to check the schedule.

There are a few videos showing. One is about the moving of the house, but that video is also available online. So if you’re looking to save time, consider that.

This was a great tour with a very dynamic volunteer, Keith, leading. It should be 30 minutes or less. However, there may be a wait, especially in summer, because the space is small and there is a limit to the number who can be upstairs at one time. There are only 3 rooms to see counting the foyer. Tours should be every half hour.

There are videos online to watch to help complete the booklets, so it’s highly recommended to work on this ahead of time.

This is another site located out of the way of downtown. We needed to taxi there, but enjoyed a lovely walk to a nearby subway station for the return.

African Burial Ground

The actual memorial is currently closed due to damage with an unknown reopening date. The visitor center is located on Broadway (not visibly from the memorial). There is extra security at the entrance. Ask the ranger for an additional scavenger hunt if your children like that sort of thing. It may have taken 30 minutes to complete. The museum is quite small, so it doesn’t take long to look around. The badge was about half the size of normal ones, but you get a patch, too. The booklet is available for print.

Castle Clinton

This booklet is available online. The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ferry stops here. Just pop into the front door on your way back into town. We went about 30 minutes before closing, which was perfect. The crowds were gone, which made the small museum easier to navigate.

If you’re passing through here to purchase ferry tickets to the Statue of Liberty, send your kid into the small room just to the right of the entrance while you wait in line. To get the badge, knock on the Ranger’s door to the left of entrance.

An employee at the Statue of Liberty museum told my mom you could also get the Governor’s Island badge and stamp here. We did not test that theory. I’m sorry because we didn’t see a Ranger at Governor’s Island and had to request ours by mail. See below.

Governor’s Island (Castle Williams and Fort Jay)

This is such a great place! It would be even better in summer! However, if you go in early spring, appreciate the quiet calm. There’s hardly anyone there. We took the ferry from Brooklyn, which put us out on the east side of the island. And we walked to the northern ferry stop to get back to Manhattan. The children loved getting almost all the way to the southern tip of the island where there are some wonderful slides and climbing rocks. The fort and castle are only open for the summer season, but the rangers were quite flexible with our booklet completion. You can print and mail it in.

Federal Hall

This booklet is available online. This is a national park with normal hours, 9-5. Consider that when visiting. You can start or finish here when other parks are closed. An hour visit should be fine. There is a small museum to the left of the entrance with a few dioramas necessary to look at to finish the Junior Ranger Booklets, which are available online. In the corners of the center hall are two more small rooms with items to look at. One has some original railing (to check off that you saw), but it’s pretty dark in there, so pay attention. The original stone (check off that you saw it) is roped off in a corner. There is a sign beside a vault in another corner of the hall from when Lincoln turned the building into a treasury. It says that there was a greater vault built downstairs. You can’t go in it, but use the plumbing facilities down there and look in the glass door as you pass. It’s pretty impressive. Climb the stairs to get a good look at the columns, but there isn’t much else to see.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

At the time of this writing, there is no Junior Ranger program available at this museum. However, we watched videos about it before our visit and were sad to run out of time and miss it on our trip.

Gateway National Recreation Area

We needed to skip this park. Transportation wasn’t as prominent in March. The weather wasn’t cooperating. And it was definitely away from the central Manhattan area. The booklet is available online and can be mailed in. This link goes to the Sandy Hook and Jamaica Bay booklets.

St. Paul’s Church

We elected to skip this park. It was out of our way. The booklet is available online. I didn’t ask if we could mail it in because we try to only let our kids get badges for places we actually visit. It’s not just about acquiring for us. It’s about documenting the experience. 

Stonewall National Monument

Here’s another one we missed. You’ll learn quickly, you just can’t do it all in New York. Even if you never sleep along with the city! A reason to go back! The booklet is available online and can be emailed in.

Prefer this information in a table format? Click here.

Extra Tip: We carry a dedicated drawstring bag to put our badges in so that we don’t lose them along the way.