Destination 320: Charles A Lindbergh State Park
If you love history and you like camping, have we got a Destination for you: Charles A Lindbergh State Park.
Just south of Little Falls, on the west side of the Mississippi River, you’ll find Charles A Lindbergh State Park. In truth, you drive right through the property that Lindbergh called home. The Museum and Boyhood Home will be near the river. The Park, hiking and camping will be across the road. There is a lot to see here, so prepare for some fun.
Charles A Lindbergh was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. He took off from New York and landed in Paris. Today this achievement is viewed with little enthusiasm. After all, you could whip out your cell phone right now, book a ticket and be in France tomorrow. Keep in mind that the crossing happened only 24 years after the first fight by Wilbur and Orville Wright. A $25,000 prize was offered for the first person to pull it off. Several people had already died trying. It was a really big deal. After the flight, it can be argued that Charles Lindbergh was the worlds very first international celebrity.
Upon landing in France, he was met by an estimated 150,000 people and the French government gave him the “Legion of Honour.” Once back in the States, he was met by the President and later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Metal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Metal.
Lindbergh was then summoned to New York to pick up the $25,000 prize. While there, they threw him a ticker-tape parade of massive proportions. It’s estimated that 4,000,000 people came out for the events that lasted several days. After New York, he went on a cross country trip to 82 cities in 48 states, giving 147 speeches to be seen by 30 million Americans. But wait, that was just the warm up for the 16 country tour. The U.S. created a stamp in his honor. Time Magazine made him their very first “Man of the year.” An honor that is still awarded today, though he is still the youngest person to ever receive it.
He was 25 years old.
The Park, the Museum and the Home
For the sake of this article, we’ll break this trip into three parts: The Park and it’s amenities, the museum and the boyhood home.
The Park was originally formed from 110 acers of land donated by Charles Lindbergh Sr in 1931. At the request of the family it was not fully developed. There are three rustic buildings constructed during the WPA of the 1930s and a park office. The Park is not open year round for camping. In fact, the main office is not staffed during the winter months. But there are still trails for snowshoeing or hiking that can be accessed year round. The park has expanded over the years to include nearly 470 acres.
The Museum offers a look at the full life of Charles A Lindbergh and there is a lot to see. While he was famous as an aviator, he was also an inventor and activist. The museum is open on a very specific calendar. Typically Friday and Saturday in the summer. Only open Saturday in the Fall. Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the Historic Holiday Tours. More details on those Holiday Tours can be found HERE. Then closed from the end of September to around Memorial Day in the spring. Before traveling, make sure you take a look at their hours of operation page HERE.
The House follows the same hours as the Museum. It’s a bit of a walk from the museum to the boyhood home, so it would be good to be prepared with comfortable shoes. That said, know that the path is paved and an easy walk.
The Little Falls area and Charles A Lindbergh State park were formed by glaciers some 10,000+ years ago. The glacial til left behind makes the Little Falls area a particularly good place to search for Agates.
The campground is closed for the season in late fall, then reopens in late April. During this time the park office is not available.
Opening in late April, there are limited services meaning the water isn’t turned on yet. That happens in mid May. Once the park comes to life you can expect it to be busy. There are 38 drive-in sites, 2 walk-in/canoe-in sites and a group camp which can accommodate up to 30 campers.
The campground contains 15 electric sites with 30-amp service. Because of the size of the campground sites it’s important to know the length of your camper if you’re using an RV. The maximum is 50 feet. You must be able to back in. When reserving a campsite, your “campsite length” is the length from the front of your vehicle to the back of the camper. In addition, its important to make reservations. You can do that on their website HERE. Using this system, you are able to make reservations up to 120 days in advance. Simply start typing the park name in the “Enter Place Name” field and Charles A Lindbergh State Park should auto fill.
Again, the park office is not staffed during the off season. If needed you can call Crow Wing State Park at (218) 825-3075.
Do keep in mind that at any State Park you either need a daily park pass, or an annual pass to enter. Other fees may apply as well. Find those HERE.
The park has 7 miles of hiking trails in the summer. The trails are not highly developed. If its been raining a lot you may find some mud on the trails. In the winter, you can snowshoe anywhere in the park or use 3 miles of winter hiking trails.
During the summer months, there are Canoe and kayak rentals.
The picnic area is open year round. In the winter, the enclosed picnic shelter site becomes a warming house. This shelter has electricity and a fireplace. You are asked to use only approved wood to avoid spreading tree disease. Typically, this shelter is reserved. If you plan to have an event or gathering, you may want to check availability with the park office.
In regard to sanitation, there are showers, flushing toilets, and a dump station for campers available seasonally. As soon as the weather gets too cold, these amenities are shut down. There are rustic pit toilets available year round.
This video from the park gives an great overview and idea of what you’re getting into.
All in all, the camp is close enough to everything you’d like to see and do, yet far enough away that you’ll be able to escape for a weekend or a week.
Inside the museum you’ll find a complete look at Lindbergh’s life. Not just the part where he became famous at 25. He was an inventor, and cared deeply for the environment. Both are reflected in the displays. There’s also a movie theater with a good overview of his life. It offers original black and white footage and is worth the time.
In regard to their Spirit of St Louis display. There’s upside and downside. Lets start with the downside. It’s not the original plane. That has been on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC since 1928. Lindbergh flew the plane to the capital on April 30th that year and it has remained there all this time. Like we said earlier, his trans-Atlantic crossing was a big deal.
Now the upside, and it’s significant. They have a replica AND you can sit it. They give you the opportunity to really feel what it was like to be in the cockpit of the Spirit of St Louis. Having seen the original at the Smithsonian I guarantee, this is a far better hands on experience.
After your near flight experience, you can take a look at a few pieces of the original plane that are on display. There is also a variety of other memorabilia that came from the Lindbergh estate.
Once you finish, there is more to see because the boyhood home is included with admission.
The Boyhood Home
The Boyhood Home of Charles A Lindbergh is perhaps the best view of life 100+ years ago that you’ll be able to see. The home was built in 1906 and is on The National Register of Historic Places. The furnishings in the home are original pieces. This includes the family’s piano. It feels as if a young Charles will come running around the corner any moment to ask for a sandwich.
Built on the Mississippi River, the home has a screened in porch that overlooks the water. The rooms are simple, yet elegant. A tour of the main floor is offered on the hour.
The house isn’t large enough to get “lost” in, but take the tour anyway. It’s awesome because you get to hear the stories that go along with the home. Stories that include explanations of “scars” found some of the rooms. For example the burn marks in the living room that were created by Charles. You’ll need to take the tour to hear the story. After all, we aren’t interested in issuing a spoiler alert. Some things are best experienced first hand.
Address: 1620 Lindbergh Drive S, Little Falls
Pine Grove Zoo
From Tigers and Kangaroos to wolves and otters, you’ll find plenty of animal entertainment at the Pine Grove Zoo. It’s important to know that the zoo is closed during the winter and opens in mid April.
Where: Pine Grove Zoo at 1200 Broadway W, Little Falls, MN 56345
Phone: 320 616-5595
Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum
If there is someone in your party that likes to fish, this is pretty much a must stop in Little Falls. There are fish mounts of every size and species. But you’ll also find boats, fishing equipment and lures of most every kind.
Where: MN Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame at 304 W Broadway, Little Falls, MN 56345
Phone: 320 616-2011
The Lindon Hills Mansions
The Linden Hill Mansions are a wonderful tour. Built in 1898 the pair of homes are open for tours. But only Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am-2pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day. There is also a week during the holidays that is worth a look.
Address: 608 Highland Ave, Little Falls
This area is a great destination for fun and family. With a little bit of planing, Destination 320: Charles A Lindbergh State Park could become one of your favorite destinations.