Hopewell Furnace

Recently I took both of my boys up to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. It is located in Berks County, in Elverson. It was a cool and cloudy afternoon for July so it was not a pool day.

Since we were fresh off the heels of our trip out west to some National Parks and getting some Junior Ranger badges, that’s what they wanted to do. So we went.

hopewell furnace anthracite furnace
Brian emptying rocks out of his shoes while we visited the anthracite furnace.

I had looked at it online and was concerned that it would be too “historic” or educational and not outdoorsy enough. I was wrong. The setting is quite nice.

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There is plenty of room for kids to run around and explore, while not getting bored with the history stuff. It’s an old iron plantation and gives a glimpse into what life was like before the Industrial Revolution.

Barn at Hopewell Furnace

Hopewell Furnace NHS has a barn with some animals. The kids enjoyed that portion the most I think. There are horses, sheep, chickens and I forget what else.

Be forewarned: when we went down (and you’ll know what I mean by down when you get there) to the one side of the barn, the bugs and gnats were terrible. They sell bug repellent in the gift shop.

Maybe in different weather conditions, it’s better. I’m not overreacting about bugs. Twice, Kevin has gotten cellulitis from a mosquito bite.

the barn at hopewell furnace
See the sheep leaning against the barn wall?

Hopewell Furnace Junior Ranger Program

The Junior Ranger program was a simple one but they enjoyed it. It was just one worksheet and was a scavenger hunt. Brian really enjoyed that and still talks about the big shoes that the ironworkers wore.

He’s still very concerned that they had to get so close to the fire. The Park Ranger who did their swearing-in ceremony was very cute and made them do the oath and all that. We had some family butt in on our ceremony and do it with us.

Originally I didn’t care. But when we were finished, it became evident that they had not done the program, never heard of the Junior Ranger program, and just butted in to be funny. Oh well, takes all kinds I guess. Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?

Things to do in Hopewell

They have two nice gift shops. The upper one is more like the bookshops that you see at most the National Parks. The lower one was more themed and had period-replica items in it for sale. They also had candy for sale, just so you know.

Antique replica glass in the gift shop.
Antique replica glass in the gift shop.

That glass was very nice but does not mix well with my sensory-seeker who is always bouncing and can be quite clumsy, so I had him sit on the rocking chair on the porch which he enjoyed.

Hopewell Furnace gift shop
Relaxing in a rocker.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

So, as far as what you need to know for visiting, as far as having a special needs child:

Food: Not much on site but plenty of options for picnics. Nearby Morgantown has restaurants, markets, and fast food. What they did have was candy bars, snacks, vending machines and stuff like that.

Noise/ambiance: It was very quiet and peaceful. Other than weather bothering you (too much sun?) or not liking the outdoors, this should be an easy trip. That being said, other than walking around and looking and learning, there’s not much for kids to do.

There are walking/hiking trails there if that’s your thing. I only saw one and the terrain looked easy to moderate. Not paved but not terribly difficult. It’s also right next to French Creek State Park which has lots of recreational stuff to do for families.

Bathrooms: Ok. No problems with accessibility, but no family restrooms either.

Walking/terrain: The paths are packed gravel. There are moderate but short hills. They allow dogs. I did not use a stroller as it was not a tremendous amount of walking for us. You would be fine with a stroller. I think someone using a wheelchair would need assistance up and down the hills.

Skills we worked on:

  • Applying already acquired skills across all environments
  • Speech-mimicking animal sounds, trying new vocalizations in pronouncing new words
  • Textures-petting some animals and touching some of the iron items
  • Joint attention
  • Social skills-waiting in line, waiting your turn, respecting personal space of others
  • PT-walking across uneven surfaces, inclines & declines, stairs, increasing endurance

Hopewell Furnace Apple Picking

I definitely would go back, particularly for the apple picking in the fall. Visit the link in the first paragraph for all of their events and activities. This made for a really nice, inexpensive and low-key outing that my kids enjoyed.

I highly recommend it! After traveling over 2000 miles to visit some National Parks out west, it’s very nice to have one right up the road.

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