New Jersey is famously The Garden State, but as far back as its Colonial days it also was a major North American mining center. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum, about an hour north of Essex County, lets families to dig into this important part of the state’s history.
Located in Ogdensburg, Sterling Hill is the site of a zinc mine that is one of the oldest in the U.S., operating from the early 1700’s until it closed in 1986. It was converted into a museum in 1990, and the good news is that it’s not just an abandoned hole in the ground you can walk through—the Sterling Hill folks converted the mine into a real museum and offer an experience that’s fun and educational.
Most days at 1pm, Sterling Hill offers a guided tour that’s 2-plus hours long and includes an exhibit of vintage mining equipment equipment and minerals from around the world, followed by a walk inside the actual mine—where it’s always a cool and comfy 56 degrees! (Group tours can be booked, too.)
The entrance to the mine immerses you in the sights, sounds and overall feel of NJ’s mining days, and the museum has historical equipment and mannequin miners set up in key points throughout the tunnels. Kids will especially enjoy the black-light exhibit of fluorescent minerals and the (simulated) demo of TNT blasting. The whole thing is easily walkable and accessible, and our tour guide was able to engage a wide age range of kids throughout. No helmets are required, except for visitors 6’2” or taller (to keep from bumping heads on the low ceilings).
Before and after the tour, the museum has walkable grounds with old haulers, tunnel drills, ore cars and other equipment to see and touch; a cafeteria with food and snacks at reasonable prices; and add-on experiences like the Fossil Discovery Center and an astronomical observatory.
From the feel of chiseled mine walls to the soaring overhead conveyor system and detailed history of mine safety, the Sterling Hill Mining Museum is an engrossing walk through an important part of NJ history and a look back to a time when tomatoes weren’t the only important thing coming out of the ground here.
The Sterling Hill Mining Museum, 30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg, NJ, 07439; 973-209-7212; firstname.lastname@example.org. Tours are $11 for adults, $8 for kids 4-12, $10 for seniors (admission to the grounds and parking are free); AAA and military discounts available.