Earthy Endeavor

One of the coolest places you can take your kids is here in New Jersey. It’s the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, on the site of what used to be the Sterling Hill zinc mine, the fourth oldest mine in the country. Though no longer in operation, the mine still contains more than 300 minerals, about 50 of which fluoresce. Wherever you live in the Garden State, this destination is worth the trip. 

Terrestrial Tour

The centerpiece of the museum is the underground mine tour. It begins in Zobel Exhibit Hall, which contains thousands of mining-related items, minerals that kids can touch, and some surprising artifacts, such as dinosaur fossils.

What's Next?

From there, you go straight into the mine, where you will see firsthand how the work of mining was accomplished. A blasting demonstration shows how miners got through rock, and equipment lining the passages helps you visualize what life was like for miners. 

The main attraction is the “Rainbow Tunnel,” a naturally occurring fluorescent mineral formation where glowing zinc ore is exposed in the walls. It’s a phenomenon you can’t see anywhere else, and each visitor gets to take home her very own fluorescent mineral as a memento. 

The last stop is the Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence. Here you’ll learn about identifying glowing minerals with a black light—and see your kids’ faces light up with wonder as they watch their finger-nails and their siblings’ eyeballs glow
in the dark.

Add-ons and Extras

Participate in a Mineral Collecting event at the mine. You can search for fluorescent minerals and even take some home!

Have your sights set higher? Depending on the weather, the museum holds monthly viewing sessions at the Ellis Astronomical Observatory. For more info, send them an email.


Bring a jacket. Even if it’s 100° outside, the mine remains 56°.

Wear sturdy footwear. There’s no climbing, but lots of walking. 

Check out books on minerals beforehand. When kids recognize things they’ve read about, the experience becomes even more meaningful.

The Deets

Sterling Hill Mining Museum
30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg

Renée Sagiv Riebling is a freelance writer from central New Jersey who is always on the lookout for family adventures.


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