Complete Guide to First Ladies National Historic Site in Ohio including guided tours, how to get to the park, things to do, and so much more.
First Ladies National Historic Site
First Ladies National Historic Site commemorates the role of the women who have served as First Lady of the United States of America. The First Ladies National Historic Site consists of two buildings in downtown Canton, the Saxton-McKinley House, and City National Bank.
The National Historic Site was established in 2000, to explore the influence the First Ladies of the United States of America have had and continue to have on America. The National First Ladies Library housed in the City National Bank is the only of its kind in the world.
Is First Ladies National Historic Site worth visiting?
Yes, The site was really interesting and we would happily visit again to see new exhibits.
We were not sure what to expect when visiting and now wish we would have planned more time for the park.
The visitor center has rotating exhibits and they were really interesting. Don't miss the park film!
History of First Ladies National Historic Site
What is a First Lady?
First Lady is the title given to the woman who acts as the hostess of the White House. The First Lady is most commonly the spouse of the serving president of the United States.
Although, if the president is unmarried the role can, and historically has been filled by a female relative. There have been several First Ladies who were not the spouse of the president.
This uniquely American role has never been officially defined, but it is recognized all over the world. The role of the First Lady has evolved throughout history.
The First Lady is first and foremost the hostess of the White House, this means she is in charge of organizing and attending official State functions and ceremonies.
First Ladies have assumed more than the ceremonial role of hostess of the White House. Over time the First Lady has become involved in the political campaign of their spouse, a champion of social causes, and trendsetters.
From the 1920s onwards, First Ladies used their position to speak publicly about their chosen causes.
History of the Title
There have been over 50 First Ladies, with the wife of George Washington, Martha Washington, assuming the role for the first time in 1789. The current First Lady is Jill Biden, wife of the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden.
The first woman to be referred to as First Lady was Harriet Lane, the niece of the 15th president of the United States, James Buchannan.
The term became more widely used in reference to the hostess of the White House in 1877, when Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes, was referred to as ‘First Lady in the land’ in a newspaper article.
The Saxton- McKinley House
The Saxton-Mckinley House, preserved as part of the First Ladies National Historic Site, was built in 1841.
It was the home of Ida McKinley, who was First Lady from 1897 until 1901, as wife to the 25th president of the United States, William McKinley.
Ida McKinley was born in Ohio on June 8th, 1847, to the wealthy Saxton family. Ida spent her childhood living at the Saxton-McKinley house. Ida was extremely well-educated and worked as a teller and manager at her father's bank.
Ida met Civil War veteran Willaim McKinley in 1870. The pair were married a year later and moved into a home they rented from Ida’s father. This First Ladies' life was filled with despair and hardship.
The McKinleys welcomed their first daughter, Kate in 1873 and a second daughter, Ida in 1875. Sadly, little Ida passed away four months after her birth, and Kate passed just before her fifth birthday.
Ida had a difficult pregnancy with her second daughter and suffered a neck and back injury. When little Ida died and then Kate, Ida became unwell, suffering from epilepsy and migraines.
Ida McKinley as First Lady
After the loss of their children, the McKinley's moved from their marital home and lived at the Saxton house while William ran his presidential campaign in Canton.
Ida remained in a fragile state of health for the rest of her life, which meant that she played a much smaller role as First Lady than others who have assumed the role.
Despite Ida’s ill health, she was still in the public eye and was involved in politics. Ida would sit outside her husband's office, listening in on meetings so she could advise him.
Ida, like most of the nation's First Ladies, was a champion of social causes. Ida supported the suffrage movement. Ida helped to raise funds for several charities by crocheting slippers to be auctioned off.
In 1901, William was assassinated by an anarchist, ending Ida’s role as First Lady.
The City National Bank
The National First Ladies Library is housed in the historic City National Bank building. City National Bank was built in 1895 and has been restored to its original design. The bank operated until 1923 when the building was abandoned.
The building was given to the National First Ladies Library in 1999. In addition to housing the library, the building is now home to the First Ladies National Historic Site’s Education Center.
Things to know before your visit to First Ladies National Historic Site
$7.00 - Saxton House tours - adult
$6.00 - Saxton House tour - Seniors
$5.00 - Saxton House Tours - Kids under the age of 17.
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation, and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Learn more about National Park Passes for parks that have an entrance fee.
Free Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
Eastern Time Zone
Pets are allowed in the park but are NOT allowed in any buildings or structures.
Visitors can complete the B.A.R.K. Ranger book and take the pled to become a B.A.R.K. Ranger.
Cell service is great at the park.
Closed Sunday and Monday
Hours - 9 am to 4 pm
Winter Hours from November 1st to April 30th - Closed Sunday through Wednesday.
Insect repellent is always a great idea when outdoors, especially if you are around any body of water.
We use Permethrin Spray on our clothes before our park trips.
Make sure to bring your own water bottle and plenty of water with you. Plastic water bottles are not sold in the park.
Free parking is available behind the Saxton House or at the gated lot on the corner of Market Avenue South and 3rd Street SW.
The free parking lot is near the park entrance sign. It is easy to find.
There are no restaurants within the park.
There are no gas stations within the park.
Drones are not permitted within National Park Sites.
National Park Passport Stamps
National Park Passport stamps can be found in the visitor center.
First Ladies NHS is part of the 2020 Passport Stamp Set.
Electric Vehicle Charging
There are at least 54 public charging stations in Canton, Ohio
Details about First Ladies National Historic Site
Size - .46 acres
Check out how the park compares to other National Parks by Size.
In 2021, First Ladies NHS had 6,562 park visitors.
In 2020, First Ladies NHS had 2,406 park visitors.
In 2019, First Ladies NHS had 10,913 park visitors.
National Park Address
205 Market Avenue South
Canton, OH 44702-2107
National Park Map
Where is First Ladies National Historic Site?
First Ladies NHS is located in Canton, Ohio
Estimated distance from major cities nearby
Akron, OH - 24 miles
Cleveland, OH - 59 miles
Pittsburgh, PA - 101 miles
Columbus, OH - 128 miles
Toledo, OH - 160 miles
Detroit, MI - 214 miles
Estimated Distance from nearby National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park - 31 miles
Indiana Dunes National Park - 345 miles
Mammoth Cave National Park - 420 miles
New River Gorge National Park - 246 miles
Shenandoah National Park - 309 miles
Where is the National Park Visitor Center?
The visitor center is located in the historic City National Bank.
Getting to First Ladies National Historic Site
Akron-Canton Regional Airport (CAK)
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)
Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport (YNG)
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
Port Columbus International Airport (CMH)
Erie International Airport (ERI)
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
Harry Clever Field (PHD)
Wayne County Airport (BJJ)
Portage County Airport (OH6)
From the South:
Follow I-77 North to the Downtown/Tuscarawas Exit. Turn right onto Tuscarawas and travel to Market Street South. Turn right onto Market Street South. Travel through two lights and immediately after the 2nd light is our gated parking on the right-hand side.
From the North:
Follow I-77 South to the Downtown/Tuscarawas Exit. Turn left onto Tuscarawas and follow to Market Avenue. Turn right onto Market Avenue. Travel through two lights and immediately after the 2nd light in our gated parking on the right-hand side.
Best time to visit First Ladies National Historic Site
The best time to visit depends on if you enjoy snow. The majority of the park is indoors so the weather really only impacts being able to reach the park.
Weather and Seasons
Canton, Ohio experiences warm summers and snowy cold winters.
The warmest weather is from May 25 to September 18th with an average daily temperature above 73 degrees.
The coldest weather is from December 2nd to March 4th with an average daily temperature below 44 degrees.
The coldest month is January with an average low of 22 degrees and a high of 35 degrees.
The snowiest month is February with an average snowfall of 3.6 inches. Snow occurs on average from November 28th to April 31st with at least an inch a month.
Best Things to do in First Ladies National Historic Site
Visitor Center/Education Center
The Education Center is located in the historic City National Bank. It is the perfect place to start your visit to the park.
There is a small museum, park film, and National Park Passport Stamps available.
The First Ladies NHS Junior Ranger program is a great way to learn more about the park during your visit.
The park has 2 Junior Ranger programs divided by age - 8 and under, 9 and over.
Saxton House Tours
Guided Tours are offered at 10 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm.
12 people are allowed on each tour. Tickets are first come-first served.
The Saxton House was the former home of Ida and William McKinley.
Hiking in First Ladies National Historic Site
Always carry the 10 essentials for outdoor survival when exploring.
There are no hiking trails within the park.
It is a short walk from the parking area to the visitor center and Saxton-McKinley house.
How to beat the crowds in First Ladies National Historic Site?
We did not experience any crowds at the park. The park averages less than 1,000 visitors a month so you most likely will not experience large crowds during your visit.
Where to stay when visiting First Ladies National Historic Site
There are no National Park Lodges within the park.
Lodging is available in Canton, Ohio and surrounding communities.
DoubleTree by Hilton Canton Downtown - Directly across the street from the park. Consider a stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Canton Downtown and take advantage of a terrace, dry cleaning/laundry services, and a bar. Be sure to enjoy a meal at 330 Bar & Grill, the onsite restaurant. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi, and guests can find other amenities such as a gym and a 24-hour business center.
Staybridge Suites Canton - Take advantage of free to-go breakfast, a grocery/convenience store, and a free manager's reception at Staybridge Suites Canton, an IHG Hotel. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi, and guests can find other amenities such as a terrace and dry cleaning/laundry services.
Home2 Suites by Hilton Canton - Take advantage of free breakfast, a free roundtrip airport shuttle, and a terrace at Home2 Suites by Hilton Canton. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi, and guests can find other amenities such as a firepit and a garden.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Canton South - At Fairfield Inn & Suites Canton South, you can look forward to free to-go breakfast, a terrace, and dry cleaning/laundry services. Free in-room Wi-Fi is available to all guests, along with a 24-hour gym and a 24-hour business center.
Holiday Inn Canton (Belden Village) - At Holiday Inn Canton (Belden Village), an IHG Hotel, you can look forward to a terrace, a firepit, and dry cleaning/laundry services. Be sure to enjoy a meal at Twenty/20 Taphouse, the onsite restaurant. Free in-room Wi-Fi is available to all guests, along with a bar and a gym.
Click on the map below for additional lodging and vacation rental options near the park.
There are no National Park Campgrounds within the park.
For a fun adventure check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
Escape Campervans has offices in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, New York, and Orlando
Parks Near First Ladies National Historic Site
North Country National Scenic Trail
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial
Check out all of the Ohio National Parks along with neighboring National Parks in West Virginia, National Parks in Pennsylvania, Michigan National Parks, Kentucky National Parks, and Indiana National Parks
Check out our Cuyahoga Valley NP and Ohio Park Trip report to see all of the parks we visited during our road trip.