With spring break and summer vacation right around the corner, many are looking for fun trips for families in Northwest Tennessee. Whether you’re in search of a quick, family-fun getaway or you have several days to explore the area, children and adults of all ages will have a unique, one-of-a-kind experience at Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tenn.
Today, Discovery Park is famous for its iconic 100,000-square-foot building, interactive galleries, educational exhibits, and 50 acres of heritage park that is a blast to explore. However, one of the best parts of a visit to this Tennessee gem involves meeting a host of incredible people as you explore.
Here are a few of the most fascinating people you’ll discover at Discovery Park:
10. A Collector of Scales
The interesting collection of scales on display in the Enlightenment Gallery were donated by Phil Wehman, a Union City-native, who collected scales with his wife, George Anna Wehman, since 1970. George Anna first started the collection and joined the International Society of Antique Scale Collectors (ISASC). Phil Wehman’s photographs of their many scales have been featured in the ISASC publications over time. Their collection amounted to over 1,000 scales.
9. Kimberly and Ian – Two Real Mosasaurs
The large fossil reproductions of dinosaurs and marine reptiles that dominate Dino Hall, part of the Natural History Gallery, are all from the Mesozoic Era. The dinosaurs on display include a Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Apatosaurus, and Appalachiosaurus. The marine reptiles on display include two Mosasaurs named Ian and Kimberly. Kimberly was discovered by Aaron Scott, a University of Tennessee at Martin student, during a dig cosponsored by Discovery Park of America and Triebold Paleontology. He named the fossil after his mother. Scott has visited Discovery Park several times, speaking with guests about the dig and the process of unearthing a fossil.
8. Slingshot Charlie
While most hunters prefer shotguns for shooting ducks, one became famous for his skill with a slingshot. “Slingshot Charlie” Taylor worked as a hunting guide on the lake. One of his clients represented a traveling sportsman show, and he recognized Taylor’s skill and offered him a role in the show. “Slingshot Charlie” later traveled with vaudeville shows and appeared in a Hollywood newsreel. Artifacts from Slingshot Charlie can be found in the Regional History Gallery.
7. The 100-year-old Photographers
Verne and Nonie Sabin illuminated the wild beauty and life around Reelfoot Lake in the 1920s, and a century later their photographs remain some of the most captivating ever produced of this area. Prints of their photos can be found in Sabin’s Café—named in honor of the legendary photographers—and on display in the Reelfoot Room on the entry level of Discovery Park.
6. The Press Master
The Gutenberg Press on display in the Technology Showcase is a full-scale, fully functional reproduction. It was built by Pratt Wagon and Press Works of Cove Fort, Utah. Included with the printing press were plates containing the story of Gideon from Judges Chapter 7. These plates are on display with the press and can be used for printing demonstrations. Pratt Wagon and Press Works was run by Stephen Pratt and his son Ben. They built meticulous replicas, using detailed mechanical drawings as their starting point and the finished pieces were noted for their accuracy. Stephen did all the woodwork while Ben forged the metal pieces. The Gutenberg Press displayed in Discovery Center is among the last printing presses Stephen Pratt built before his death from cancer in 2012.
5. Dolly Dear
A special collection of Dolly Dear dollhouse accessories call the Fantasy Forest Children’s Play Area home. Dolly Dear was founded by Rossie Turner Kirkland of Union City in 1927. She was the grandmother of Discovery Park Founder, Robert Kirkland. By 1944, the company was operating from a factory on First Street and employed 30 people. The dollhouse accessories were sold nationwide through a mail order catalog as well as through other popular mail order catalogs such as Sears and Montgomery Ward.
4. David Crockett
Discovery Park is proud to feature American folk hero, frontiersman, solider, and politician, David Crockett, who lived in West Tennessee from about 1822 to 1835. In The Settlement, guests will find a statue dedicated to Crockett standing near the middle, while his political career is documented in an exhibit in Liberty Hall on the south side of the park. A print of his portrait by John Gadsby Chapman is on display in The Regional History Gallery.
3. Sleeping Beauty
Inside the one-room Hicks Family House in the Settlement, guests experience the story of Susan Godsey who was born in Obion County sometime between 1835 and 1842. When she was around nine years old, she became sick and then fell into a semi-comatose state. Every day, for the rest of her life, she would only wake up for a very short time. When she was awake, her family would feed her and give her water. Doctors from all over the world came to try to solve the mystery of the sleeping beauty, but no one was able to provide any kind of remedy. She died on Oct. 27, 1873 having been asleep for most of 25 years.
2. Hoot Gibson and Rhea Seddon
The two NASA flight suits on display in the Moon Dome at STEM Landing were used by married astronauts Robert “Hoot” Gibson and Rhea Seddon and were loaned to the park by the astronauts themselves. In 1978, Seddon was selected as one of the first six women to enter the Astronaut Program. After three successful space shuttle flights and 30 days in space, she left NASA to become the Assistant Chief Medical Officer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
1. Robert Kirkland, the Man who Dared to Dream
Discovery Park founder Robert Kirkland began his business with a rented office on First Street in Union City, Tennessee. For a desk, he had an old door set atop a pair of sawhorses. Whatever he may have lacked in furniture, Kirkland more than made up for in determination, inquisitiveness and work ethic. He grew his business and made his fortune in home décor, first in retail, then in imports. His career allowed him to travel the world, exposing Kirkland to sights, sounds and ideas that many live a lifetime without ever experiencing. As his business and fortune continued to grow, Kirkland and his wife, Jenny, committed themselves again and again to supporting their community in powerful ways. Today, Discovery Park of America stands not just as a life-changing gift to West Tennessee, but to the entire world.
Here at Discovery Park, you’ll discover a premier world-class museum and heritage park that provides you and your family a transformational experience with the mission of inspiring both children and adults to see beyond. In addition to these fascinating people, you’ll find fascination around every single corner.