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Take the Kids: Thomas Edison National Historical Park

This Edison National Park site is a must-visit for New Jersey kids.



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PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON KIRSCHNER

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

211 Main St., West Orange
973-736-0550 ext. 11
nps.gov/edis
Hours: Wed.-Sun. 10 am-4 pm (hours change seasonally)
Check website for select openings at Glenmont. 
Admission: $15
 

Thomas Edison is one of NJ’s most famous residents, and his home and laboratory are a must-see for every family. The kiddos probably already know he invented the lightbulb (and perfected it for home use). But he also created the phonograph and found a way to use goldenrod to create a domestic source of rubber, amongst a ton of other things.

Start your day at the visitor center of the massive laboratory complex (there’s plenty of free parking in the lot across the street). Make your first stop the Black Maria, an exact replica of the world’s first movie studio. The kids will be amazed by how many revolutionary creations came from the small spot.

Step Back in Time at Edison’s Lab

We recommend heading to the chemistry laboratory next to hear a park ranger give a talk (check the front desk for times). It’s mind-boggling to see how Edison and his team worked and to get a first-hand look at where they performed X-rays (and liked to nap). You and the kids will catch a glimpse of the inventor’s old records and learn about the dangerous chemicals at play during all the tinkering. Encourage your crew to ask questions, especially about the amazing discoveries made during the clean-up process. 

Head into the main laboratory building to reach Edison’s library, which houses his office and some really cool art inspired by his inventions. The building is chock-full of the original machinery used to manufacture products Edison’s various companies made, too. Once upstairs, the kids will get to make music on unusual instruments and see the hundreds of things Edison and his team created.

Inspire Your Junior Ranger

Make sure the kids pick up a free Junior Ranger booklet at the front desk. During your tour, they can answer questions about what they learned during their exploration and earn their own badge. (Kids who do the Junior Ranger program here, as well as the ones at Paterson Great Falls and Morristown National Historical Parks, can earn a Super Junior Ranger certificate.) 

©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM / LINDATANCS

Glenmont Estate, where Edison and his wife Mina resided, is nearby. Snag tickets at the visitor center, but know they’re limited and only available for select days due to a reconstruction project. When your family gets to see the enormous mansion preserved with Edison’s decor, stop at his garage to check out the electric car and greenhouse with exotic plants.  

If the kids want to explore more, visit the smaller Menlo Park lab where Edison started his career. It’s also where he invented the phonograph, which earned him the famous “Wizard of Menlo Park” moniker. 

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