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Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

Overview

One could argue that George Perkins Marsh became the world’s first environmentalist with the publication of his book Man and Nature in 1864.  The sole National Park Service (NPS) site in the state of Vermont is dedicated to his property.  Later owners, Frederick Billings and the Rockefeller family followed through on Marsh’s conservation principles in their management of the farm and forest.  Laurence and Mary Rockefeller donated the estate to the U.S. government in 1992 and the park opened to the public in 1998.

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Highlights

Museum/film in the Carriage Barn Visitor Center, Mansion Tour, Garden Tour, trails

Must-Do Activity

Visitors have to pay for NPS guided tours of the mansion and its original artwork (including paintings by Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt).  There is also an entrance fee at the neighboring Billings Farm and Museum which is run by the non-profit Woodstock Foundation and provides a more hands-on experience that is great for kids, especially after a “do not touch” tour of the mansion.

Best Trail

Frederick Billings bought this family farm to practice the reforestation preached in George Perkins Marsh’s book.  There are 20 miles of trails through the forest around Mount Tom that open year round (though a ski trail pass is required in winter).

Instagram-worthy Photo

Be sure to take a walk through the well-manicured gardens on the property before or after your tour.

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Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mabi/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Free to walk the trails, while the wide variety of tours cost extra (discounted with an America the Beautiful pass).  The adjacent Billings Farm is privately managed and charges a separate entry fee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Silver Lake State Park has campsites with running water.

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Tiff out front of the mansion

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The Rockefellers are in the photo on the right

View from the front porch

Jersey cows at Billings Farm
Park at the adjacent Billings Farm.

Explore More – What are some other National Park Service units donated by the Rockefeller family?

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Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Overview

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park preserves Orville and Wilbur’s bicycle shop and explains the development of air travel at a museum next door and several other locations on the Aviation Trail.  The brothers opened a flight school at Huffman Prairie where an interpretive center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is run by the National Park Service (NPS).  We recommend you try one of the flight simulators at the two sites; they are free and they help you understand yaw.

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Highlights

Museums, historic buildings, flight simulators, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Must-Do Activity

In addition to learning about the Wright Brothers, the NPS also has an exhibit on Paul Laurence Dunbar, a local African-American poet whose home is occasionally open for tours.  When Orville Wright ran a print shop in high school, he published his classmate Dunbar’s work.

Best Trail

The Aviation Trail is not a walking trail, but it is mostly free, including the Parachute Museum and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The NPS museum across from the bike shop has a replica of the 1902 glider that the Wright brothers took to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

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Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/daav/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except at the Wright Brothers Aviation Center and Hawthorn Hill mansion.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None

The sales counter for the Wright brothers shop
Ranger-guided tours are the only way to get inside the Wright Cycle Company building.
The prices were a little shocking
Bicycles were expensive in 1895!
In a remade grocers of the time
Frank Hale’s grocery store has been restored in its original 1900-1917 location in Dayton.
A catapult like this replica helped with airplane liftoff
Huffman Prairie provides information on the Wright’s post-1903 experiments and flight school.

A memorial to the Wright Brothers

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Try a Wright flight simulator; we were told the one at Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center is easier.
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Tiff holds up her certificate saying she flew the Wright Flyer for 3 minutes without crashing.

Explore More – How many winters did the Wright brothers spend in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina perfecting their gliders before their historic flights on December 17, 1903?

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Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Overview

American inventor Thomas Edison still holds the record with 1,093 U.S. patents awarded during his lifetime. Most of those came while running the massive laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey from 1887 until his death in 1931. After perfecting the incandescent lightbulb in 1879, it was here he employed hundreds to work on improving his phonograph, motion picture camera, alkaline storage battery, and Portland cement (one of his most profitable ventures). The park also includes the family estate, Glenmont, located one-mile away (a tour ticket is required to enter the house).

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Highlights

Historic laboratories and workshops, inventions on display, house tour

Must-Do Activity

The multi-story Main Laboratory is handicap accessible and contains 400,000 artifacts from Edison’s prolific career. On display are some of the world’s first electric coffee-makers, waffle irons, and toasters marketed by his company Edicraft in the 1920s.

Best Trail

A self-guided walk around the grounds of Glenmont includes Edison’s gravesite.

Instagram-worthy Photo

At the West Orange laboratory is a replica of “Black Maria,” the world’s first movie studio originally built in 1893 on a track that allowed it to pivot for better lighting.

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Peak Season

Open year round, but not every day of the week

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/edis/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$15 per adult or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None

Entrance to the park

Tiff in the heavy machinery lab

Inside Edison's office/library

Tiff at the West Orange lab

Tiff with Thomas
Edison famously said “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Explore More – On the day of Thomas Edison’s funeral, how was homage paid nationwide?

 

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WONDON WAS HERE