Tag Archives: National Historical Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park


During the National Park Service (NPS) centennial in 2016, a new, ambitious park was established linking three far-flung sites in the states of Washington, New Mexico, and Tennessee.  The purpose is to tell the story of the “Manhattan Project,” the military code name during World War II for the secret undertaking to create the world’s first atomic weapon. 


Bradbury Science Museum (NM), American Museum of Science and Energy (TN), Hanford Reach National Monument (WA)

Must-Do Activity

In 1942, hundreds of eastern Tennessee families were displaced in order to construct Oak Ridge National Laboratory where experimental nuclear reactors produced plutonium and enriched uranium.  More than 75,000 people hurriedly built and operated this brand new industrial complex, which continues to be used as a Department of Energy research facility to this day.  Due to security and safety concerns, visitors can only enter on a 3-hour bus tour that leaves from the American Museum of Science and Energy.  The tour is well worth your time, as it is currently the only way to see Y-12, X-10, and K-25 and learn more about what those code names really mean.

Best Trail

The Hanford Reach is one of the last free-flowing sections of the Columbia River in eastern Washington and is an important site for salmon spawning.  The area is ecologically pristine, mostly untouched by development since it became the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in 1943.  It is home to the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor that produced the plutonium used by Los Alamos National Laboratories for its scientific breakthroughs in 1945.  Since 2000, Hanford Reach National Monument has been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and much of the area is off limits.  Other than boating on the river, the best place to get a feel for the area is to walk around the Ringold Fish Hatchery.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The free Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico offers tourists a closer look at the original and ongoing research conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), including a scale model of the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb built here in 1945.  Nearby, the Los Alamos Historical Museum is located in a cabin on historic Bathtub Row, so named because when the government took over the Ranch School in 1943 these were the only dwellings equipped with that luxury. 

Peak Season

Open year round, but summer is best at the high elevations of Los Alamos, New Mexico.




$5 per adult for the American Museum of Science and Energy and a 3-hour tour (11:30-2:30, reservations recommended) of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved except around Hanford Reach National Monument


Dispersed camping is allowed in Santa Fe National Forest surrounding Los Alamos and it is not far to the campground in Bandelier National Monument.

Explore More – What was the job of the “Calutron Girls” in Oak Ridge during World War II?

Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park


On the east side of the San Francisco Bay, Richmond was chosen by the National Park Service (NPS) in 2000 to commemorate the work of thousands of women and men nationwide who built the machines needed to fight World War II.  By 1945, women made up almost a third of the workforce in the U.S. and about 41% of welders in the Kaiser shipyards here.  The Visitor Education Center offers hands-on exhibits housed in a Ford Assembly Building formerly used to make tanks.  Tours are also offered on the SS Red Oak Victory, a cargo ship built here during the war. 


Museum, film, Rosie the Riveter Memorial, SS Red Oak Victory, real-life “Rosies”

Must-Do Activity

The special thing about this park is the incredible opportunity on most Fridays to meet real-life “Rosies” who worked here during the war.  During our visit, we got to hear the stories of two women, Agnes and Marian.  They won’t be around forever, so put this site at the top of your NPS to-do list. 

Best Trail

The paved Bay Trail winds through Richmond and stops at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Marina Bay Park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The poster of a woman in factory work clothes flexing her right bicep is perhaps the most famous image to come out of World War II.  “Rosie the Riveter” was also a popular song on the radio in the 1940s. 

Peak Season

Year round, but especially on Fridays when real-life “Rosies” are at the visitor center.





Road Conditions

All roads paved, but you do have to pass through a guard station to access the Visitor Education Center.



Explore More – At its peak, how many people worked around the clock in the Kaiser shipyards?

Top National Park Service Site in Each State

We kicked off our travel blog by highlighting our favorite National Park Service site in each of the 50 states.


Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site


Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve


Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument


Buffalo National River


Lava Beds National Monument


Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve


Weir Farm National Historic Site


First State National Monument


Dry Tortugas National Park


Andersonville National Historic Site


Kalaupapa National Historical Park


City of Rocks National Reserve


Pullman National Monument


Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore


Effigy Mounds National Monument


Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site


Mammoth Cave National Park


Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve


Appalachian National Scenic Trail 


Catoctin Mountain Park


Lowell National Historical Park


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


Grand Portage National Monument


Vicksburg National Military Park


Ozark National Scenic Riverways


Big Hole National Battlefield


Scotts Bluff National Monument


Great Basin National Park

New Hampshire

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

New Jersey

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument

New York

Fort Stanwix National Monument

North Carolina

Cape Lookout National Seashore

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park


Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park


Chickasaw National Recreation Area


John Day Fossil Beds National Monument 


Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Rhode Island

Roger Williams National Memorial

South Carolina

Congaree National Park

South Dakota

Jewel Cave National Monument


Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area


Big Bend National Park


Capitol Reef National Park


Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park 


Fort Monroe National Monument


Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

West Virginia

New River Gorge National River


Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

…and finally our home state…


Yellowstone National Park


Honorable Mention

District of Columbia

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park


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.



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.


Peak Season





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


Silver Lake State Park has campsites with running water.


Tiff out front of the mansion


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?



Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park


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.



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.


Peak Season

Open year round




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

Road Conditions

All roads paved



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

Try a Wright flight simulator; we were told the one at Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center is easier.

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?