5 National Parks that Celebrate Innovation

Acoustic horn research room at Thomas Edison National Park

If there's one thing that stands out in the long history of our national parks, it’s the continued innovation that the parks represent. As we look back at 100 years of the National Park Service, we're reminded that the people to whom many of these parks are dedicated — individuals like the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and George Washington Carver — didn't look back, they looked forward. So here's to the innovators, to the last hundred years, and to the next hundred.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

The importance of powered flight over the last century can't be overstated. On Dec. 17, 1903, after four years of experimentation, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved what was thought to be impossible on an unassuming stretch of beach on the coast of North Carolina. Today, the site of that monumental achievement is preserved as Wright Brothers National Memorial

Steamtown National Historic Site

Steamtown National Historic Site
Daderot, Wikimedia Commons

Trains took us west and brought countless changes to every aspect of American life. Learn about the trains, their history, and the people who built them at Steamtown National Historic Site. Workshop tours and passenger rides on vintage locomotives make this park a can't-miss. 

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Thomas Edison was many things, among them a ruthless businessman and a shrewd self-promoter, but his status as a great American innovator is beyond dispute. In addition to perfecting the incandescent light bulb, Edison was behind advancements that range from the phonograph record to the alkaline battery. His home and laboratory are now open to the public at Thomas Edison National Historical Park.  

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site

Touring the waterwheels, hot forges, and mills at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is a transportive experience, taking you back to the very beginning of the iron and steel industry in North America. It was here, along a trickling stream in the young Massachusetts Colony, that European iron workers in the 17th century brought their unique skill and innovation to the first successful iron works in the New World.

George Washington Carver National Monument

George Washington Carver National Monument
National Park Service

Famous for devising more than 100 uses for the peanut, George Washington Carver was also an influential educator, botanist, and humanitarian whose advances in agricultural science helped countless families sustain themselves by growing their own crops. George Washington Carver National Monument preserves this innovator’s childhood home, surrounded by woods, where he developed his lifelong passion for the natural world.

Bonus: More historic places

Lots of other places across the country reflect our history of innovation. While they are not actually national parks, these locations on the National Registry of Historic Places are, in many ways, just as important: 

  • Motor Cities National Heritage Area - A collection of historic sites in the Detroit area, Motor Cities National Heritage Area includes the factory where Henry Ford created the Model T. 
  • Voila Laboratory & Bureau - This national historic landmark in Washington, D.C., was constructed in 1893 under the direction of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. 
  • Locust Grove - Overlooking the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, New York, Locust Grove Estate includes the laboratory of inventor Samuel Morse. 

When you visit these parks and historic sites, be sure to share your memories at FindYourPark.com. Who knows — the record of your travels might still be floating around somewhere in another hundred years.

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