8 Events for Hands-On History at National Parks

Machines in the museum of Thomas Edison National Historical Site

For accomplished and aspiring history buffs, the fall is a great time to pay a visit to a nearby national park. Special events throughout the autumn months give you a hands-on history experience like no other.

Walk Through Time

Golden sun shining on the wooden structure at Fort Stanwix National Monument
National Park Service

This 30-minute, ranger-led program takes you on a stroll through Fort Stanwix National Monument, illuminating the people and events that shaped the history of the Mohawk Valley during the American Revolutionary War. Walk Through Time takes place four times a day from April 1 to December 1.

Getting to know Thomas Edison

The red brick building of Thomas Edison National Historical Park
National Park Service

The light bulb, phonograph, and motion picture. While Thomas Edison is known for these three inventions, there is much more to his legacy. Learn about his life at Thomas Edison National Park by walking through his laboratory complex on a ranger-guided tour. Be sure not to miss the Black Maria, a dark building made for recording motion pictures, some of the first silent films were created here from 1893 to 1903.

The Photography of Wilbur and Orville Wright, 1897-1900

Wilbur and Orville Wright's photographic skills were crucial to their aeronautical experiments, and the brothers honed their craft over many years, capturing their hometown of Dayton through a series of fascinating photographs. Catch a unique exhibit of their work at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park through Dec. 18, 2016, at the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center.

Grist Mill Demonstrations

Wooden Cable Mill Barn at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Joshua Moore/NPS

European settlers came to the Great Smoky Mountains region in the 1700s. Over the decades, they began growing grains that were ground in grist mills. From late-March to October, and on weekends in November, visit the water-powered Cable Mill in Cades Cove or the turbine-powered Mingus Mill to see these grist mills in action at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Point Bonita Lighthouse Tour

White lighthouse on the rocky coast at Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Will Elder/NPS

One of the Bay Area's hidden jewels, Point Bonita Lighthouse still guides ships into San Francisco Bay today, just as it has since it was built in 1877. Tour the Point Bonita Lighthouse at Golden Gate National Recreation Area on any Saturday, Sunday, or Monday from 12:30 to 3:30, for astonishing views and intriguing stories that take you through the lighthouse's history.

Yankee Freedom Guided Tour of Fort Jefferson

Blue ocean in front of a brick Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park, a park in Florida
Leslie Velarde/NPS

At Dry Tortugas National Park, explore Fort Jefferson, a key strategic point off the Florida Coast throughout the 1800s, and a federal prison in the years following the Civil War. Although this massive brick structure has never been completed, Fort Jefferson is nevertheless an impressive accomplishment, composed of more than 16 million bricks.

Chantey Sing

Hyde Street Pier with the Eureka ferry at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
National Park Service

Head to Hyde Street Pier at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and join in the singing of traditional sailors' songs aboard the floating historic vessel Eureka. The Chantey Sing is held on the first Saturday of every month from 8 p.m. to midnight. Visiting during the winter months? Warm up with hot cider, just bring your own mug!

A day in the life of a Spanish soldier

British and American soldiers with the British flag flying at Castillo De San Marcos National Monument
National Park Service

Held weekly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument puts on historic weapons demonstrations. Rangers and volunteers show visitors what it was like to live as a Spanish soldier in the 1740s. Demonstrations are subject to staff availability. Call ahead to finalize plans.


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