Bring the family back in time by taking them on a day trip to Thomas Edison National Park in West Orange, NJ. You’ll learn how the “Wizard of Menlo Park” gave us the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the electric light bulb by exploring his laboratory and home.
There is so much to do and see at the 20,000 square feet complex. Plan to spend a few hours or longer, depending on the age of your children:
- View the Invention Factory a 20 minute orientation film
- Watch “The Great Train Robbery” a silent movie from 1903
- Wander the courtyard to see and learn about the Black Maria, the world’s first motion picture studio built in 1893.
- Explore all 3 floors of the Main Laboratory Building (Building 5)
- Take a tour of the Chemistry Lab (check the Visitor Center for tour times)
- Make sure to check for any special tours or programs when you arrive at the Visitor Center. We attended a demonstration on the phonograph, which was a highlight of our visit.
Passes to the Edison’s 1880 Victorian home Glenmont are only available at the Laboratory Complex Visitor Center and must be obtained before going to the home. You’ll be given a tour time, a pass for your car, and tickets.
Glenmont is a few minutes drive from the laboratory in the gated community of Llewellyn Park. You must be at the front entrance five minutes before the tour begins Note: Don’t be late. Once the tour starts, the doors of Glenmont are closed until the tour ends.
Photos are not permitted inside of Edison’s 29 room Queen Anne style mansion, even without flash, but below are a couple courtesy of the National Park Service, so you can get a peek inside the stunning home:
The tour is best for kids age 8 and up, since it requires just looking and not touching, but it was a highlight of the Gilmore Girls visit. Our tour guides were a wealth of knowledge, sharing information and fun facts of the Edison family and estate: Thomas and his wife Mina raised their three children at Glenmont, many famous people visited Glenmont and signed a guest book, there were 5-7 servants daily to keep the estate running, and the servants had their own quarters and stairwell, a la Downton Abbey style.
Thomas Edison Historical National Park
211 Main Street, West Orange, NJ (Free parking across the street in the lot)
Cost: Adults $10 / Under 16 free / Audio Tour $5
Hours: July 4 -September 6
- Laboratory: Wed – Sun, 9:30 am – 5 pm
- Glenmont: Wed – Sun , 11:30 am – 5 pm
September 7 – July 4
- Laboratory: Wed – Sun , 10 am – 4 pm
- Glenmont: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Closed Jan 11 – March 17, 2016)
Where to Eat
Thom’s Saloon: Keeping with the theme, head to Thom’s Saloon, which is just a mere 3 minutes drive away (104 Harrison Avenue, West Orange, NJ) . The pub has gorgeous woodwork, stylish lighting featuring Edison bulbs, large lounge areas, striking black and white photos from Thomas Edison National Historical Park, and a portrait of Edison greeting you at the entrance. Your family will enjoy great food and beer — we recommend a pint of Edison Ale