Top 10 Indoor Activities at our National Parks

March 17, 2010, 7:22 am

In its heyday the Fordyce Bathhouse at Hot Springs National Park was very upscale, catering to well-off clientele; it now serves as the park visitor center. Source: Photo by Gail SearsWhile the majority of activities at our public lands are meant to be enjoyed in the great outdoors, there are also fun and educational opportunities to be had under a roof. The next time you feel like getting out of the sun and/or the rain for a few hours, make sure you stop at the following places to learn more about the wonderful history that the national parks have to offer.

Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs National Park, AR

Tour on your own or with a guide what was the "grandest bathhouse" of its time. Watch a brief history movie of the park and another that shows a traditional bath. Children can earn a Junior Ranger badge by completing activities in the program booklet.

Isleford Historical Museum, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME

Visit the maritime past at the Islesford Historical Museum on Little Cranberry Island. Exhibits tell the story of the Cranberry Isles and its people through ship models, dolls and toys, photographs, and tools. The museum can be reached by mailboat or tour boats from Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor. Open from late June through September. Free admission.

Scotty's Castle & Visitor Center, Death Valley National Park, CA

Scotty's Castle is an elaborate, Spanish-style mansion built in the 1920s and '30s. Take a ranger-guided tour of the castle interior or the system of underground tunnels. Visit the museum and bookstore located in the Scotty's Castle Visitor Center.

Ellis Island National Monument, New York, NY

Visit Ellis Island and take a step back in history. The three floors of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum were designed to be self-guided. Give yourself several hours to explore the museum and relive the immigrant experience. See a movie and learn about the island's history and our nation's immigration past by joining a ranger-guided tour. Venture through the many galleries contained in the main building or search through the database of immigrant manifests and discover your family's ancestry at the American Family Immigration History Center.

Fort Scott National Historic Site, Fort Scott, KS

Eleven historic buildings containing 33 historically furnished rooms are open to the public. The site also contains three museum areas: the infantry barracks museum has exhibits about the site's history, the dragoon barracks museum has exhibits that tell about the soldiers stationed here in the 1840s, and exhibits in the Wilson-Goodlander house provide information about the site's construction.

Oregon Caves National Monument, Cave Junction, OR

Take a tour through a marble cave. Learn and discover how the geology, fossils, cave life, bats, watershed, old-growth forest, and human history make Oregon Caves significant.

Gettysburg Visitor Center, Gettysburg, PA

Begin your visit to Gettysburg National Military Park at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center. The 22,000 square-foot museum gallery takes visitors through the Civil War with relics from one of the largest museum collections in America, interactive programs and  multi-media presentations. Understand the sacrifice of Gettysburg with the film, "A New Birth of Freedom" and the fury of battle with the Gettysburg Cyclorama. This is the place to start your visit and get informed on how to tour the battlefield park.

Fort Union Trading Post, Williston, ND

Fort Union Trading Post was the most important fur trading post on the upper Missouri from 1828 to 1867. Here the Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, and other tribes traded buffalo robes and other furs for trade goods such as beads, guns, blankets, knives, cookware, and cloth.

President's Park (The White House), Washington, D.C.

Few people realize that the President of the United States and his family live in a national park. This park, aptly namePresident's Park, has been a part of the national park system since 1933. Walk through six permanent exhibits relating to the White House including the First Families In the White House, Symbols and Images, White House Architecture, White House Interiors, Working White House, and Ceremonies and Celebration. You can also visit the White House itself by coordinating with you Member of Congress.

New Orleans Jazz Historical Center, New Orleans, LA

Whether it’s a ranger led jazz roots program, the Wednesday piano series, Music For All Ages kid’s program, or the popular Saturday concert series, The New Orleans Jazz NHP will give you a great introduction to jazz in a city that is credited for its creation.

Photo: In its heyday the Fordyce Bathhouse at Hot Springs National Park was very upscale, catering to well-off clientele; it now serves as the park visitor center. Source: Photo by Gail Sears.