Field Trip: Thomas Edison Museum, Laboratory, and Estate {Things to Do in New Jersey}

by Cate on May 30, 2012

*There is going to be a photo overload in tonight’s post, but I consider that to be a good thing.  Moving along…

I knew that the Thomas Edison Museum was about twenty minutes from our house, yet I can’t recall ever going there.  My mom said I was there when I was about 11.  I’ve had it in the back of my mind for awhile now, thinking it would be a fun little visit to make with my kids, and Friday, with Nick off from school and a vacation day for me, we rounded up some friends and headed to West Orange.

front yard peek

I swear museums and national and state parks are the best bargain going.  For the Thomas Edison Museum, adult admission is $7, and kids under 16 are free.  Your admission also includes a visit to his laboratory (on the same property), and his Glenmont Estate, just a short mile or two drive away.  It doesn’t get better than that.

A short movie in the beginning of the self-guided tour gave the kids a quick run-down on what Edison was most known for, and while watching, they completed Junior Ranger informational packets that would earn them a little badge on the way out.

junior ranger work

The architecture, chippy paint, buildings, and lighting on the property of the museum and laboratory is a photographer’s dream.  Like seriously, I’d pay the $7 admission just to take clients there for a photo shoot.  A lot of the pictures from the last Weekend Photos in Review were from our Edison visit.  (There is no photography allowed inside the Glenmont Estate, which kind of killed me, because it’s all sorts of beautiful, and a lot of the Victorian period pieces reminded me a lot of what is in my parents’ home)

exterior of workshop


On the museum’s property, you can also tour his laboratory, pattern making room, and various workshops, which, aside from the grounds being a photographer’s nirvana, was, I think, my favorite part. The old woodsy, musty smell of the workshop was ah-mazing, and it was seriously awe-inspiring to stand there and think of all the creativity and inventions that were borne out of that space.


gift shop
There is a small gift shop when you enter the museum, filled with books, postcards, and assorted memorabilia. {Cash and check only for gift shop purchases and entrance fees}. The museum (and surrounding grounds) take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours to see, depending on your pace. While it is self-guided, they also have audio tours available, and several places where you can use your smartphone to scan a code and watch an accompanying video.


work area



This picture instantly reminded me of a home I saw on the Hoboken house tour in 2010, and Martha Stewart’s own kitchen and special decorating issue years ago.

fire department


town hallAfter leaving the museum and laboratories, we grabbed a quick bite to eat (the kids were clamoring for Subway, and with two families and two coupons, we made our bucks stretch), and then drove to the Glenmont Estate.  As a quite side note, if you feel like pizza, do visit Star Tavern.  It’s just a few miles away and definitely worth it.

estate entrance

side garden

Parking in a small gravel lot near Edison’s greenhouse, we walked to the mansion’s front doors (you make a tour appointment when you buy your museum tickets). A well-informed ranger greeted us and began to tell us the story behind the house (bought for a paltry $125,000 after the former owner and his wife had to leave to escape being charged for embezzlement) and his family. Mina was actually Edison’s second wife. He had three children with his first wife (she died at an early age), and three children with his second (sometimes more well known) wife, Mina. Madeline was tickled to find out that one of Edison’s daughters was named Madeleine.  The family is very private, and the ranger only knew the whereabouts of two out of the six children. One of the children occasionally goes to the property for a charity event, but other than that, they choose to stay out of the limelight. The ranger knew her subject well, and was able to answer all of the spontaneous questions from the group, except for one. I loved that my not-shy-at-all four-year-old raised her hand several times to ask questions.

back yard garden

After the tour of the mansion, we walked outside to the garage where Edison’s cars were kept. All of them were electric except for one. As cars were charged, the light bulb panel would light up completely, letting you know that the car was ready to go. The gas station pump was actually INside the garage. With fire being one of my three greatest fears, that would unnerve me to no end.

chagring station

gas pump

garage ceiling


This car is a Brewster from the 1930s, and was used by Edison’s son Charles, when he was a New Jersey Governor.

After the garage, we walked to the back of the property where Thomas Edison and his bride are buried, and then to the greenhouse.  *As an aside, Edison and his wife were originally buried elsewhere.  In 1963, they were moved to this area behind the Glenmont Estate, where they had lived for 44 years.

grave site
Creepy that the rain marks seemingly formed head/body shapes on the grave site, no?




The greenhouse has an amazing collection of fauna and flora. There is also a small gift shop, and a guide to answer any of your questions. You can actually buy some of the plants and flowers that you see in the greenhouse too. I was tempted, but the most my not-green-thumb can handle is basil and a few potted succulents.

All in all, we spent about three hours touring the various properties, and the kids were engaged the entire time. Considering it’s a bit of a historical site visit and more serious in nature, as opposed to something more active, I consider that a win.


If you live in the Northern New Jersey area and want to combine education and history along with a boredom buster, do check it out (be sure to check their operating days/hours before you go).

Thomas Edison National Historical Park
211 Main Street
West Orange, NJ 07052
973-736-0550 ext. 11

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Casey May 31, 2012 at 2:03 am

The rain marks do look odd! Very cool.

I would LOVE this place. How fun!


Joanne May 31, 2012 at 7:00 am

I’m typically not that into museums but the out-of-the-box varieties definitely intrigue me. And this is totally one of them. I might have to drag some friends some day. Looks like you all had an awesome time!


BIG MAMA August 26, 2013 at 11:30 am



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