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We’re all well aware that our country’s national parks are some of the best attractions out there. Each and every one is well worth visiting, too—but what about national historical parks? Are these just as good as national parks? Should they be added to your RV travels and roadschooling curriculum?

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about national historical parks.

Kid on cannon: hands on learning at national historical parks

What is a National Historical Park?

First, let’s talk about what exactly a national historical park is. While these parks are run by the National Parks Service, they are not full-fledged national parks. That said, this doesn’t make them “lesser-than.” It just makes them different. 

National historical parks are historically significant places, with at least one historic building or site included on the park grounds. They all offer a visitor center of some sort, most with an orientation video and some exhibits to help visitors understand what they’re looking at. In some cases, national historical parks will boast living history experiences or guided ranger tours. Some have buildings you can walk through, providing an immersive experience, and some offer fun presentations. 

In all cases, national historical parks present excellent learning opportunities and are a great way to bring history to life. 

National Historical Park vs National Park

Not sure what the difference between a national park and a national historical park is? Generally, a national park includes grand views, awesome trails, or some sort of natural wonder. While a national park may have a rich history, history does not tend to be the sole focus at these parks, as it usually takes a back seat to the natural beauty of the place. 

Meanwhile, history is the main focus at national historical parks. They may boast some natural beauty, but the highlight of a national historical park is always the story it has to tell about the past. 

National Historical Park vs National Historic Site

But what about national historical parks versus national historic sites? Well, this line is a little more fuzzy. Usually, a national historic site is a single site in a smaller park, and a visitor center is not always included. A national historical park tends to be more extensive, with more learning opportunities and ways to explore the history of the place. 

Why Visit National Historical Parks?

In our opinion, national historical parks are 100% worth visiting. Why? Because they’re fascinating! These parks tell incredible stories of the past and allow us to connect with them in a very tangible way. Not only that, but many of the parks focus on stories that weren’t necessarily taught in our history textbooks, meaning we get a more complete picture of the history of our nation. 

All of that to say, national historical parks are the perfect roadschool stop for kids and parents alike. 

Independence National Historical Park was one of our favorite national historical parks

Roadschooling at National Historical Parks

Not sure how to incorporate national historical parks into your roadschooling? It’s easy! Honestly, even just visiting the parks would probably be enough to be considered “school,” but we like to do a bit more when we can. 

Preparing for Your Visit

Before you visit any park, head to the parks’ webpage to get a feel for the information that will be presented there. From there, you can pick out a book or two or seek out a video on the topic. This will get the family thinking about the topic so everyone has a basic understanding of what they will be learning about during their visit. 

We highly recommend the following resources for this: 

Junior Ranger Program

Once you arrive at the park, request a junior ranger book. These are available at all NPS sites and are an excellent way to keep your kids engaged as you explore the park. Every book includes a variety of activities that encourage kids to gather information as they wander the exhibits, watch the park movie, and check out the historic buildings and sites. 

At the end of your visit, you can take the completed junior ranger book to the visitor center to receive a junior ranger badge. 

Following Up

On the drive home, follow up with your family. Ask them what they learned during their visit and if they’d like to dive deeper into the topic to learn anything more. You never know what might catch a person’s interest!

Camping in National Historical Parks

Most national historical parks do not have onsite campgrounds. That said, there are a few that do offer camping, so if camping in national historical parks is something you’d like to do, we recommend checking before you go. 

We know that the following parks do offer onsite RV camping:

One of the prettiest national historical parks: Sitka National Historical Park

List of All National Historical Parks

Wondering where to find these awesome national historical parks so you can start your roadschool adventures into the past? Below is a list of every single national historical park in the country. Choose any of these and pay it a visit. We promise you won’t regret it!

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