Permits & Reservations

Three tour buses in a parking lot with elderly visitors waiting nearby
Depending on the requested activity or the number of people in the group, a Special Use Permit (SUP) may be required.  Tour bus operators often require a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA).

NPS Photo


Special Use Permits

A Special Use Permit is a short-term activity that takes place in a park area and provides a benefit to an individual, group, or organization, rather than the public at large. The National Park Service may permit a special park use providing the activity will not cause derogation of the park's resources or values, visitor experiences, or the purpose for which the park was established. Primary concern will be given to the potential for resource damage and to anticipated disruption of normal public use.

Special Use Permits must be obtained in advance. Permit processing typically takes 30 days but could be longer for larger events that require park participation in planning or for events that require that a park monitor be present for the event.

Although most activities do not require insurance, large events do, so it pays to apply well in advance of your large event. All permits require an application and a non-refundable application fee. Depending on the type of activity, additional fees may apply.

Examples of events that require a Special Use Permit are cultural programs, picnics, festivals, wedding ceremonies, film and photography projects, static displays, etc.

Within your application, the Superintendent will look for a meaningful association between the park and the event and how the event contributes to visitor understanding of the park's significance. Conflicts with other events and park staffing are other considerations taken into account during the approval process.

Basic Permits

A basic permit is required for, but is not limited to: special events, wedding ceremonies, festivals, cultural programs, contractor/public utility work, and displays. There are two types of applications we use for specific requests. For basic requests, you may apply using our short form. For any other type of request please use our long form. Instructions on how to submit these forms are listed on the application. Depending on the size and type of event, liability insurance may be required. Applications are also available by contacting the park at the contact links below.
Short Form
Long Form

Commercial Use Authorizations

A commercial use authorization is defined as any activities, services, agreements, or anything offered to park visitors and/or the general public for recreational purposes which uses park resources or is undertaken for or results in compensation, monetary gain, benefit, or profit to an individual, organization, or corporation, whether or not such entity is organized for purposes recognized as non-profit under local, state, or federal law.

In Steamtown, Commercial Use Authorizations (CUAs) are most commonly required for vendors that wishes to sell food or souvenirs during a special events.If you are a business operator and want to conduct business within the park, you are required to obtain a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) (36 CFR Sec. 5.3).

Commercial Use Authorizations (CUAs) are one method of authorizing commercial visitor services.

  • CUAs may be issued for up to two years.
  • There is no right or guarantee of renewal.
  • CUAs require a $50 application fee.
  • CUAs are not considered concession contracts.
  • Commercial business activity is prohibited within the park unless a CUA has been granted by the park (36 CFR Sec. 5.3).

To apply, please fill out a CUA application with as much information as possible, including dates and times of the requested event. A CUA holder must provide commercial liability insurance as part of the application. Applications are available by contacting the Special Park Use Coordinator at the contact information below. Please also note that any food being sold on NPS property requires a valid/current "ServSafe" certificate as well as a copy of a valid and current food license.

Other Federal, state, and municipal laws may be required and additional permits may be required.Event requests involving alcohol shall be determined based on the event and activities and, if permitted, additional insurance will be required.

Right of Way Permits

The National Park Service has specific Department-wide guidelines on Right of Way Permits. Please refer to the link for rules, regulations, and applications: Right-of-Way Permit (U.S. National Park Service) (

For Fees and payment information, please see the Payment Information section.

Lands of the United States were set aside by Congress, Executive Order, or otherwise acquired in order to conserve and protect areas of untold beauty and grandeur, historical importance, and uniqueness for future generations. The tradition of capturing images of these special places started with explorers who traveled with paint and canvas or primitive photo apparatus. It was the sharing of these images that led to the designation of these areas as national parks and monuments. Visitors to national parks today continue to memorialize their visits through filming and photography.

Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) has rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks.


Do I need a permit to film?
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit.

What is considered commercial filming?
"Commercial filming" means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature film, videography, and documentaries. Commercial filming may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.

Does filming by individuals or small groups that don't use much equipment, but generate revenue, still require a permit?

Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews and personnel that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources. All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors. 

Are filmers still required to pay fees to film in parks?

Federal law requires the NPS to recover its administrative costs for commercial filming and still photography activities that require a permit. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the NPS in processing your request and monitoring your permit. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of the permitted activities. The application fee must be submitted with your application. 

In addition, Federal law also requires the NPS to collect a location fee that provides a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands for commercial filming and for still photography requires a permit. The NPS uses the following fee schedule for filming: 

Commercial Filming/Videography

  • 1-2 people, camera & tripod only: $0/day
  • 1-10 people: $150/day
  • 11-30 people: $250/day
  • 31-49 people: $500/day
  • Over 50 people: $750/day


When is a permit needed?

In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A permit is required for still photography only when:

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or 

  1. the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or 

  1. park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity. 

A “model” means a person or object that serves as the subject for still photography for the purpose of promoting the sale or use of a product or service. Models include, but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects, such as vehicles, boats, articles of clothing, and food and beverage products. Portrait subjects, such as wedding parties and high school graduates, are not considered models.

The NPS uses the following fee schedule photography: 

Still Photography

  • 1-10 people: $50/day
  • 11-30 people: $150/day
  • Over 30 people: $250/day

Other permit requirements for Commercial Filming or Photography?

You will be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.

All SUP and CUA requests are subject to a review process to ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This review period is the opportunity for all departments to consider potential impacts and staff needs prior to permitting a special use request. Once an application is submitted, most special uses take 30 days for review. Permits could require a much longer review period, especially if the proposal is new or for a very large event, so please plan accordingly. If you have questions or concerns, contact us.


Large events and commercial activities require a certificate of general liability insurance. Contact the Special Park Uses Coordinator for questions related to liability insurance.


Large events may trigger the need for the Permittee to post a refundable performance (damage) bond. The amount of the bond will be equivalent to the estimated cost to the NPS for clean-up, repair or rehab of resources that could potentially be impacted by the permit activities. At the conclusion of the permit, the bond will be returned to the Permittee after costs of clean-up, repair, or rehabilitation are deducted.

Limits to the area, type, duration, and scope of park use are codified in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, where general park regulations may be found, and within the Superintendent's Compendium, where park-specific regulations are posted.

In addition, specific, park-mandated use limits are listed within the conditions of the permit. Failure to abide by any of the above conditions may be grounds for a permit violation, resulting in fines, or immediate cancellation of the event.

When applying for a Special Use Permit, remember to attach maps, diagrams, script pages or storyboards to assist the park staff in evaluating your request.

Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are Constitutional Rights. However, the courts have recognized that activities associated with the exercise of these rights may be reasonably regulated to protect park resources. Therefore, all First Amendment activities with over 25 participants require special use permits, and the park may regulate the time, place, and manner in which they are conducted. First Amendment activities with less than 25 participants who utilize designated areas (see the shaded areas) do not require a permit. First Amendment permit requests will be processed within two business days. Some examples of special events that require permits include:

  • Distribution and/or sale of printed matter
  • Religious services
  • Public demonstrations or assemblies, etc.
  • Collecting signatures for petitions.

Also, review the Superintendent's Compendium for more details concerning park regulations.

The permit office cannot accept credit cards. All permit applications must be paid by checks, cashier checks, or money orders made payable to "National Park Service." Final payment cost will be determined after we receive your permit application. Below are some of the fees you may incur.

Application Fee: $50.00. This is due when submitting your application. This fee is non-refundable and does not guarantee that you can have your event at Steamtown NHS.

Cost Recovery Fees: The National Park Service must recoup costs associated with the management of a private event. Personnel and other costs are determined by the type and scope of activity, the location, the time of day, the utilities used, the security required, and other factors. Each permit will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The applicant will be notified of an estimate of charges prior to the event, and the permittee will be billed for actual expenses at the conclusion of the permit.

The NPS will consider requests and process permit applications in a timely manner.  Processing times will vary depending on the complexity of the proposed activity.  Permit applications may be e-mailed to the Permits Coordinator or mailed to:

Steamtown NHS
Attn: Permits Coordinator
150 S. Washington Ave.
Scranton, PA 18503

Please note: submitting an application does not guarantee the activity has been, or will be, approved. All applicants will receive communication from the Permits Coordinator and should await further guidance.

Minimum Application Processing Time Type of Permit
14 Days Most Special Use Permits, photography/filming, commercial uses (tour operations, soliciting business, etc)
30 Days Weddings
45 Days Catered events or mobile food vendors (food trucks); may require additional permitting paperwork

Mail applications and application fee payments to:
Steamtown National Historic Site
Attn: Special Use Permit Coordinator
150 South Washington Avenue
Scranton, PA 18503-2018

For questions related to Special Use Permits or Commercial Use Authorizations, please call (570) 445-1898 or send us an e-mail.


Group Reservations

Looking to coordinate a group trip (10 people or more) to Steamtown National Historic Site?  Send us an e-mail with some basic information to help start the planning process:

  • Date of proposed visit, and any alternate options.
  • Number of group members.
  • Type of group (adult, youth, education, recreation, etc.).
  • Activity requested.
  • Contact information.

NOTE: Sending an e-mail does not automatically approve your request.

Refund Policy

When train rides are available, tickets are non-refundable unless an event is cancelled by park management (equipment malfunction, inclement weather, etc). In the event you miss your short train ride, either the Scranton Limited or Caboose Experience, we can put you aboard the next ride as long as its not sold out or was the last train of the day.

If you miss the train for a special event or excursion program, tickets cannot be refunded or transferred. If you miss the return ride from a special event or excursion program, you are responsible for getting transportation back to your point of origin.


Tickets for Train Rides

Steamtown NHS train rides resume for the season on Thursday, May 11, 2023! If you or your group are planning to include train rides as part of your visit, here's how you can plan ahead and prepare:

NOTE: Tickets for our short train rides, the Scranton Limited and Caboose Experience, are not available for advance purchase online. These tickets are available on-site and must be purchased by credit card the day of your visit.

Groups looking to join an already-scheduled excursion, must purchase tickets online through just like all other visitors to Steamtown. Any requests for special reservations outside of an already-scheduled excursion will be required to submit an application through the Special Use Permit process outlined above.

2023 Pricing

Short Train Rides
General Admission (ages 6+) $6.00
Child under 6 years old (ages 0-5): $1.00

Excursions - pricing varies depending on the destination
Adult (ages 12-61) $25.00-$55.00;
Senior (ages 62+) $23.00-$50.00;
Youth (ages 3-11) $18.00-$33.00;
Child (ages 2 and under) $1.00

Last updated: October 27, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

150 South Washington Avenue
Scranton, PA 18503-2018


(570) 445-1898
General park information. Phone monitored 9am-5pm, daily

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