Summertime Fun at Living History Destinations

One of the most memorable summer vacations from my childhood was a family trip to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

We got to see battle re-enactments and learn about bayonets. We played 1700s-era children’s games. We tried to churn butter. We talked with costumed interpreters. We went on an evening ghost tour.

It’s trips like that one that helped spark my interest in history and visiting historical sites.

Living in the PastIn my new article, “Living in the Past” in Family Tree Magazine’s July/August 2015 issue, I feature 10 excellent living history destinations around the country, including Colonial Williamsburg. Of course, there’s more than just 10 great living history destinations in the country, so here are a few other top living history destinations:

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, NE
A newly renovated Stuhr Building opens at this museum July 19, 2015. Explore the Railroad Town to learn about life in 1895. The museum is working on putting several genealogy databases online, including marriage licenses and death records, so check back on its site if you have Nebraska ancestors—even if you can’t visit the museum in-person.

Living History Farms, Des Moines, IA
As a kid growing up in Iowa, visiting this living history museum was part of the school curriculum and a great field trip. There’s an 1850 Pioneer Farm, 1700 Ioway Indian Farm, 1900 Horse-Powered Farm, and an 1875 town with a blacksmith shop, general store, print shop, mansion, and more. You can get your hands dirty by helping with chores on the farms.

Pioneer Living History Museum, Phoenix, AZ
This 1800s town is located on more than 90 acres. See an Opera House, a cabine, dress shop, blacksmith shop, and sheriff’s office and jail. Costumed interpreters include cowboys, lawmen, and Victorian ladies.

Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA
This museum depicts life in the 1830s. The destination includes a working farm, costumed historians, and water-powered mills. Plus, see a bake shop, firearms and textiles exhibit, bank, houses, tin shop, and more. Visitors also can make crafts at the Hands-On Crafts Center.

Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT
Highlights here include the Charles W. Morgan whaleship (built in 1841), the James Driggs Shipsmith Shop, and the Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard. Kids can learn to tie knots, build a toy boat souvenir, and more.

Hancock Shaker Village, Hancock, MA
Explore 20 historic buildings full of Shaker artifacts. Costumed interpreters showcase various aspects of Shaker life, like cooking, woodworking, and weaving. You can join in the daily Shaker music sing-a-long, and kids can dress up like a Shaker child, milk a (replica) cow, and make crafts.


Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to Twitter: @DanasCreative

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