Photo credit: Sherbrooke Village
Step into a time machine and experience life at one of these amazing living history museums. What century would you like to visit?
Set the way-back button to the century of your choice… there is an open air museum that will fill any history lover’s dream and may just create a new appreciation for the modern era after you discover how tough our ancestor’s daily life could be. These living history museums offer you the chance to see skilled craftspeople at work, well-maintained original buildings, historic gardens, or life on the frontier. Would you like to travel back in time to Lewis & Clark? Benjamin Franklin? Henry Ford? These museums are not that far off the beaten path – you can visit on an excursion day trip while your cruise ship is docked in a nearby port. Time it right and you might run into an old-time baseball game reenactment when they played the game without gloves. Or perhaps have your photo taken using the original 19th century technique for a unique memento. An afternoon spent at a living history museum is time well spent. Which century should we visit next?
Travel back to the beginning days of the United States – before we were even united. The earliest settlers struggled for existence in these rustic communities. They persevered and thrived using their skills and a lot of hard work. Gain a new appreciation for how difficult life was for those first settlers at Plimoth Plantation. A living history museum can give you true insight into the first days of North American history.
Old Sturbridge Village
Have a 19th-century adventure at Old Sturbridge Village, New England’s largest outdoor living history museum. Costumed historians work on the farm, in trade shops, and in charming homes to help bring history alive. Located southwest of Boston and northwest of Providence, it can make a great addition to any historic east coast USA cruise.
Williamsburg is a picture-perfect town alive with costumed reenactors of all ages to let visitors experience life as it was at the beginning stages of the United States of America. Beautifully maintained colonial buildings, horse-drawn carriages, three pointed hats, and a little fife and drum all fill the air with colonial ambience. It is the largest of a triangle of historical sites all offering a colonial living history experience, including Jamestown and Yorktown.
Home to the Hudson Bay Company in the area “newly” discovered by the British along the Columbia River. This Pacific Northwest site was a home base for fur trappers, missionaries, and explorers attempting to expand the United States as far west as it could go. This log fort sits near downtown Vancouver, Washington on the edge of the Columbia River. Enter the fort and find period buildings, a forge, kitchen, and special events with costumed characters telling their stories. Smell the coal from the forge and the bread baking in the log fire oven. The fort is next to the military base also known as Fort Vancouver, once home to General Grant prior to the Civil War, and WW2’s General Marshall for a taste of history that spans the history of the Pacific Northwest.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Strawbery Banke is unique among outdoor history museums in presenting a complete neighborhood’s evolution over 300+ years, with most of the historic houses on their original foundations. These structures link visitors to the people who lived on the Portsmouth waterfront from 1695 to 1954. Costumed roleplayers and traditional craftspeople recreate the lives of families in the community, basing their interpretations on diaries, letters, historical records, archaeology, and collected artifacts.
Boothbay Harbor Village
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Travel back in time in this unique village filled with historic preserved buildings from all over Maine. The opportunities to explore include an authentic steam locomotive riding the rails around the village, and several collections to discover including an impressive antique auto collection. Local artisans showcase the crafts used by early Maine residents including blacksmithing, printing, lacemaking, weaving, and wood carving.
Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum
Experience the love of innovation and experimentation in this one-of-a-kind collection of original buildings belonging to the great inventors of our times. Over 80 acres are filled with 300 years of American perseverance. Step foot in the actual lab where Thomas Edison brought light to the world or the workshop where the Wright brothers changed the world of travel forever. Take a ride in a real Model T, or a walk through four working farms. Henry Ford was a collector of history, and dismantled and rebuilt buildings at Greenfield from all over the United States – even a Cotswold home from England just because he liked it so much. All in one place you can find slave quarters from South Carolina, the poet Robert Frost’s home, telegraph buildings, George Washington Carver’s cabin, and even a courthouse where Abraham Lincoln once worked.
Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia
Sherbrooke Village depicts a typical picturesque Nova Scotian village from 1860 to pre-WW1. With approximately 80 buildings, over 25 of those open to the public, and most with costumed interpreters to help bring this period of time to life. Get dressed up and “Step Into 1867” and become a part of the Village story, try your hand at a heritage craft, or have your picture taken at Canada’s only Ambrotype glass photo studio for a memento you won’t soon forget.
Lake Charlotte, Nova Scotia
Memory Lane Heritage Village is an award winning living history museum depicting coastal rural life in Nova Scotia during the 1940s, including life during and after the Second World War. You can visit an entire village of buildings including a cookhouse, church, schoolhouse, woodworkers, auto shop, clam factory, and an icehouse, just to name a few. The period music was good, the rationing was not. Life in the 1940s was a much simpler time when “the greatest generation” made its name.
Photo credit: Flickr/jjmusgrove
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