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Top Living History Museums and Tips for Visiting

Top Living History Museums and Tips for Visiting #homeschool #fieldtrip

Written by Chelsea Gonzales.

I adore museums. Visiting them is a fabulous way to introduce new concepts and an even better way to dive deeper into a child's interests.

As a history nerd, living history museums are definitely my top pick when it comes to choosing an educational attraction, and my son and husband both quite enjoy them as well.

Unlike regular history museums which have traditional tour guides and only display artifacts and photographs, living history museums are interactive, have actors wearing costumes and reenacting the lives and livelihoods of the past, and usually focus on one particular place or event in history. While at a living history museum, you don't just look at and learn about the past, you actually step back into it.

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Top Living History Museums and Tips for Visiting #homeschool #fieldtrip

Top Tips for Visiting Living History Museum

From the famous Colonial Williamsburg to a number of lesser-known locations, my family and I have been to quite a few living history museums. Because of this, we've had ample opportunity to learn from our mistakes and figure out what steps to take to ensure an insightful and engaging visit.

Here are our top tips.

Study First

Before visiting any specialty museum, our family lightly researches its subject matter and themes.

Often, we will read a short biography about an important person who lived during that time period or whose life is depicted by one of the reenactors. We really like the Ordinary People Change the World children’s book series for this, but older kids might prefer the ”Who Was…?” series. (For more living biographies>>>)

We usually try to add in several historical fiction novels as well. The Magic Treehouse, American Girl, and I Survived book series are all great options for young students. I also really like the Dear America series, especially for kids around middle school age.

Plan Conversation Starters

Once you know a bit about the time period you'll be experiencing during your trip, you can develop a list of conversation starters. This is important because living history museums are most beneficial to those who are willing to speak up and have discussions with the actors.

Unfortunately, many children simply don't know what to say. By giving them a bit of a script to work with, your kids will be much more likely to get a conversation going. For example, there will almost certainly be tools and other objects around that both you and your child don't understand. Encourage him or her to ask what these objects are, what a person did with them, or why these particular items are not used anymore.

Top Living History Museums and Tips for Visiting #homeschool #fieldtrip

Dress Up

Most kids love to play dress-up. If this is the case for your little ones, prior to your trip, help them read up on the clothing of the time, location, and people. Together, do your best to create period costumes to wear. Not only will your kids learn what the clothes looked like and the process involved with putting them all on, but they'll also get to experience what it would have been like to work and play in them.

Prepare for a Rigorous Day

Because a huge part of the living history experience is wrapped up in the daily life of people of a different age, a successful visit can take hours. Be prepared for this.

Eat before you arrive or pack a lunch, and get there early in the day. You'll also want to make sure to leave your evening free, as a long day without air conditioning can really leave you feeling beat.

Last, but definitely not least, be sure to take water with you. While some museums make water easily accessible for guests, others do not. Because these historically accurate places don't have air conditioning, a visit without water can easily go downhill quickly. We always bring multiple water bottles in order to ensure we stay well hydrated and can fully enjoy our visit.

Top Living History Museums and Tips for Visiting #homeschool #fieldtrip

Top Living History Museums to Visit

Now that you know how to pull off a successful trip to the past, it's time to start planning one. Wondering which living history museums to hit first? These have been our favorites so far.

Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plimoth Plantation is my favorite living history museum by far. The attention to detail at Plimoth is insanely impressive, and the reenactors are the best I've ever seen. Each townsperson portrays an actual person from the settlement and knows everything about him or her. The actors even speak in the accent of the time, something I've not heard before or since.

Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg might just be the most well-known living history museum in America. Admittedly, the entrance fee is quite high, but it's worth the price, in my opinion. The place is quite large and includes an enormous number of “residents” to chat with. We only spent one day there, but we plan to go back and will spend 2–3 days during our next visit in order to see it all.

Conner Prairie in Fishers, Indiana

Conner Prairie is the living history stop we made most recently. Unlike most museums, this one has several different viewing areas, each representing a different time period.

That said, the 1836 village was by far the most elaborate and well staffed. We talked with the shopkeeper and the town doctor who both provided excellent conversations and information. In other sections, we spoke with an early-1800s Native American, pet some farm animals, and enlisted in the Army during the Civil War.

Top Living History Museums and Tips for Visiting #homeschool #fieldtrip

Other Living History Museums Worth Visiting

We asked the lovely readers of The Unlikely Homeschool to list their most favorite living history museums in North America. Here's what they had to say.


Historic Arkansas Museum
Plantation Agriculture Museum
The Old State House Museum


Riley's Farm


Cross Orchard Living History Farm



Cracker Country


Historic Westville


Naper Settlement


Living History Farms


Old Cowtown Museum


Fort Boonesborough
Land Between the Lakes


Acadian Village


Washbrun-Norlands Living History Center



Boston Tea Party Ships
Freedom Trail
Hancock Shaker Village
John Adam's Homes
Old Sturbridge Village
Salem Pioneer Village


Greenfield Village
Heritage Park
White Pine Village


Forest History Center
Fort Snelling
Glensheen Mansion
Oliver Kelley Farm
Snake River Fur Post
The Landing
Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove


Daniel Boone Home
Missouri Town


The Tinsley House


Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center
Stuhr Museum

New Hampshire

Strawberry Banke Museum

New Mexico

El Rancho de las Golondrinas

New York

Fort Stanwix National Monument
Fort Ticonderoga
Genesee County Village and Museum

North Carolina

The Living History Park
Old Salem Museums & Gardens


Hale Farm and Village
Ohio Village
Sauder Village


Fort Gibson
Hunter's Home
Pawnee Bill Ranch


Oregon Trail Interactive Center


Shriver House Museum/Gettysburg
Valley Forge National Historical Park

South Carolina

Middleton Place

South Dakota

1880 Town


Land Between the Lakes
The Hermitage


National Ranching Heritage Center
Pioneer Farms
Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead


This is the Place


American Revolution Museum
Frontier Culture Museum
Historic Jamestowne
Mount Vernon


Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village


Old World Wisconsin


Heritage Park
Tunnels of Moose Jaw

Top Living History Museums and Tips for Visiting #homeschool #fieldtrip

Hopefully, this small peek at my family's favorite living history museums has inspired you to get out there and seek some time travel adventures of your own. If you've visited a living history museum worth sharing, we'd love to hear about it! Leave it in the comments and we'll add it to our list.


  1. Perhaps add St. Mary's City, St. Mary's, MD. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, MD. The Baltimore Museum of Industry Baltimore Maryland. Delaware AG Museum Dover Delaware

    1. Added all the ones that are living history museums! Thanks so much.

  2. While there won't be actors (most of the time) at these three, they are definitely geared toward a living and interactive education rather than dry, factual, passive educationThe Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, the Ark Encounter Museum in Williamstown, KY, the Glendive Dinosaur Museum in Glendive, MT.