Loving History at Old Sturbridge Village

Fall in New England. The phrase conjures images of cool breezes and warm apple cider, the brilliant oranges and reds of leaves by day and campfires by night. After months of following summer weather and balmy temperatures, we welcome the changing seasons. We are digging sweaters out of the backs of closets and dusting off our space heaters. So far, our travels through New England are living up to their cozy stereotypes. Cozier still was our chance to experience a crisp fall day in Massachusetts as it was in the 1830s with a visit to Old Sturbridge Village.

We adore living history museums, and Old Sturbridge Village is one of the best we’ve seen. Learning happens naturally, almost imperceptibly, when we are immersed in the atmosphere and culture of the time. I love seeing our kids jumping up and down as they enjoy each new experience, barely able to contain their excitement and exclaiming, “I LOVE history!” Days like this bring our choices into crystal clear focus and remind us that all the challenges are worth it. This is why we do what we do.

There is more to see and do at Old Sturbridge Village than we could reasonably do in a day. The schedule of tours, talks, and demonstrations is so extensive that even if we ran from one to the next we could not see it all. As usual, we let the kids’ interests steer our decisions, though we guided them to try to prioritize things they had not seen before at other places. Thus we started our day at a milking demonstration that turned out to be one of the highlights of the day. Even Micah, who is just two weeks past his second birthday, has reminded us every day since we were there that milk comes out of a cow. It left quite an impression!

Old Sturbridge Village

We chatted with the coopers at their shop while Micah chased a chicken around the front yard. We saw water-powered mills for grinding grain, sawing lumber, and carding wool. The blacksmith’s shop is always a favorite, and once again we were temporarily hypnotized by the warmth coming from the fire, the glow of the hot metal, and the ringing of the hammer. Another favorite stop was the one-room schoolhouse, where the kids wanted to be asked to stand and recite as though they were characters from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. We also watched a musket firing demonstration and got to hold a musket ball. Then, after hours of walking around, we rode a horse-drawn wagon around a tour of the village to rest our feet. It was a great overview to cement the things that we had seen and hear more history behind the buildings and location themselves.

Old Sturbridge Village


Old Sturbridge Village


Old Sturbridge Village
Emelie Lindstrom, what is 8×4?

Our timing could not have been better. On a Thursday in September, we avoided the summer and weekend crowds. There is a lot happening in a farming community in the fall as the harvest approaches. In the absence of crowds, the costumed historians had more time to talk and interact with us, and the kids felt more comfortable asking questions. The tinsmith helped Emelie and Peter to make a heart-shaped cookie cutter which they were given to keep. He admitted that he only offers this on days when there are fewer visitors. The justice of the peace explained the way the legal system worked at the time, and we were invited to act out parts as litigants and witnesses in an actual case from the time. He rendered the same judgment that is recorded by the court back then: Staffan was guilty and required to pay damages caused by his little dog Peter.

Old Sturbridge Village
Bending the heart with the tinsmith as the printer stops by for a chat

Other highlights included watching a flock of sheep being moved across the Common, seeing honeybees in their hive, and learning about the lives of children in the 1830s.

At closing time, no one wanted to leave. We had been there for more than six hours and still wished there was time to see and do more. It had been such a wonderful day. Around the dinner table that night, as we shared our highs and lows of the day, each of us listed several highs and couldn’t decide which was best. And we all agreed that it was difficult to call any part of the day a low. It was truly the best kind of day!

Old Sturbridge Village

*Disclosure: We received free admission to Old Sturbridge Village in exchange for writing about our day here and at IndieRV. The opinions above are 100% my own. We are thankful to Old Sturbridge Village for the chance to visit this amazing place!



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