Tucked away in Sturbridge, Massachusetts a mere hour out from Boston and 200 years into the past is the historic Sturbridge Village. This iconic New England museum has been a staple of my childhood and a community fixture since 1946.
The centerpiece of the museum is a re-created rural New England town of the 1830s set on more than 200 acres of historical landscape. Acres of 19th century homesteads, actors in period dress, and dusty dirt roads sprinkled with horse drawn carriages preserve early American history in a bell jar.
Although open year round, the village sees most of their 21st century visitors during the summer months with special events in accordance with the season. Each March weekend the smell of boiling maple syrup spices the frosty air. On Independence Day, periodic cannon blasts will momentarily startle the languid atmosphere. Holidays such as Easter and Christmas means feasts prepared just as they would have been in the 1830s.
Daily demonstrations of wool spinning, pottery, shoe making, blacksmithing, and domestic work sparks fascinating conversation with villagers and is a good opportunity to learn something new.
I always get a little piece of clay from the potter to pinch into a finger pot but my favorite exhibition are the historic homes. I like to see the food cooking over open fires, the clothing laid over the back of chairs, and the women dying yarn in buckets. Many elements of the village are reconstructed, with the buildings themselves moved from other locations in the New England region. The villagers aren’t originals either. Darn.
Even so, being a part of the living history allows me to imagine myself within this space. What would my life be like had I been born in the 1830s? What would my surroundings be life? How would I navigate daily life? Seeing the spaces within which people once lived brings these hypothetical musings to life.
If you have never been and live in the Massachusetts area, I highly recommend you check out this under-rated destination spot. Wear closed-toed shoes and if the sun is out slather on sunscreen. Most visitors spend about four hours walking around with much of the action housed outside.
Admission breakdown is as follows:
Seniors (55 and over) $26.00
College Student (with valid college ID) $14
Youths (4-17) $14.00
Children age 3 and under Admitted Free
This includes the free parking and an additional free visit within 10 days.
As far as food and gifts are concerned, the museum does have several options. The Miner Grant Store/Bake Shop and Bullard Tavern are located inside the museum. The Oliver Wight Tavern, Village Cafe, the Museum Gift Shop and New England Bookstore are located outside the museum and do not require an admission stamp to visit. Food prices can be a bit cheap, so I recommend packing a sandwich to picnic with but saving a few dollars for an ice cream slice of chocolate fudge.