By Amy Suski
As a parent and history buff, I'm constantly searching for ways to engage our 3 kids in the stories of the past. Fortunately, Virginia's historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown is home to some of the best interactive history museums in the country. Recently, we visited the region's newest addition, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which officially launched in the spring of 2017 with a brand new 80,000 square foot building and outdoor living history museum.
The outdoor Continental Army encampment shows how soldiers lived while traveling. The spartan living conditions make it easy to imagine how difficult life was for a patriot soldier. The meagerness of the daily rations (dry tack, beans, and a rough portion of mystery meat on a bone) surely made an impression on kids more accustomed to restaurants than campgrills. And the goriness of the surgeon's descriptions of battle wounds was enough to make everyone grateful for even the most basic modern medical advances (like hand-washing!)
Whatever the demonstration, each living history lesson provided opportunities for the kids to volunteer, participate, and ask questions. Our boys especially liked the military drills and artillery demonstrations and had a chance to hold and aim the rifles. Other visiting families helped ready the canon for firing. (Which at the end of the demonstration, they actually do fire, so be warned: its loud!)
Beyond the encampment, there is an 18th century farm, which shows how farmers lived during the Revolutionary time period. Kids will be amazed and the responsibilities that children had growing up on a farm and may even volunteer to help out by watering the crops, weeding or collecting firewood.
Inside the museum there is an extensive collection of artifacts, displays, interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. My daughter especially liked the touch screen shown below and for once I didn't mind her spending so much time with a screen!
The museum also features short films including Liberty Fever which tells the stories of people living during in the Revolution-era and a depiction of the Siege of Yorktown that puts you right on the battlefield with real smoke, flashing gunfire, and the rumbles of cannon fire.
To get the most out of your visit to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, I'd plan to spend most of a day here, with a side trip to Historic Yorktown and the Yorktown Battlefield just down the road. Visiting these places together will help your kids connect all the history they just learned with the rolling green fields and waterfront town where it all took place.
Tip: If you have more than one day, you can save money by purchasing a combo ticket to visit the Jamestown Settlement as well. But I wouldn't suggest squeezing both into one day -- there's just too much to see!
Review of Jamestown Settlement
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect those of the museum or any of the sites mentioned. For purposes of this review, our family visited the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown without charge.
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