Past Preserved: Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts - My Family Travels

American lifestyles from the 1800s, lots of holiday fun and cheer, caring interpreters and great lodging make for a memorable and educational weekend at the living history museum of Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

Time and again, my kids have been enthralled with the hands-on experience offered at living history museums such as Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Mystic Seaport. My 9-year old, Madeleine, and I recently checked out Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, just an hour outside Boston. And it was no exception.

Old Sturbridge Village, the largest outdoor living history museum in the Northeast, brings to life a working New England community of 1830 down to the smallest details. Its 200 acres contain 40 exhibits, including authentically restored houses, gardens and meetinghouses, as well as a working farm, a district school and blacksmith, pottery and tin shops.

Maddy and I had a ball wandering from house to house, interacting with the lively costumed staff. Our day was filled with surprising discoveries, including the Freeman Farmhouse kitchen where we helped stir a pot of made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese over the open hearth (no powdery cheese here!) and the Printing Office where we tried our hand at setting up, inking and printing the town newspaper on the Acorn Frame press.

At the Schoolhouse, Maddy marveled over how one 18-year-old teacher kept strict control over 50 kids of all ages in one cramped classroom. And both of us said, "Eeew," at the Salem Towne House, where 19th-century women demonstrated how adding grease to their hair created just the right look for that special night out. (No Aveda products in sight.)

"OSV" (as it's known locally) offers special events year-round, but the winter holiday season is particularly charming. In December, the Village is transformed by exhibits that tell how – and when – Christmas came to New England. In November and December, several Saturday and Sunday evenings celebrate Christmas Traditions by Candlelight and explore the origins of many of today's holiday customs. There are also traditional carols, seasonal crafts, and samples of some seasonal foods.

If your family are true history buffs, the kids would probably enjoy belonging to The OSV Kids Club, open to kids ages 6-12. In addition to free admission to the Village, the $15 annual membership fee guarantees your children their own newsletter about the history and traditions of Sturbridge, with contributions from other kids, and some contests and correspondence throughout the year.

Trip Planning Details for a Sturbridge Village Weekend

Old Sturbridge Village (800/733-1830) is located at 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA 01566 if you want to set your GPS.  The museum facility is open from 9:30am to 5pm April through October; call for othe seasonal and extended holiday hours. Admission, good for two days within a ten-day period, is $24/adult, $22/senior, $8/youth age 3-17; children under 3 are free.

If you're making a weekend of it, there are plenty of places to stay in Sturbridge. The Old Sturbridge Inn & Reeder Family Lodges (508/347-5056) offer a range of historic accommodations, including special needs rooms.

There's also the popular Comfort Inn & Suites Colonial for budget-minded travelers, with an indoor swimming pools for the kids.

The Publick House Historic Inn (800/PUBLICK), cloaked in historic ambiance on a rural 60-acres, has a pretty traditional white clapboard inn as well as a Country Motor Lodge where pets are welcome.

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