12 Museums where Learning about History is Fun

When I was growing up, history was one of my least favorite subjects in school, yet, as an adult, I love learning about history. I enjoy reading historical fiction and I love learning about the local history of the places we visit on our travels. We often visit historical sites and history museums. There’s something about seeing actual artifacts and standing in the spot where history was made that makes it come alive. These twelve museums each offer something that makes it fun to learn about history.

Living History

El Rancho de las Golondrinas is a living history museum near Santa Fe, New Mexico, where you can learn about the Spanish Colonial and Territorial New Mexico time periods. The ranch is authentic and dates back to the 1700’s.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is one of my absolute favorites. The museum is staffed by costumed interpreters who demonstrate activities like broom making, spinning, and weaving. The farm has animals and grows vegetables that are served in the restaurant. Former Family Dwellings and other buildings have been converted into an inn with overnight accommodations.

Although the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, has much more than history, its 1904 Family Ranch and Sawmill is a must-see living history exhibit. Costumed interpreters portray the Miller Family and will show visitors the cabin, barn, corral, and sawmill.

Carriage Hill MetroPark is a delightful free living history museum in Dayton, Ohio, that recreates 1880’s farm life. You can read more about it in my book, Adventures Around Cincinnati.

History of Technology

The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, is one of the best and biggest history museums in the country. You’ll find artifacts from moments that changed history: the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated and the bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The museum also celebrates innovation and inspires young people to dream about the future.

A similar museum, but on a smaller scale, is Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio. You can view the world’s first practical airplane, the 1905 Wright Flyer III, along with other Wright Brothers exhibits. Other Dayton inventions on exhibit include the automobile self-starter and cash register. Although I haven’t blogged about this one, it’s in my book, Adventures Around Cincinnati.

Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, tells the history of the DuPont Company. You’ll learn how the company evolved from making gunpowder to making Teflon and Lycra. Don’t miss the gunpowder explosion. You’ll also see how the workers lived in this fascinating museum.

Learn about a late 19th century pig iron manufacturing operation at Fayette Historic State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Take a self-guided tour through the furnace complex, company offices, and residential areas.

War History

Kansas City, Missouri, is home to the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. With 2014 marking the 100-year anniversary of the start of the Great War, this is a great time to visit. The museum has both artifacts and high-tech interactive exhibits and the memorial tower offers a fantastic view of the city.

Bardstown, Kentucky, offers Museum Row which has five venues: Old Bardstown Village (a pioneer village), the Civil War Museum of the Western Theatre, Women of the Civil War Museum, War Memorial of Mid America, and the Native American Museum.

Railroad History

Kentucky offers a pair of museums that complement each other when learning about railroad history. The Historic Railpark & Train Museum is housed in a former railroad station in Bowling Green and allows you to tour several historic railroad cars. The Kentucky Railway Museum, not far from Bardstown, lets you experience railroad history by riding a train. Our ride included an old-fashioned train robbery.


Terri Weeks is a travel writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. She and her husband are on a mission to take their children to all 50 states before they graduate from high school. She blogs about it at www.travel50stateswithkids.com. She is also one of the authors of Adventures Around Cincinnati: A Parent’s Guide to Unique and Memorable Places to Explore with your Kids. She is a member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association.

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About Terri Weeks 20 Articles
Terri Weeks is a family travel writer in the Cincinnati area. Her family is on a mission to visit all 50 states by the time her kids graduate from high school. She blogs about family travel in the US at www.travel50stateswithkids.com and is the author of the e-book How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips. Terri is also a local travel guru in Cincinnati and is co-author of Adventures Around Cincinnati: A Parent's Guide to Unique and Memorable Places to Explore with your Kids. www.adventuresaroundcincinnati.com. She’s a member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association.