As we traveled home from Colonial Williamsburg, we decided to break the trip up and try to stop somewhere halfway through. I had bookmarked some interesting attractions in Virginia and noted the Frontier Culture Museum. It is located in Staunton, Virginia and had some decent reviews. Again, I knew it was a museum about frontier living, but (like with a lot of this trip) I hadn’t done any research on it beforehand. As it turns out, this place is fantastic!
What exactly is this place?
When I think of museums, I imagine a building with small exhibits. This was a living history exhibit with an amazing array of actual to scale (and sometimes literally imported) homes and farms from different time periods! They have interpreters or actors who reside in many of the locations to answer any questions and explain the exhibit. These actors also literally tend to their location, be it growing a garden, sowing, or even making nails in the forge! When we arrived, we used our Triple A card to get a nice discount on the admission tickets (which were already reasonable at $12 for an adult). You receive a map and get started. There is a fork immediately and we decided to start towards the African village (I definitely recommend this route).
Is it strenuous to see the whole thing since it’s so huge?
The museum involves walking from farm to farm via paths. However, if you struggle with walking (seeing it all may end up taking you 1-2 miles depending on your route), they off a “hop-on, hop-off” option with golf carts. There was literally a gentleman driving around from farm to farm picking up and dropping off visitors to their next location. I thought this was fabulous service! He stopped to try to pick us up many times and we explained we were stopping to stretch our legs from driving. Every time though, he would check to see if we wanted a ride and after our last exhibit, we took him up on our offer! We had tired ourselves out haha and it felt nice to be whisked back to the museum entrance with a little breeze 🙂. Caution! The entrances to some of the older homes and buildings have low doorways, so make sure to watch your head. Other than that, the ability to be chauffeured around locations really makes this stop great for anyone and extremely accessible! I give it 4.5 stars out of 5!
The exhibits we encountered included the following exhibits and buildings (which were either reconstructed and reproduced or literally transported from existing farms sites!):
- 1700’s West African Farm
- 1600’s English Farm
- 1700’s Irish Farm
- 1700’s Irish Forge
- 1700’s German Farm
- 1700’s Ganatastwi (Native American) Farm
- 1740’s American Settlement
- 1820’s American Farm
- Early American Schoolhouse
- 1850’s American Farm
We skipped the American Schoolhouse, but managed to see the rest! Here’s a small recap of our experiences!
1700’s West African Farm
SUPER low entrances, we felt like we were playing limbo entering the huts! 🙂 Also there are goats wandering around loose. They may or may not have simply escaped their pasture and were on the lam! Haha we weren’t sure if this was intentional or not.
1600’s English Farm
They even have a young boy as an actor and he knew so much! We were very impressed with his skills and knowledge base.
1700’s Irish Farm
This was one of the buildings that was literally built in the 1700’s and was imported from Ireland!
1700s Irish Forge
This was by far our favorite stop! It was a true working forge and there was a guy shaping and building tools! Marc and I were fascinated by this process and seeing the sparks flying off that hot metal while he pounded and shaped a nail was amazing! He said he had been an apprentice for about four years and they were now teaching him how to make nails. They will be using the nails he makes for reconstructive work on their exhibits to keep them as authentic as possible. How cool is that?
1700s German Farm
The German farm was fun, and the best part was the horse and little donkey who were hanging out by the fence to say hello!
1700s Ganatastwi (Native American) Farm
Again, EXTREMELY low ceilings, watch your head!
1740’s American Settlement
This was my second favorite stop! It looked like a small cabin for a frontiersman. It was cozy and so well replicated, I could see the history—I could see the reality of life with this cabin as home.
1820s American Farm and 1850s American Farm
These two seemed pretty similar to me and at these locations, Marc mused that now we were getting to standards he could see himself living with haha!
All in all?
Each of these exhibits were totally furnished with home tools, items, and furniture that enhanced the exhibit experience. We learned a ton and got so much more than we bargained for with this stop. It took us about an hour and a half to make it through and I would say, save two hours for your trip if you want to see everything, because we were moving fast! If you are driving past, it is worth the stop. Take the detour! 🙂
So, have you ever visited the Frontier Culture Museum? Are there any fears, concerns, or questions of the unknown I didn’t cover? Comment below and let me know!
Per Person Cost: $ (>25) $$(25-50) $$$(50-100) $$$$(100-200) $$$$$(200+)
Since we used this as a road trip pit stop, and it is in a more rural area of Virginia, I recommend having stopping while traveling on the road!
Frontier Culture Museum: $ (You receive a discount with your AAA card!)
There were goats running around loose, which may have been very tame, but I assume they do have the ability to bite, as with any animal, take care if approaching them!
US Dollar: Every payment situation offered the option for cash or credit.
Locals and Odd Quirks
While on the path, we ran into a little girl and her family near a pond with ducks. She walked up to us (she was about 5 years old or so) and said, “here, take some!” They had purchased some pellets to feed the ducks. I told her we couldn’t possibly take her snacks for the ducks and her parents reassured us, she wants to share, we have a pass and come every so often. So I knelt down and told her, “I tell you what? Why don’t we take a little bit, that way you still have some?” She agreed and fed some ducks with us. This was such a nice encounter and such a nice little girl to want to share with some strangers. I had to share because it made our day! It makes me feel so good to see the kindness being raised in a little person 🙂