12 Midwestern Historical Re-Enactments

I recently went to a historical re-enactment at a former military fort near my hometown, and I surprised myself. I really enjoyed it! And so did my children – even though they were too young to grasp timelines or significance of things mentioned. It didn’t matter. The theatrical and sometimes hands-on nature of a re-enactment was fascinating enough.

I’ve been on the lookout for similar experiences since then. Lucky for me, there are several Midwest travel writers who’ve sought the same thing.

Here are 12 historical re-enactment experiences you can find in the Midwest:

Midwest Historical Experiences

Iowa

  • Living History Farms (Urbandale, Iowa) – Three farms demonstrate different eras of farming on the plains, with costumed characters, animals and interactive opportunities elevating the experience. There’s also an 1880s town to explore. Don’t miss the blacksmith! The visit to the Living History Farms was part of my Great Iowa Road Trip, which you can read about here. The Walking Tourists also wrote the farms here.

Kansas

  • Old Cowtown (Wichita, Kan.) – Old Cowtown is an outdoor living history museum in Wichita, Kan. The Walking Tourists take readers on a tour, exploring the 23 acres and more than 50 buildings on site. They visited the museum twice, sharing pictures from a holiday event depicting celebrations in the Victorian era.

Michigan

  • Wolcott Mill Metropark (Ray, Mich.) – Midwest Guest visited Wolcott Mill Metropark in Michigan’s Macomb County to watch and photograph living history enthusiasts recreating part of the Siege of Petersburg. Every year, Wolcott Mills Civil War Days event focuses on a specific Civil War battle to recreate.
  • The Henry Ford (Dearborn, Mich.) – Midwest Guest also happens to be a member of the National Historic Landmark The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, and has written about it several times. In this post, she explores the outdoor campus of Greenfield Village. Some of the fun touring options there include a ride on open-air railroad cars drawn by a vintage steam locomotive or riding in a chauffeur-driven restored Model T car. There’s even a vintage carousel for children to ride. In a separate post, she wrote about the War of 1812 Muster that took place there.

Minnesota

  • Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park (Preston, Minn.) – Thrifty Minnesota recently explored Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, where they checked out Historic Forestville, a living history “town” with actors in period costume. Forestville is modeled off a pioneer town in the mid-1850s.

Missouri

  • Shoal Creek Living History Museum (Kansas City, Missouri) – You can visit Shoal Creek Living History Museum anytime for FREE, but if you plan your trip well, you can go when there are actors re-enacting life in 19th century Missouri. We toured the grounds early summer when there weren’t any actors on hand, and it was still a beautiful place to explore (be sure to check out the bison).

Nebraska

  • Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (Fort Calhoun, Nebraska) – Life at Fort Atkinson in the 1820s comes to life on the first weekend of the month from May to October (plus a special holiday event). Costumed characters talk about life on the battlefield, in the kitchen and on the prairie. Highlights include a fun Q&A scavenger hunt for kids and cannon fire.
  • Indian Cave State Park living history cabins (Shubert, Nebraska) – One of Nebraska’s prettiest state parks has a small living history area where you can interact with various makers, including a soap maker, blacksmith, candle maker and broom maker. The Indian Cave State Park living history cabins are open Memorial Day through October on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ohio

  • Heritage Village (Cincinnati, Ohio) – Adventure Mom Blog wrote about catching a Civil War re-enactment at Heritage Village inside Sharon Woods Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. There was cannon fire, men on horseback, and gun battles fought by men in authentic period costumes.
  • Sauder Village (Archbold, Ohio) – Midwest Guest visited the living history museum, Sauder Village, in Archbold, Ohio. The 80-acre non-profit is Ohio’s largest living history destination and even has a kid-sized area for little ones to explore.
  • Canal Experience (Providence, Ohio) – In Providence, Ohio, travelers can see what it’s like to take a canal boat ride in Ohio in 1876. Midwest Guest wrote about the Canal Experience and was entertained with the crew who stayed in character the entire time. The tour lasts about 40 minutes.

Kim is the woman behind Oh My! Omaha, a travel blog celebrating fun things to do in Omaha and beyond. Her work has appeared in Omaha Magazine, Old Market Encounter and Omaha Home.

Here’s How To Do South Haven Along Michigan’s Sunset Coast

One of my favorite beach towns along Michigan’s Sunset Coast is South Haven. I love this town so much that we got married there, atop a bluff, with the sounds of Lake Michigan’s waves for accompaniment. But there’s more to do in South Haven than get married (whew!). It’s a quintessential Michigan beach town, with plenty of shopping, good eats, great coffee shops, the National Blueberry Festival, the Michigan Maritime Museum, and two wide, expansive, and clean sandy beaches.

South Haven revolves around the water, being right on Lake Michigan, and flanking both sides of the Black River. On the north side, you have the Michigan Maritime Museum and its tall ship, Friends Good Will, which goes out at sunset every night, as well as for other lake cruises. On the south side, there’s a boardwalk that goes from downtown to the beach, as well as shopping and restaurants.

Tall ship south haven at sunset

Here’s how to do South Haven…

First: ice cream (of course!). Just west of the highway is Sherman’s Dairy Bar, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this summer. It will be difficult to choose a flavor, because there are so many great ones. Such hardship…now you’re fortified!

rooftop cows, shermans dairy, south haven

Then head up the road to downtown, park, and explore – there are restaurants and shops galore. You can stock up on beach toys, Lake Michigan-themed clothes and gifts, fudge, wine, blueberry items at the blueberry store, and more.

beach shack snacks

Once you’ve eaten and shopped to your heart’s content, head to either beach for some swimming and a gorgeous sunset. On both north and south beach, there are small snack shacks with restrooms to change in. They will close around 9-9:30pm in the summer, before sunset has finished. If you want to change back out of your swimsuit before you leave, be sure to do so while they are still open. If you still have energy after sunset, check out showtimes at the historic movie theater downtown.

North Beach:

This beach is longer than South Beach, and has a locals’ only vibe. There is a setup for volleyball, but most people swim, picnic, and hang out here. The water is slightly warmer than on South Beach. If you like to walk, this is the beach to do so. It’s very long, and the coastline curves pleasingly.

south beach
Pier & lighthouse at South Beach

South Beach:

heading into downtown, on the way to the beach
Heading into downtown

Most people go to South Beach, for several reasons. There’s the boardwalk from downtown, of course. You can fish from the pier, and swim in the lee of the pier – the sandbar is quite near to the shore. Your kids will love the play structure, and there are a few picnic tables and a roofed pavilion near the bathrooms. But perhaps the highlight of South Beach is the ability to walk the pier. The lighthouse at the end is a gathering point for people, boat, and wave watching. When the sun sets and the pier lights come on, make your way back to shore, along with the many boats coming in from a day on the big lake. If you’re an early morning person, there is yoga on the beach here.

Clementine's
Places to eat downtown include:

Coffeeshops:

Idler Riverboat at Old Harbor Village
Idler Riverboat at Old Harbor Village

For more information about South Haven:

http://www.michiganmaritimemuseum.org/

http://www.southhaven.org/

https://www.instagram.com/visitsouthhaven/

Jessie Voigts has a PhD in International Education, has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. She’s published six books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. Jessie is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, and is passionate sharing the world through her site, Wandering Educators. She founded and directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program, teaching teens all around the world. She is based in Kalamazoo, Michigan.