While visiting Rochester, I took a walk around the sprawling Genesee Country Village and Museum. I visited on my own, partly because I am a bit of a history junkie, and I knew that I’d want to spend way more time there than my daughters and husband would. There’s a ton to see here. Basically, if there was an historic building around New York State in peril, it was scooped up and moved here, so there are more than 40 different structures spanning from the end of the 18th century to the early 20th century. Many are restored with period furnishings, and interpreters demonstrate 19th-century cooking, blacksmithing, tinsmithing, brewing, and more. Their latest addition is a replica of The Intrepid, a Civil War-era hot air balloon, and if weather conditions are just right, you can ascend as far as the tethers allow.
I wanted to tell you about Genesee Country Village and Museum soon after my trip because they have a couple of special events coming up. This weekend (August 3 to 5) it’s the National Silver Ball Base Ball Tournament (spelled “Base Ball” because that’s how they did it in the good ol’ days), with more than 20 teams from all over the place playing 1800s-style base ball on a replica 1800s base ball field. Of course, if you can’t make it for the big event, there are generally weekend base ball games through October (schedule here). The following weekend, they’re celebrating Laura Ingalls Wilder Days on Saturday and Sunday, August 11th & 12th. Try not to freak out or anything, but the actresses portraying Miss Beadle and Miss Eliza Jane Wilder will be there. If you think that I’m being facetious about my don’t-freak-out warning, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to my deep and abiding love for all things Little House on the Prairie.
There’s an excellent (and recent) overview of Genesee Country Village and Museum on Brainiac Getaways. So I’m going to opt for pointing out where you should go if you have young children. Because if you have young children, it’s too much to try to see everything. First of all, if you’re wavering on whether or not to bring a stroller, bring it. When you arrive, you’ll receive a map and a schedule of activities. It’s worth it to stop and read through those activities right away so that you won’t miss special demonstrations or featured craftspeople. The map is easy-to-read, so it’s a fun activity for the kids to try to navigate and direct you. If you go for a weekend or special event, there are likely to be special activities in the village square, but here are a few child-friendly highlights from my quiet weekday visit (numbers indicate the building number on the map):
The Schoolhouse (4), along with the Romulus Female Seminary (38), both had friendly teachers who were eager to register new students and set them a slate and soapstone pencil to get started.
Thompson’s Tavern & Store (34): has a variety of children’s games to play.
The Tinsmith Shop (44) has a demonstrator and the opportunity (for $3) to do some tinsmithing and bring home your own small tin ornament.
MacKay House (26) includes opportunities for hands-on play including a few toys as well as supplies for an awesome game of “house.”
And because our naive children think that laundry seems fun, they can play wash, hang, and iron the laundry.
Oh! One more kid-attraction: an assortment of period-appropriate farm animals:
Genesee Country Village and Museum is one of the largest living history museums in the country, and the passionate interpreters who work there are a large part of what make it so great. During my visit, a dressmaker was eager to show me how the fashion of sleeves evolved, a lady embroidered while patiently answering question after question after question from swarming children, and craftsmen discussed brewing beer, smithing, and more with equal parts technical know-how and passion. In multiple locations folks were cooking and preparing food which, I was told ruefully at each turn, they weren’t actually allowed to serve us. Too bad. Some of it smelled pretty good. Along with the interpreters, the buildings themselves and the accompanying period-appropriate gardens and furnishings make an amazing collection. The dressmaker insisted that I come back again soon, because a collection of period everyday clothing will be on display soon. Admission is $15.50/adult, $12.50/student or senior citizen, $9.50/youth 4 to 16, kids 3 and under free. Details on hours and admission are here. And if you’re a history nut, they have a fun blog, too.