Founded in 1926 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, the living museum known as Colonial Williamsburg started by restoring the town’s historic buildings. Presently, Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living museum, encompassing 301 acres of refurbished and reconstructed buildings. Hundreds of people walk around in costume to recreate a setting representative to Pre-American Revolution life during the 18th century. It’s so large, it takes several days to explore.
Though not as immersive as some of the other museums on this list, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History is constantly growing. The museum is devoted to the cultural, social, and other developments that have occurred from the beginning to the present day of America. There are more than 3 million historical artifacts, including the Star-Spangled Banner, Jefferson’s lap desk, and Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
Ideal for families with children, the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park is a great way for everyone to experience colonial life. The living history museum is set on 200 acres and has 5-themed areas: 1836 Prairie Town, Lenape Indian Camp, Conner Homestead, 1859 Balloon Voyage, and 1863 Civil War Journey. By role-playing as a citizen, you get to make crafts, trade, walk nature trails, and much more.
Also known as Greenfield Village, this is a huge museum that was first started by Henry Ford. You can discover more than just Ford’s vehicles, you can see inventions from some of the world’s greatest inventors, including the Wright Brothers’ planes. There are several historic districts that recreate workshops of inventors, government buildings, homes, and more. You can even cruise around in a Model T!
Venture back to the 17th century when English colonists first arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Historical interpreters interact with you, teaching you all about life, culture, and customs. Climb aboard a recreated Mayflower II to see the conditions by which the pilgrims traveled. Then venture over to the Wampanoag Homesite to see how the Native Americans lived. And the Indians you see aren’t actors; they are surviving members of the Wampanoag tribe! Plimoth is open from March until November, so get here when you can!
Opened in 2015, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum can be found in the main building of the former immigration complex and recreates scenes from 1918 through 1924, when 12 million immigrants entered America. Recently completed is the Peopling of America Center, where immigration has been chronicled in a highly detailed way. There’s also a 45-minute tour available in multiple languages where you walk through as a “new arrival” to the United States.
Remember the Alamo! Located in the heart of San Antonio, the Alamo has become one of Texas’ most visited landmarks and is a pride of the state. Here you can walk the fort grounds, see where the 1836 battle took place with living history demonstrations, and check out the special events held throughout the year. The Alamo is open year-round and has free admission.
Located at the Lorraine Motel, the National Civil Rights Museum gives you a look at the entire Civil Rights movement, starting with the Civil War. There are over 260 artifacts, 40 films, oral history recordings, and interactive media to engage in. Learn about slavery, student sit-ins, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and much more, all the while getting up close and involved in every exhibit.
Also referred to as “The Getty,” the J. Paul Getty Museum is a masterful collection of art history. There are European paints, drawings, manuscripts, decorations, photography, and much more from around the world to see. Throughout the year, exhibitions come and go, such as Ancient Egypt, Early American Photography, Michelangelo, and more. If you love visual arts, you will be enthralled by the Los Angeles based Getty Museum.
Want to dive into something truly spectacular? The buildings have been transported from all over Connecticut to remain preserved at Mystic, allowing you to explore a number of 19th century trades, such as shipsmithing, woodcarving, rigging, coopers, and more. You can also tour the Charles W. Morgan, the oldest commercial ship that first launched in 1841 and is still in operation today. There’s a children’s museum and Mystic Aquarium to entertain the younger crowd too.