13 Living History Museums on the East Coast Kids Will Love

While traditional museums have priceless artifacts and works of art that are important to see (read why here), kids tend to be more engaged when they can get up close to history. One of the best opportunities for kids to engage with live interpreters and engage with tangible artifacts is a living history museum. Living history museums have indoor and outdoor exhibits, interactive displays, and daily programs and informative demonstrations. Many museums even offer summer camps for children. Most museums do close during winter hours (some spots keep indoor exhibits open), so we’re sharing this list now, as everything prepares to open for the 2021 season. Here are 13 of our favorite spots on the East Coast and two more that are on our 2021 list:

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10 Ways to Explore the Connecticut River Museum

The Connecticut River runs over 400 miles from the Connecticut Lakes near the Canadian border down through Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut to Long Island Sound in Old Saybrook. The Connecticut River Museum began as a volunteer organization in the 1970s, housed in a 1870s Steamboat Warehouse, and has since expanded into a museum with an impressive collection of artifacts and art, a replica sailing ship, a combat submarine, and a calendar filled with special events, programs, and workshops.

The museum is spread out over three floors of exhibits: a rotating exhibit on the 3rd floor and permanent exhibits on the first and second floors. There is also a small display in the boathouse room. We found the exhibits engaging and informative and appropriate for upper elementary aged students and older. Toddlers might have a hard time not touching everything and won’t be able to read all the informative signage; however, ALL ages will LOVE the train show (so bring kids of all ages to the train show and hold on to toddlers closely).

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10 Family Friendly Spots in Gloucester, Massachusetts

Known as “America’s oldest seaport”, Gloucester was the largest fishing port in America in the second half of the 19th century, and one of the top five ports in the world at that time. In addition to its contributions to the fishing industry, Gloucester also produced granite in nearby quarries as well as a thriving art community. Founded in 1623, the city is less than one hour north of Boston, directly on the Atlantic Ocean. Gloucester is one of four communities (Essex, Rockport, and Manchester-by-the-Sea are the other three communities) that make up the Cape Ann district.

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Charlestown Navy Yard & the USS Constitution in Boston, MA

Charlestown, Massachusetts, located on the north end of Boston directly on the Harbor, is considered the oldest neighborhood in the city.  The Navy Yard was established in 1800 and over 200 warships were built and maintained there until the yard’s closing in 1974. Today, the 130 acre complex includes parks, museums, visitor centers, and two ships on display. On a busy summer weekend, over five thousand people visit in one day.

On a recent trip to Boston, we spent the morning at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, which was a lot of fun for the whole family. You can read all about adventures here. After a quick walk to the New England Aquarium, we took a ten minute water taxi, administered by Boston Harbor Cruises, to Charlestown. There are plenty of private water taxi options, but the water taxis administered by Boston Harbor Cruises travel all over the area and are very reasonably priced. Bonus: Children ride free with a paid adult.