UPDATE September 2015: This post is from 2013 and it may contain some out-dated information. While this post should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, please be sure to check the Old Sturbridge Village website for details about things like hours and pricing. Please note that the Oliver Wight Tavern no longer offers a free brunch for kids ages 10 and under. Currently, kids ages 3 and under are FREE and kids ages 12 and under are $7.95.
If you are a member of the Connecticut Science Center then you may (or may not) know that as a part of your membership, you will sometimes get the opportunity to visit another family-friendly destination for FREE.
Now, you know I love FREE, so I had to go.
Unfortunately for my husband, the only day that would work with both of our schedules was this past Sunday. My poor hubby, he never gets to relax. It was the first Sunday of the NFL season and we did a family outing.
Well, it wasn’t really that bad. We were home by 2:00 pm and he got to dress the kids up in some fabulous Cleveland Browns gear.
Anyways, back to our outing.
The Old Sturbridge Village is located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts and was a surprisingly easy and quick drive from our home in West Hartford, Connecticut.
We decided to take our family on a Sunday because 1) It was really the only day that worked with our schedule and 2) they have a Sunday Brunch where kids 10 and under eat for free. Remember how much I like FREE?
So, like I said, it was a pretty easy drive from West Hartford. It took us about 40 minutes (granted it was a Sunday morning)
We parked the car, unloaded the crew, got Sweetheart set up in her stroller and headed towards the entrance.
Before we ventured inside, I wanted to take a peek at the Oliver Wight Tavern located right before the visitors center entrance. As I mentioned, they offer a Sunday Brunch from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. The cost is $19.95 per adult and kids 10 and under eat for FREE. I couldn’t tell from the online pictures if the tavern was kid-friendly (and I need kid-friendly with so many little ones in tow) so I wanted to take a look at the inside before confirming my online reservation.
Fortunately, the restaurant was very kid-friendly and we would definitely be back for our late brunch.
Back to the Visitors Center and to Old Sturbridge Village we went!
Now, since we were getting in for FREE as Connecticut Science Center members (FREE for September 2013 daytime access only), we just went up to the counter, showed our museum membership card, got our hand stamped and we were in.
If you aren’t able to take advantage of this nice deal, the standard ticket prices are $24 for Adults, $22 for Seniors, $8 for children ages 3-17 and FREE for children ages 2 and under. I will say that these prices are on the higher side of our typical outing, but don’t fret. There are a variety of discounts available. You could also check with your local library to see if their museum pass program offers free or discounted tickets for entry. Monthly specials are also sometimes offered and the family membership may end up being a good option for you. For the month of August, kids were FREE and for the month of September, Seniors are half off, so there is often a deal available. Your entry to the museum also includes a free re-entry within 10 days of your first visit. Basically, there are a variety of options to make the visit work for your family.
After checking in, we received a map of the property and got a few tips from the visitor’s center guide:
- A few buildings are always open and active:
- Small House
- Knight Store
- Tin Shop
- Potter Shop
- Freeman Farmhouse
- Blacksmith Shop
- Other buildings are open throughout the day or seasonally. She suggested we check the schedule of daily events (located on the back of our map)
- The horse-drawn ride around the countryside picks up in front of the Knight Store (something I had asked about)
As we passed through the modern Visitor Center and entered into the Old Sturbridge Village, I certainly felt as though I was going back in time.
The museum assisted me with my transport back by taking me through a step-by-step guide:
Now entering an 1830’s rural New England Village
The American Revolution ended over 50 years ago
The Civil War is still a generation away
The Erie Canal opened in 1825
A railroad connects Boston and Worcester, 44 miles
Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky are “The West”
New England has over 1,000 factories
Costumed historians will help you under stand the past and its relation to the present . . .
I really have no business talking about historical facts, so what you see above is probably the extent of the historical spin I’ll put on this post, but let’s just say I tried.
Do you think these are the costumed historians they were referring to?
It really was a neat site as we entered the village.
We stopped at the first building we saw, the Fenno Barn. My kids were drawn in by the sheep wandering in the field outside and I was drawn in by the costumed woman preparing some type of concoction nearby. We eventually learned that she was dying yarn using natural materials and an age-old process.
Before we went much further with our tour of the property, we decided to make our way over to the Knight Store building and hop on the horse-drawn ride for a little tour. I’m really glad we did because this was a great way to see the property and find out about some of the activities happening that day (e.g. we found out they were doing a fishing activity that morning).
The ride had plenty of room on board and my kids were completely mesmerized by the horses. Since we had a stroller with us, we decided to just grab our valuables and leave the stroller outside the building. In hindsight, we should have and I wish we would have just folded up the stroller and brought it with us. Not that there was any issue with leaving it outside the building, but the 20 minute ride makes a few stops along the way and it would have been nice to get off instead of riding all the way back to the starting point.
There was also an option to ride a stage-coach which looked like it would be a pretty fun adventure. It picked up in front of Bullard Tavern and cost $3 per person (kids 3 and under were free).
After our tour, we headed back out to the countryside to visit the Blacksmith Shop, Freeman Farmhouse, and more. It was a very quick walk to the countryside from the Knight Store where our ride had ended.
Plus, the walk was rather tranquil.
Along the way, we passed the entrance for the River Ride. Rides are an additional fee of $3 per person (kids 3 and under are free). Fares can be purchased at the dock with cash or credit card. Life jackets are provided.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take the riverboat ride on this trip, but next time we go that is top of our list.
We continued past a few other buildings until we found the Freeman Farmhouse. My kids were set on seeing pigs and cows (and I was hoping those animals were actually going to be there). Good news. There were pigs, cows, bulls, chickens, sheep, goats and more.
There were a few other buildings to visit in this area. We made it to some of them.
After sufficient exploration of the countryside, we made our way back into town. While there, I discovered a few places to eat:
The Bullard Tavern Cafe was serving grab-n-go fare and had seating available both inside and outside.
Little Cakes was serving ice cream (though they only operate on a seasonal basis).
We didn’t stop to pick up any goodies, though, because I had plans to gorge myself on the Sunday Brunch in just a bit.
We still had a little time to spare before our restaurant reservations, so we explored the last section of the Old Sturbridge Village. There was even more history to soak up in this section, but my kids were most interested in two things they saw: a playground and the (fairly new) beekeeping exhibit.
The playground was just a small space where the kids could run around. It had this cool structure that combined tunnels and slides. Bruiser’s favorites!
And there were things to climb on and explore.
But it was here that I took my absolute favorite picture of the day. Now if you follow us on Facebook, you may have already seen this. But if you don’t, get ready to smile 🙂
Then last, but not least, we made a stop at the newest exhibit at Old Sturbridge Village, the Beekeeping Exhibit. My kids were loving watching the bees do their thing.
Before we knew it, though, we were at the exit and heading towards The Oliver Wight Tavern in search of some brunch. Our Old Sturbridge Village tour was coming to an end.
But wait, it really doesn’t end there.
I will be back tomorrow with an inside look at the Oliver Wight Tavern and all that their brunch has to offer. (update: see my post about the Sunday Brunch here)
But until then, tell us about your Old Sturbridge Village experience. Have you been? What was your favorite activity? Are you planning to go this month? Let us know in the comments section below.
Old Sturbridge Village – An 1830’s New England Living History Museum
- The latest hours information can be found here.
- Schedule at the time of posting:
- April 1 – October 31: Daily, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
- November 1 – December 1: Tuesday – Sunday, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
- December 2 – 25: Closed for daytime admission; open Friday – Sunday, 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm for Christmas by Candlelight
- December 26 – December 31: Open daily, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
- January 1 – March 31: Open Tuesday – Sunday, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
- The latest rate information can be found here.
- Parking is FREE
- Ticket Prices (2013):
- Adults: $24
- Seniors (55 and over): $22 (though half off during September 2013)
- Children ages 3-17: $8
- Children 2 and under: FREE
- Discounts and specials are available. Check here for more details.
- Admission includes free re-admission to the village within 10 days of your first visit.
- Check your local library’s museum pass program to see if they offer a pass for free or discounted entry.
- A few activities inside the Village cost an additional fee. Most accept credit cards, but bring cash just in case. The stagecoach ride is $3 per person (kids 3 and under are free). The river ride costs $3 per person (kids 3 and under are free). There is also a fee for some of the crafts.
Tips and Things to Bring:
- Bring a stroller or baby carrier for little ones. There is a lot of walking involved. I also saw a family with a wagon for the kids to use when they get tired.
- Parking is FREE and there was plenty available.
- Restrooms were available throughout the property. Most seemed to offer a baby changing station.
- The village map can be found here.
- There are a few eating facilities located in the village and a few located outside the village. Get all the details here.
- Picnicking is welcomed in the village, so feel free to bring food in with you. Here are the picnicking guidelines from their site: You are welcome to bring food and non-alcoholic beverages into the Village. While eating is not allowed inside the historic buildings, there are several picnic tables located within the Village or in a pine grove at the top of the parking lot.
- You will be outside most of your visit, so bring the items you need to contend with the elements (warm clothing during winter months and suntan lotion and hats during the summer)
- The horse-drawn ride that meets in front of Knight House is free and goes throughout the property. The stagecoach ride costs money and stays in the town center area.
- Feel free to fold up your stroller and bring it on the horse-drawn ride. We saw many people doing just that and you may not want to ride it all the way back to the starting point and just get off along the way.
- The horse-drawn ride takes about 20 minutes.
- If you want even more information on Old Sturbridge Village, check out this video.
- Museum Guidelines:
- Turn off cell phones
- Please do not touch or feed the animals
- Walk carefully on Village roads
- Eating and drinking are not permitted in exhibit buildings
- Please do not walk or climb on fences, walls, or trees
- Smoking allowed only in designated areas
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