There's more to travel than just discovering new places…it's also a great way to grow as a lifelong learner. This applies to people of all ages; we’re never too young or old to learn about the fascinating planet we call home. More and more parents are doing travel-based education, also known as worldschooling, to travel the world as the ultimate hands-on education. Visiting living history destinations is just one of the excellent ways to learn more about the history and culture of a destination, and further your journey towards global citizenship.
What are living history museums?
Also known as ‘living museums’ or ‘open-air museums’, these unique places recreate historical settings through realistic set design and actors playing the roles of the local people from the period. These museums are not just educational; they are valuable cultural assets of significance to the understanding and appreciation of local history, and they provide visitors with an immersive experience that makes them feel part of the era. As such, they can be powerful for a worldschooling or traveling family in creating lasting memories by engaging all of the senses.
Best living history museums
There are many incredible living museums worldwide, and we would be hard-pressed to cover them all here. Therefore, we have done extensive research on what we believe to be some of the best living history museums around the world. If you are considering a travel-based worldschooling education for your children, be sure to discover the open-air museums in the regions you travel to.
Plimoth Patuxet Museums - New England, USA
Visiting the sites of the Plimoth Patuxet Museums is one of the more popular field trips for educators and students in New England. It offers an entirely hands-on, immersive experience bringing historic Patuxet, a 17th-century English small farming town, Mayflower II, Plimoth Plantation & Grist Mill, and a Native American village site alive.
The kids will love touring Patuxet in horse-drawn wagons, imaging what life would have been like aboard the Mayflower II (a full-scale replica of the ship that brought the early pioneers to Plymouth in 1620), and learning about the 12,000-year indigenous heritage of Native Americans at the Wampanoag Homesite.
Historians and contemporary interpreters discuss people's way of life from both the Old and the New World. They offer:
- Guided tours
- Customized workshops
- Themed dining experiences
Do you have children of different ages? No problem! Plimoth Patuxet Museums provide workshops for early childhood (including a work-and-play program) as well as workshops for older learners with various activities suited for different ages ranging from grade 2 to grade 12. We can't think of a better way to learn about the early settlement history of North America.
Bomas of Kenya - Nairobi, Kenya
Bomas of Kenya is a living history museum in the capital city of Nairobi, educating and entertaining locals and international visitors alike since 1971. They are known for their cultural performances, consisting of over 50 dances from different tribes and communities throughout the country. However, these are not regular dance shows, as they take you on a journey throughout Kenya's history up to the present day. The performers, often volunteering, showcase live string and wind instruments, percussion, and Bomas Harambee dances. Every tribe offers something a little different.
To top it off, they have a research library and multimedia center to assist teachers, students and world-schooling families, where you can find information on all the customs, cultures and traditional practices of communities throughout Kenya.
Biskupin Archaeological Museum - Biskupin, Poland
The Biskupin Archaeological Museum offers a truly unique experience. The entirely open-air museum is a detailed reproduction of prehistoric and early medieval settlements from the Stone Age to the Early Middle Ages in the area. Moreover, it is the largest and most famous archaeological reserve in Europe, spanning 38 hectares (94 acres) with various ancient settlements. The discovery of the leading site of the Biskupin Peninsula is considered one of the 100 most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
The restored model is next-level and needs to be experienced. They have a vast array of sites, including:
- Camps for hunters and gatherers
- A defensive settlement on the peninsula
- Settlements of the first farmers
- Box graves
- A Piast village
Each site has its own costumed actors and historical interpreters educating you on the area. You can even arrange overnight stays at the Medieval settlement to explore the sites and participate in the museum lessons and fun historical games.
Chesterfield Museum - Chesterfield, UK
The Chesterfield Museum is sure to delight the kids. They have a range of living history exhibits taking you back throughout the rich history of England, including an annual Medieval Festival where children can meet Robin Hood! Other year-round events include meeting and learning from Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, as she regales you with stories, including her childhood and her wealthy parents’ disapproval of her career choice as a nurse. You will also meet and learn from other notable historical figures such as Bess of Hardwick and the infamous King Henry VIII.
World-schooling children can also learn:
- How a knight puts on his armor
- How to dress a Georgian lady
- What life was like on working farms
- How it felt to attend lessons in a Victorian schoolroom - strict!
For something completely different, they can learn about the Battle of Chesterfield in1265 through a re-enactment made out of vegetables. Yes, vegetables going into battle!
Land of Legends - Zealand, Denmark
Another one that's sure to delight is the Land of Legends in Denmark. Land of Legends takes your family on a journey to the Stone Age, Iron Age and Viking Age. Think of it as a historical playground for children and adults alike. Open year-round, everything is recreated based on archaeological research into what life was like during these periods. The ethnic Scandinavian farmsteads are as authentic as can be.
Besides enjoying living museum reenactments guided by costumed interpreters from every era, children can:
- Play historic games
- Learn how to shoot with a bow and arrow
- Experiencing life as a Viking
- Ride in landmark vessels such as the tribe's Viking boat
What a way to learn about maritime history!
For extra world-schooling fodder, the kids can watch how the Vikings dressed, see their tools and weapons and even taste their food. Land of Legends also has a hotel, camping, and other accommodation options for those wanting to more fully experience all that it offers.
Genesis Land - Israel
The Genesis Land tour in Israel isn't only a living history destination but an incredible journey where the stories of the Bible come to life in the very place they are said to have occurred. Do not, however, be put off by the biblical elements if you are not Christian– this is more of a history lesson than a religious experience. The tour educates you about Abraham, the ‘Father of Many Nations’, and the historical sites where he is believed to have lived.
All visitors to Genesis Land are greeted by Abraham's servant, Eliezer, and his caravan of camels. He will then lead you on a camel ride to Abraham's tent. From there, the tour recreates the patriarch's way of life, with a range of activities, including:
- Pottery making
- Ancient Hebrew writing
- Brick making
You can learn how the Israelis made bricks in Egypt to build a home and draw water from a cistern to survive the heat. Genesis Land is an ancient experience of life and one the whole family is sure to remember.
Highland Paradise - Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Suppose you are lucky enough to find yourself in the beautiful Cook Islands in the South Pacific. In that case, you need to visit Highland Paradise, a living museum and cultural learning center. They offer an immersive educational experience of the powerful story of Cook Island Maori culture. Their historical guides take you on a tour of their village while you learn about Polynesian heritage including tribal warfare, legends and spiritual beliefs.
You get to experience everyday life in an ancient village as they include you in weaving and cooking traditional foods. Your lunch is even prepared in a traditional umu! For further learning about their past and present, you are invited to a spectacular sunset show: a singing, drumming and dancing performance expressing their ancient heritage. What a way to learn about another culture!
Korean Folk Village - Seoul, Korea
The Korean Folk Village is Korea's largest living history museum that presents the national culture by teaching folk customs that have been passed down throughout the generations for thousands of years. There is a reconstruction of a Joseon-period village which has been meticulously constructed using real houses from different parts of the country and relocated to Seoul. Historical interpreters re-enact daily life throughout the four seasons based on thorough research, historical consultation and verification.
Korean Folk Village holds a vast array of tours, events and performances designed to cultivate a deeper understanding of Korean history and culture. These include:
- A small-group tour through nature trails to the villages while learning about rural life
- Traditional art performances
- A wedding ceremony where you can play an active role
- Sampling traditional Korean food with interesting-sounding names such as gilmokjip!
Henry Ford Organization - Detroit, USA
The Henry Ford Organization offers an array of different types of experiences, including the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, where families can learn and be inspired by 300 years of American ingenuity (including seeing a recreation of Henry Ford's model of the combustible engine). Then there is Greenfield Village, which takes you to working farms and the cycle shop where the Wright brothers first developed their world-changing flight vision.
You can also learn about other courageous historical figures and the pivotal moments that changed the world for the better. Some examples include:
- Sitting on the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat
- Watching dramatic performances of women fighting for their right to vote
- Witnessing the strength and hope of enslaved people in their quest for freedom
You can't put a price on this kind of education!
Caminito - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Caminito, another unique living history destination, is a public-access street museum in La Boca, Buenos Aires. Caminito (‘little path’ in Spanish) was created after the closure of the railroad junction in 1954. The street became an eyesore until local residents decided to rejuvenate the area and local artist Benito Quinquela Martín used the buildings as his canvas to depict the era of the colorful immigrant dwellings that came to characterize the portside area towards the end of the 19th Century.
Now there are many murals by Argentine artists displayed as part of the street museum, and the area has literally become a trip down memory lane. The tenement buildings made from sheet metal and wood are typical of the city's original conventillos, the communal homes built by Genoan immigrants of the late 19th Century. Additionally, several restaurants perform tango and traditional folk dances to teach visitors about the rich culture and the diverse array of immigrants that made the city. Caminito is a visual and historical feast that you won’t soon forget.
Storylines is creating a community of global citizens onboard MV Narrative, a residential ship circumnavigating the world every three years. The ship is designed to accommodate families with the first-of-its-kind world-traveling school. We visit educational destinations all around the world from open-air museums to UNESCO World Heritage sites and the wonders of the world. If you would like to learn more about this new and exciting way of living, be sure to visit our website.