Living History Farms
Link to their website for more info: http://www.livinghistoryfarms.org/
We just went to Living History Farms this weekend, July 8, 2006.
1st and foremost, some suggestions for you before you head out to Living History Farms:
A) Use sunscreen and bug spray
B) DO NOT wear anything fancy or white, as it can be quite dusty when you are riding the tractor ride.
C) If you want to walk on the trails, which are off of the main trail, wear jeans/pants. We wore shorts so we only stayed on the main one.
D) Wear comfortable shoes, you will do ALOT of walking
E) Take a camera and extra film and batteries
F) Bring some water/something to drink, but carry only things that are light.
Who went: My mom (57), my children (11, 8, 5) and myself (28).
When you first get there, if you would like a mini (short) tour, they will provide it. Basically they show you a large scale map, and explain where everything is. They also offer you gloves w/their name on it that you can keep, and I HIGHLY suggest getting them as you will have opportunities for hands-on activities, and petting some animals.
It was beyond Amazing! It is 500 acres. We started out visiting the farms. (You have the choice to either begin at the towns or the farms). At each farm there are workers/volunteers who will guide/show/demonstrate the lives of the people back in that time era. They are also dressed in appropriate attire.
You begin at the 1700 Ioway Farm. This almost looks nomadic. Here you get an opportunity to scrape the fur off of a hide, which will then be used to put on to a teepee. They hide is quite big, so you won't really do it all but could if you wanted too.
Next up is the 1850 Pioneer farm. There are 2 ox, and a herder that you can watch walk the ox. Inside a home, you get to watch some women sewing and cooking and sometimes spinning wool. If you go up the ladder to the attic/top you will also see how they smoke/dry meat. My kids got to drill holls using a handmade & hand propelled drill, which was then installed on a house they are building. They have pigs and chickens at this farm. There is an underground cellar you can go in, though none of us braved it.
Then there is the 1900 Horse Farm. There are about 6 horses that you can watch and pet. I believe at times they use the horses to plow but they did not on the day we were there. There is a windmill that is powered by the wind that also pumps water. There is a corn bin you can go into. Some old tractors. Inside one of the houses is an old piano (it don't work though), an old cast-iron stove, and some really pretty antique furniture. We actually got to witness a bunch of the workers eating a meal outside, they even posed for a picture. The kids got to stand near a bicycle from this era.
Now for the Town of Walnut Hill, 1875.
So realistic. We watched one man use a machete type thing to 'mow'/cut the grass. He said it usually takes him 1-2 hours to do the entire yard. You can also go in and tour: Dentist office, doctor office, general store (you can actually buy things in there), Black Smith, Broom shop, printer, a bank, and a school. Or you can just sit at one of the benches and watch all of the people go about their lives in that era.
In the town is a lunch shop (more modern day) that you can buy and eat your lunch at. They serve cold sandwiches, hot dogs/brats, pizza, nachos, ice cream, candy, and some potato salad (which I highly recommend). The price isn't too bad either.
They have a rather large gift shop, where you can buy souvenirs and items the workers have made from each era.
So if you ever have the chance to visit Living History Farms in Des Moines, Iowa, I HIGHLY recommend going. Expect to spend at least 2 hours if not the whole day. The time you spend there depends on how thorough you want to be at each area.