Old World Wisconsin


This was going to be a post about my visit to Madison, Wisconsin, but my day at the living history site Old World Wisconsin was the star of the show! What is Old World Wisconsin? It is an open-air museum on more than 500 acres of land, that portrays the lives of immigrants in 19th century Wisconsin. The buildings are grouped into ethnic areas, based on the immigrant populations that came to Wisconsin, such as Germans and Scandinavians. And in most of the houses there are costumed interpreters, learning to do things like use a loom, make wool into yarn, harvest crops, and make bread in an outdoor oven.

The best thing about the experience was not just having the place to ourselves for much of the day (the benefit of Tuesday museum visits!), but the fact that staff were genuinely excited to talk and show you things of interest. When staff are excited, it makes visitors excited! You are learning how to use a spinning wheel, and do I want to watch? Absolutely! Check out the park map below…

A map of Old World Wisconsin shows how truly big it is.

A map of Old World Wisconsin shows how truly big it is.

It is hard to imagine, but the 60+ historic structures at Old World Wisconsin were brought to the site from all across the state, before the museum opened in the 1970’s. A schoolhouse from Raspberry Bay far north on Lake Superior, to a one-room chapel from an African-American community in the southwest corner of Wisconsin. How did they get the buildings here? Well, I honestly can’t imagine.

In front of the Schulz house in the German area.

In front of the Schulz house in the German area.

This place has a lot going for it, including excellent staff and interpreters, hands-on interaction and more than enough to keep you busy for a full day. We stayed for a solid 6 hours, and commented that we could see ourselves coming back again. Perhaps celebrating the summer solstice Scandinavian style, or an old world Fourth of July parade…

Women in bonnets diligently working the garden!

Women in bonnets diligently working the garden!

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