July 3, 2016 By Marissa
My husband and I were just saying how little time we have spent traveling around our local area here in Nebraska lately. We swore last night, no matter what, we were getting out and doing something local today. Hopefully a new adventure we haven’t tried in the last year. Initially, we planned to go berry picking. Nope, closed. Then we thought about taking a short walk around one of our local recreational parks. Eh, not incredibly exciting for the Fourth of July Weekend. Since I wasn’t struck with any ridiculously amazing ideas, I thought I would turn to Oh My Omaha, a website that has been very helpful to us as a new family in the Omaha area.
June 29th, Kim posted about some Independence Day Celebrations and one idea was a trip to Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. This weekend was one of several “living history” weekends they hold where you are able to watch, and participate in, re-creations of what it was like to live in and around the fort back in the early 1800s. The fort was free, except you do need to have a Nebraska state park entry permit ($26 annual or $5 for one day).
It is no secret that we are huge fans of historical re-enactments (check out our post on a Civil War Re-enactment, or visiting Colonial Williamsburg…Holy cow, I practically grew up visiting Colonial Williamsburg and just realized we only have one short post about it, clearly I have a job to do!). This trip back in history did not disappoint either!
I am SO glad we hopped in the car and went straight in that direction! Fort Atkinson is only about fifteen minutes north of Omaha, and it took us 30 minutes to drive there from Papillion, an Omaha suburb. It is located on the edge of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, a small city of 908 people (2010). Click here for other things to see in Fort Calhoun.
The fort itself is an impressive re-creation, which you can read all about as you walk in and out of the various rooms. The hospital, kitchen, mess, barracks, and more, all surround the parade grounds.
You are able to walk in and out of well over a dozen rooms and learn about Fort Atkinson’s history. However, I HIGHLY recommend visiting the fort during a living history weekend. Upon entering the fort, the kids received a scavenger hunt paper that kept them busy the entire time. They were constantly looking for answers and learned several new bits of information…do YOU know who a Cooper is and what he does???
The fort is very hands on and there are so many rooms where you can test items and get involved. I hope this doesn’t get out to your work honey…
We enjoyed asking the re-enactors questions about their various skills and abilities, and what life was like. We ate butter that had been churned that morning on bread that was freshly baked. My ten year old enjoyed learning how to bobbin weave lace with the weavers, and my fourteen year old son was thrilled when the blacksmith handed him a miniature sword that had been forged right in front of him from a nail.
My personal favorite was the Sutler Store.
I am ALWAYS complaining about gift shops at the places we visit. If I am going to purchase a tourism token while we are traveling, which is INCREDIBLY RARE for me to do in the first place, I want it to be something authentic, original, and unique to that location. Preferably created on site. Well, this shop had several things that fit my standards, like this Fort Atkinson doll, and I just loved it.
Heather, Sarah, and Morgan (below, left to right) man the Sutler Store counter, handing out dozens and dozens of free candy sticks awarded to children who completed their scavenger hunt papers.
The re-enactors were all so friendly and full of facts to share. I cannot wait to let my friends in on the secret of this little gem hidden away north of Omaha. What a great time we had!
If you live in or around Omaha and are looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, or if you are in town for a visit, be sure to take a trip to Fort Atkinson State Historical Park and definitely try to visit during a living history weekend! You won’t be sorry! And thanks again for the suggestion Kim at Oh My Omaha!
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