by Sarah White
When my good friend Chris of Exploring Upstate proposed the idea of taking me and my two kids, ages six and eight, to the Genesee Country Village & Museum for the day, I was instantly excited. Even though Mumford (which yes, is in Monroe County!) is only an easy 45 minute drive from my home in Fairport, New York, I haven’t been there since I was in grade school. While I’m not as much of an upstate history explorer as Chris, I have seen every episode of “Little House on the Prairie,” so I was thrilled to go and immerse my children in the experience as well. Since the GCVM is celebrating 40 years in operation this summer, we felt it was a perfect time to go and explore.
After my children had been roaming the historic grounds for about an hour, my son turned to me and said, “You know, mom, when you told us we were coming here I didn’t know if I was going to like it, but I’m really having fun!”
We had just emerged from Thomson’s Tavern, one of 68 original historic buildings transported and lovingly restored at the Genesee Country Village & Museum. As soon as we entered the tavern, a museum docent dressed impeccably in 19th century fashion encouraged all of us to “please touch” the toys, the books, and the games that were set out in each room of the tavern. When I first saw the simple wooden and iron-worked toys, my heart sank, because as much as I love to think my children prefer simple things, I thought they would be bored quickly.
I was delighted to be proven wrong! I had to drag my children out of the tavern (which is a phrase I hope I will never say again) because they were so mesmerized by the jackstraws, the cup-and-ball, and the whimmy-diddle. Our tavern docent was wonderfully knowledgeable about everything from the physics of the seemingly-simple toys to the best place to catch Pokemon in the village (we caught a Ponyta and a Koffing while we were there!).
One of the best things about visiting the museum on a rainy Tuesday like we did, was that it wasn’t crowded. We got there early, and roamed around for the first hour without seeing anyone else in 21st century clothing. Watching the children (who were participating in one of the many summer camps) play in their 19th century garb, we almost felt like visitors from another century being dropped down into their world.
The last time either Chris or I had been to the museum was probably 30 years ago, when we were in elementary school. The one thing I remember from that trip was learning about the Octagon house. I had never seen anything like it, and I was in awe of the sheer amount of corners in one house! We walked over the Octagon House’s threshold as our last stop before lunch. Not realizing there was a rope closing off the staircase, my son Mason asked to see the winding spiral stairs leading to the second floor. Since we were the only ones there, the docent pulled aside the rope and let us go up. Having gotten that far, we ascended right to the top of the cupola, and were treated to some of the best views of the village.
I’ve been on outings with my children that feel like they drag on and on when hardly any time has passed. Because I love history, and felt immersed in it, we spent three hours there and I barely noticed the passage of time. My children are 6 and 8 years old, but I can see many children of various ages having a wonderful time. Even younger children have something to enjoy because there is ample room to run and play and touch. Even though we were there for three hours (which was a lot on a rainy, hot, and muggy day!), we all said that we wanted to come back again. We didn’t even enter the John L. Wehle gallery and museum, and there were several houses that we didn’t have time to explore. That’s not too surprising, since the Genesee Country Village & Museum is the largest living history museum in New York State, and the third largest collection of historic buildings in America! I’m looking forward to coming back for the Yuletide celebration, and my son is begging me to see the “Spirits of the Past” theatrical tour in October.
Thanks to the Genesee Country Village & Museum for continuing to provide such a neat place to explore and learn. And, thanks to Chris for bringing us!
Sarah White is the Mindfully Frugal Mom. Since the birth of her first child in 2008, she’s been finding creative ways to support her family by providing a well-rounded, cultured, and healthy home without breaking the bank.