MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Living like a pioneer

At day camps in forts, fur posts and frontier homesteads, kids go back in time.

Girls dress as Laura at Old World Wisconsin.

© Wis. Historical Society

Girls dress like Laura at Old World Wisconsin.

It's the 21st century, but children still want to spend a day in Laura's world on the frontier or Huck's world on the Mississippi, or Davy's in the woods.

Laura and Huck didn't have iPods or Xboxes, but they had adventure. In their worlds, people had to live by their wits, unaided by technology, and make what they needed with their own hands.

It's so romantic and we're not talking Bella and Edward. If only these kids could go back in time to see what it was like . . . and as it turns out, they can.

Sometimes, the whole family can go along, staying in a tipi or covered wagon during a frontier festival, camping at a fur post during Rendezvous or dressing up like Ma and Pa.

Now is the time to reserve for 2014.

Living like Laura

Not far from Milwaukee, Old World Wisconsin in Eagle offers "Little House Adventures'' day camps for kids who wonder what life was like for Laura.

The open-air museum, made up of reconstructed frontier buildings brought from all over Wisconsin, offers three one-day camps for children in third or fourth grade and one for children in fifth through seven grades.

Old World Wisconsin also offers a whole month of "The World of Little House,'' June 28 to July 31 in 2014. Dress as a character from one of the books and you get a discount on admission.

Visitors will churn butter, jump in the hay, sew a quilt square, make rope and dress like Laura or her family and friends in a look-alike contest.

In Green Bay, Heritage Hill State Historical Park holds Laura Ingalls Wilder Days July 12-13 in 2014, and Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie'' on the "Little House'' TV series, is performing a comedy show (adult-only) July 11.

At the park, activities include making bullets, woodworking, stuffing mattresses, baking Jonny-cakes and rug braiding.

In the Twin Cities, Historic Fort Snelling has Little House in the Big Fort Day Camps where children can experience life as described by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her books. They're for ages 7-11.

Cat and mouse game in Pine City.

© Beth Gauper

Kids play the voyageur game cat-and-mouse at the North West Co. Fur Post in Pine City.

At The Landing heritage park on the Minnesota River, in the southwest Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee, kids can attend school, help with chores around a log cabin and visit the general store during the three-day Little House on the River Camp for ages 6 to 12.

At Lowry Nature Center in the southwest Minneapolis suburb of Victoria, kids ages 6-9 can work and play like Laura at the three-day Laura Ingalls Adventures Camp.

For more about Laura sites, see Laura Ingalls Wilder stories.

Life on the frontier

Fort Snelling, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, also is the site of three four-day Huck Finn Summer Camps for ages 9-12. Kids will fish, hike, cook outdoors and build a lodge.

At Fort Snelling's Davy Crockett Summer Camp, ages 9-12 learn how to track, trap and skin animals during two two-day camps. 

Old World Wisconsin has one-day sessions of the One-Room Schoolhouse Rocks day camp for grades one through eight.

Fort Snelling offers one-day One-Room Schoolhouse day camps for ages 7-11.

At Old World Wisconsin, older children are costumed and paired with an interpreter for a behind-the-scenes look at the sprawling historical site during two four-day sessions of the Old World Apprentice Camp for youths in grades eight through 12.

Near Preston in southeast Minnesota, Historic Forestville offers one-day 19th Century Homestead Day Camps for children 8-12. They'll tend an 1899 general store, gather eggs, tend chickens and play parlor games.

In Greenbush, near Sheboygan in eastern Wisconsin, the Wade House offers four-day Pioneer Camps for children ages 8-13. They'll learn blacksmithing, woodworking, candle-making and other arts practiced by Wisconsin's early pioneers.

Interpreters at Historic Forestville.

© Beth Gauper

Guests get home-baked cookies at Historic Forestville in southeast Minnesota.

Frontier life for the whole family

In the northern-Illinois town of Oregon, families can camp in a painted tipi during Oregon Trail Days, July 19-20 in 2014. The tipis sleep three to four and rent for $79 per night, half-price Thursday and Sunday nights.

The festival is held in Lowden State Park and features a Native American encampment with drumming and dancing, covered wagon rides, a horse parade, a river float, vintage baseball and such cowboy arts as gun slinging and rope tricks.

Old World Wisconsin offers a Family Farmhand Fun Camp, where you can do chores and play games like early settlers.

Joining the fur trade

In Thunder Bay, Fort William Historical Park, the largest re-created fur post in North America, has several programs for youths.

At the weeklong Voyageur Discovery Camps, youths ages 7-10 paddle a voyageur canoe, explore the forest and learn about Ojibwe culture.

At the 10-day Youth Interpreter Program, youths ages 13-15 develop historical characters, practice their speaking and performance skills and then get into costume and interact with visitors from all around the globe.

Fort William also offers camping from late May to late September, so families can immerse themselves in the fur trade any time.

For more, see Scenes from the fur trade and Exploring Thunder Bay.

A young Civil War reenactor.

© Torsten Muller

A young soldier waits for battle at a Civil War reenactment.

Life during the Civil War

Old World Wisconsin has one-day Civil War Camps for children in fifth through seventh grade.

At the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, children ages 9-12 can attend the one-day Civil War History Camp.

At The Landing heritage park in the southwest Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee, kids can fight in a simulated skirmish, march, go to school and play 19th-century baseball during the three-day Civil War Camp for ages 9 to 12.

In Greenbush, near Sheboygan in eastern Wisconsin, the Wade House offers four-day Civil War Day Camps for children ages 8-13. They'll explore life as a soldier and also on the homestead, learning to march, set up camp and cook over an open fire.

For more about the Civil War at the Wade House, see Blasts from the past.

Many historic sites are hosting special events to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and many include activities for children and families.

For more, see Still fighting the Civil War.


Last updated on January 15, 2014

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