American Revolutionary Museum at Yorktown: Our trip through history.

Note:Closed Christmas and New Year's days.
Notes:Free parking. Gift shop and a café are in the main building.
Hours:9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily June 15 through August 15 open until 6:00 p.m.
Ticket Price:Adults $12.00, Youth (6-12) $7.00, under 6 are free. Combination ticket that includes Jamestown Settlement - Adults $23.00, Youth (6-12) $12.00 and under 6 is free
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During our travels we were able to visit the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown where we learned what life was like in the 17th century. It was amazing and we all learned so much! There are indoor exhibits, galleries with period artifacts, interactive exhibits, films and a phenomenal outdoor area that has a Continental Army camp with demonstrations. We spent the whole day there and cannot wait to go back!

Prior to 2017 it was the Yorktown Victory Center and focused on the entire American Revolution. Work began in the 1990’s and various parts of the museum were opened at different times with the grand opening of the official American Revolution Museum at Yorktown in March of 2017. We never got to see it beforehand but are very impressed with what it is today.

The first thing you should do when you get there (besides pay of course) is watch the Intro film “Liberty Fever”. A moving panorama, or “crankie,” as it was once called, has back-lit silhouettes that scroll on a long roll of paper while a storyteller shares the story. I don’t want to spoil it for you so you should see it if you want to know what is in it, however it does have live-action bits that feature the stories of five people who lived during the American Revolution.

George Hewes who witnessed the Boston Massacre in 1770, Billy Flora who was a hero of the Battle of Great Bridge in 1775, Isabella Ferguson who was an Irish immigrant to South Carolina who supported the Patriots, John Howland who was a Continental Army soldier and Peter Harris who was a Catawba Indian from South Carolina who fought on the American side.

You really feel connected to history and these people as you watch this film and you start to think about what the American Revolution really means for us today.

There are other films throughout the museum that shows various parts of life during the Revolution including how the Declaration of Independence was communicated throughout the colonies, the first Great Victory that shows the story of the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, and “The Siege of Yorktown” which shows the Battle of the Capes, attacks on British redoubts and the British surrender in 1781.

The cool thing about that last film is it has rumbling seats, wind, smoke and the smells of gunpowder, seawater and coffee. You are in a 180-degree surround screen so if you have sensory sensitive kids (like our Diva) you might want to skip it. However, you should really try to experience it if you can!

The galleries were amazing but I LOVE museums and artifacts….and history so I might be biased. However, my family totally agreed with me on all those points so they loved it too. Along with the period artifacts which are amazing, there are dioramas (our favorite!), interactive exhibits, short films and immersive environments.

Multiple sections make up the whole gallery and each has a separate story to tell. In fact if you walk through it in the right order you can see the story of the American Revolution through all of these amazing things. Start with The British Empire and America, then The Changing Relationship – Britain and North America, Revolution, The New Nation, and finally The American People. There is way too much to see and do in this gallery for me to explain it. My gallery on this page should give you a good idea but there was too much to take pictures of everything. You also have to be careful to NOT take pictures of certain artifacts but those are labeled.

Our favorite part about these galleries is that there were a lot of interactive opportunities. We loved the “Test your knowledge” exhibits! There are questions and to find the answer you simply slide the panel. Everyone makes a guess to the answer before we slide the panel, every time. There were buttons to push, touch screen computers to learn from, an interactive map and you can touch reproductions of artifacts which isn’t as cool as touching real artifacts, but still pretty neat.

By far our favorite part of the museum was the live history exhibit outside. As soon as you walk out there you feel like you are going back in time. The army camp, with actors in full costumes, is pretty big. Tents, cooking fire pit, and a doctor tent. We learned about secret codes for sending letters, how the troops lived while they were camped which was not pleasant, and how wounds and broken bones were treated during that time. SO much information and all of it to be learned from actors in costumes, walking and getting to touch things and watching demonstrations.

We saw a gun demonstration and even got to hold one of the replica guns…which was super heavy. The “soldier” showed us how to load and fire the weapon and then had everyone watching pretend to be in the army and shoulder our weapons, turn for marching, and lowering our weapons, yelling and charging towards the enemy. My kids loved this part.

After that we were lucky enough to see the canon fired! It was a LOT louder than I expected. The Diva was prepared with earmuffs and they actually tell everyone to cover their ears as a precaution. It was still amazing.

They went over the process first and it took four people although one was talking to us and gave the order to fire, but the other three checked the barrel or cleaned it, loaded it and prepared the stick that would light the wick. The boom echoed throughout the area and sort of in your head. It was very loud but truly amazing.

The doctor showed the Gentleman how a broken arm was set and fixed up, what leeches were for, and also how a tooth was pulled…(shudder) Not pleasant. The Captain showed us how to decode messages and showed us all to our tent we were to share with two other soldiers. Yep, six to a tent! These are the tents we are used to today, they are in fact the single man size stick and cloth upside down V type tent.

An army “kitchen” was really just a big hole dug in the ground around a center area that had areas cut out big enough for a small fire and a pot to hang over it. These single size “stoves” were where each soldier was responsible for his own meal. It was created like this so the smoke wouldn’t give away their location easily…although the mass of white tents probably would.

Just beyond this area was a farm from that time where you could explore a family house, slave quarters, a tobacco barn that you can learn about the process of growing tobacco and how to make a profit from it. The kids were able to help process raw flax and cotton into fibers for thread and learn the process for each. We probably spent 2 hours just outside…probably a bit more though.

We had so much fun during our visit to The American Revolutionary Museum at Yorktown and we learned so much! Every time we learned about George Washington the kids became super excited because we learned awhile back that their dad (and them as well) were related to George Washington…distantly…very distantly but some sort of cousin or something of an ancestor. So cool! They were very proud of that fact.

My kids are a bit young to truly understand the significance but they will retain enough that when they “get it” it will really sink in for them which I love. They understand enough to know how important it was that we won and why we fought and eventually they will learn even more on this part of our history.

Everyone wants to go back though and what is awesome is if you get a ticket you can get a combination ticket to also get into Jamestown Settlement for a discounted price! The tickets are good for seven consecutive days which is also awesome.

There is also a four site option that let’s you visit The American Revolutionary Museum at Yorktown, The Yorktown Battlefield, Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne! This four-site pass is also good for seven consecutive days so you can take your time at each location and not feel rushed. We plan on doing this next time we visit Virginia so we can see all of those places again!

If you don’t live in or near Virginia, like us who hail from Indiana, I highly recommend a vacation to that area. It is beautiful and this and the other locations are worth the visit. There are plenty of places to stay nearby and so many things to see, do and learn for kids and adults of all ages at every location. Even if it is raining there are things happening. Some places close for rain but a couple of them are open rain or shine which is amazing!

Show us how you are revolutionary! @MyGeeklings @HistoryIsFun #BeRevolutionary #HistoryIsFun #ExploreYourWorld

“May your adventures bring you closer together, even as they take you far away from home.”
~ Trenton Lee Stewart

Author: sandyz