12 Ways to Explore the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

Adjacent to the Colonial National Historical Park which includes the Yorktown Battlefield, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown brings to life one of the most consequential battles of the American Revolution. In October of 1781, American General George Washington and French General Comte de Rochambeau cornered British troops, forcing General Cornwallis to surrender at Yorktown. Yorktown, a small town on the banks of the York River, is close to Williamsburg and Jamestown. The three towns are known as the “Historic Triangle.”

The American Revolution Museum opened in the spring of 2017 with a 22 acre site that includes indoor and outdoor exhibits, classrooms, media rooms, a large gift shop, and cafe. The museum is family friendly, inviting, and encourages engagement. Most exhibits are interactive, whether they invite visitors to touch artifacts, take a quiz and check answers by sliding screens, touch screens that encourage guessing or hypothesizing, or with telephones that play recorded narratives. There are also several spaces to sit and watch short films or more in depth displays.  Be sure to leave plenty of time to explore the reproduction farm- there are several interpreters who will engage and include visitors in various demonstrations. During off season winter months, guides provide information inside the museum before brief tours of the outdoor areas.

Traveling with Kids:

  • The museum is open 363 days a year (closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). Consider purchasing tickets ahead of time. There are a wide variety of combination tickets that include visits to Jamestown and Williamsburg- check here for more information. I recommend the America’s Historic Triangle ticket for flexibility and a slower pace to really enjoy all five sites.

  • There is plenty of free parking and the entire museum is handicap and stroller accessible.

  • There are plenty of restrooms located throughout the museum and even outside near the farm.

  • A large gift shop is located near the exit and does not require admission to the museum to visit. Kids will love the wide variety of Revolutionary Era inspired toys and games.

  • A cafe on site offers sandwiches, salads and pizzas throughout the day, in addition to drinks and snacks. More info here. There are both indoor and outdoor dining spaces.

  • Plan to spend at least three hours to explore the indoor museum and outdoor farm. Consider attending a special program, such as a Family History Workshop- more info here.

12 Activities To Do at the American Revolution Museum:

Indoor Museum: Almost 500 artifacts are on display in chronological galleries.
1. Start with the 18 introductory film “Liberty Fever”, shown every half hour. Note: the film is quite loud and often depicts war and death and might not be suitable for young children.
2. Distinguish the different uniforms of soldiers from various colonies by colors.
3. Compare maps from British Colonial America in 1763 to modern day America.
4. Read an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.
5. Compare the size of the round shots (cannon balls) fired from a French Siege Gun used in the Battle at Yorktown.
6. Display a personal definition of the word “liberty” on an electronic lantern hanging from a “Liberty Tree.”

Outdoor Continental Army Encampment: Experience the daily life of a soldier
7. Feel the heat of the outdoor kitchen where food is cooked all day by soldiers- check out their daily ration of food. 
8.  Learn about the medicine and treatments a regimental surgeon used- a surgeon was in attendance at every camp.
9. Hear the firing of a musket and learn about the process of loading and firing it in the amphitheater.

Outdoor Reproduction Farm (the home of Edward Moss, a local farmer during the Revolutionary War who probate inventory after his death lists the possessions reproduced for the farm)
10. Smell the tobacco hung in the barn- tobacco was the #1 produced crop in American at the time.
11. Watch as interpreters demonstrate how to use various woodworking tools in the utility shed.
12. Count the number of vegetable and fruits planted throughout the farm.

Bonus:
13. “Shift your gaze to see the American Revolution through the eyes of the African Americans” who had an impact on the history of America in the rotating exhibit Forgotten Soldier. On display through March of 2020, the exhibit showcases personal accounts of life during Revolutionary times and curated artifacts from a variety of museums and institutions including the US National Archives. Admission is included in museum fee. 
14. . Attend a special presentation in the Education Center, on a variety of topics related to the museum. Check here for daily options.

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For more suggestion on ways to explore the Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown “Historic Triangle”, check out historyisfun.org. The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation is full of tips, itineraries (based on length of stay), and special events.

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Disclosure: My family received a media pass to explore the museum. All opinions expressed are my own.