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Immersive History Experiences

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you’re a history buff, try an immersive history experience this summer. Instead of just reading about history, these sites help you feel like you’re living it through their knowledgeable staff, period appointments and historic venues.

• Fort Ontario in Oswego has been a home to military forts since 1755. The fourth and current site (circa 1844) provides tours—both the grounds and the buildings—and periodically features history reenactments and other events. Each building open to the public includes historic artifacts and information. The site also boasts excellent views of Lake Ontario. historicfortontario.com

• Indian Village: Six Nations Agricultural Society at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse offers a glimpse of Native American culture. With programming held during the New York State Fair, the designated area of the fairgrounds includes vendors of Native American wares, displays about traditional Native American life, artisan demonstrations, a replica longhouse, and costumed history reenactors engaging in Native dances and other performances. Check the fair’s daily schedule for times. 

• Daniel Parrish Witter Museum, also at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, includes costumed artisans plying their crafts during the fair. Watch live demonstrations of wood turning and other arts of yesteryear. Peek inside a reconstructed, fully furnished log cabin, and see hand tools of history displayed throughout the museum. nysagsociety.org/witter-agricultural-museum

• Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome hosts events commemorating the rich history of “the fort that never surrendered.” Fort Stanwix guarded a vital route of both commercial and military importance. Originally an ancient trail linking the Mohawk River and Wood Creek, the six-mile path was part of the route for people traveling between Lake Ontario and the Atlantic Ocean. Fort Stanwix earned its nickname for resisting a British-led siege in 1777. In addition to touring the historic buildings and viewing their artifacts, guests can also view history reenactments. www.nps.gov/fost

• Sackets Harbor Battlefield offers exhibits, outdoor plaques and a restored 1850s Navy Yard and Commandant’s House for both guided and self-guided tours. parks.ny.gov/historic-sites/sacketsharborbattlefield

• Fort Ticonderoga offers visitors a taste of military life in the late 1700s. The historic fort includes reenactments, a museum, specialty tours and boat cruises around the fort. It’s a four-hour drive from Oswego, but worth it for a weekend trip. fortticonderoga.org

• The Wilder Homestead in Malone is a must-see for fans of “Little House on the Prairie,” as it is the original homestead of Almanzo Wilder, husband of the series’ author, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Tours of the property connect its features to aspects of “Farmer Boy” (Laura’s book) when Almanzo lived there as a young person in the 19th century. The Wilder homestead is listed on the National History Registry and is a Literary Landmark. almanzowilderfarm.com

Be sure to check a location’s website as you make plans to visit since most of them schedule their re-enactments and other interactive events. ϖ