The Swiss Historical Village in New Glarus, WI offers a great way to see what life was like in Wisconsin history.
While the New Glarus museum specializes in the history of the New Glarus Swiss settlement, it also covers a good portion of Wisconsin history too. New Glarus was started in the mid 1800’s. The Swiss Historical Village has exhibits from the 1850’s to the print shop which was used to print the local paper up till the 1960’s.
To me, the New Glarus Swiss Historical Village is one of the better museums of its type.
I’ve had the privilege to visit a lot of “life-size” museums demonstrating life in American and Wisconsin history. I’ve been to Williamsburg, Virginia several times as a child. I’ve been to George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon. I’ve been to both the original Jamestown and the Jamestown Settlement museum. In Wisconsin, there is the 1888 Schoolhouse and Old World Wisconsin. There is even the Old Milwaukee exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. While I admit it has been some time since I’ve been to most of these, I found the Swiss Historical Village to have some advantages over my memory of the others.
I think the Swiss Historical Village is the perfect place for kids to see how life was like historically in Wisconsin.
Old World Wisconsin is a huge place. On of the things I remember most is all the walking. Instead, the exhibit buildings in the New Glarus museum are very close together. In some cases just a few steps apart. The 14 buildings that make up the museum are arranged in a circle facing each other with the Hall of History (a building with photographs and exhibits showing the migration from the original Swiss Canton to New Glarus) in the center. It’s perfect for kids (or adults) with short attention spans to jump the next exhibit or step outside and run around in the grassy areas to burn off a bit extra energy.
It also it easy for those that have difficulty walking. My wife was still using a walking stick after knee surgery and she was able to enjoy the museum fully (taking a few rests on the many benches). Having so much to see in such a compact area is really convenient.
In a small area, this historical life museum has a lot to show.
While there is no working farm like you might see at Old World Wisconsin, there is just about everything else. There is a blacksmith. There is a cheese factory. The print shop covers a huge span of printing history.
Some of the exhibits are very unique. The cheese factory has the larges copper pot I have ever seen (it would make a nice hot tub). The Fire House has a 1902 ladder fire engine that is just amazing if you appreciate old vehicles. The one room Settler’s Log Cabin was actually discovered inside another house before it was brought to the museum. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like the bee house (and am very glad they don’t use it to keep bees now).
The best time to visit the New Glarus Swiss Historical Village.
The museum is open daily starting during May and closing mid October. A guided tour takes about an hour and a half but you can also just wander around on your own. We happened to pick the Harvest Fest day when we visited and there we live demonstrations at nearly all the exhibits in addition to some war reenactment people with Civil War and World War II uniforms. There were demonstrations of sausage making, spinning wheels, blacksmithing, as well as much more like playing the Swiss Alp horn. If you’ve been to the Swiss Historical Village before, you might want to go back for Harvest Fest again. You’ll want to check the website to see when Harvest Fest is each year.
I definitely think the museum is great Wisconsin attraction.
It’s filled with lots of interesting history and lots to see but not too big that it will tire out the whole family.