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Centennial Village Museum shanty and courthouse

Step Back in Time at Centennial Village Museum

Greeley's living history museum offers hands-on learning and fun for the whole family.

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I’m a sucker for living history museums. There’s something fascinating, nostalgic, and totally magical about stepping back in time and seeing how our predecessors lived.

That’s exactly what awaits families on the south side of Island Grove Regional Park, at Centennial Village Museum in Greeley. The charming 8-acre gem transports visitors to Weld County circa 1860, when settlers were busy staking claims on western land and building homes and businesses on the high plains.

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Groups of 10 or more can schedule a guided tour of the village, but with kids in tow, I’m an advocate for self-led exploration—which is easy at Centennial Village Museum thanks to interpretive panels scattered throughout the site and a dial-in audio tour visitors can access by calling 970-475-6217 from a cell phone upon arrival.

Start your journey at Selma’s Store, where you can check in, grab a map, and ask about the day’s demonstrations and hands-on activities, ranging from printmaking at the High Plains Post to blacksmithing and chuck wagon cooking. Activities aren’t listed online in advance, so you’ll have to see what’s happening when you arrive.

Volunteers are decked out in full costume, and children get the unique experience of interacting with historical figures as they go about their “daily lives,” doing tasks such as shucking corn or cutting timber.

Have your phone’s camera ready, because there are tons of great photo opportunities throughout the village. Wide sidewalks connect more than 35 historic structures, and you’ll walk a little more than a mile while visiting some of Weld County’s oldest, most distinct buildings, including the original Weld County courthouse (a log cabin built in 1861), and the 1917 Weld Centennial Church.

The village’s eastern section explores the region’s Cheyenne-Arapaho inhabitants, and depicts cowboy life. It also celebrates Weld County’s diverse culture with a Swedish-American stuga (cottage), German-Russian shanty, and Spanish colony house, showing that people came from all over the world to live and work in northeastern Colorado.

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Farm animals appear throughout the village, and kids can interact with ducks, chicks, pigs, rabbits, and goats. Other kid-approved highlights include the fire station, with its 1921 American LaFrance chain-driven fire engine, and an on-site, nonoperational trolley. On a warm summer day, there is something so satisfying about slowing down to watch my children make corn-husk dolls and laugh as they attempt to do laundry on a scrubboard. Centennial Village Museum’s best contribution to busy parents might be its capacity to make time stand perfectly still for a few precious moments.

Check it Out:
1475 A St., Greeley
Need to Know:
Open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
Cost:
$8 for adults; $5 for children ages three to 17. Discounted rates are available for seniors, families, and special events.
Insider Secret
August 3 to 12, Centennial Village Museum is open daily, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for its annual Pets ‘N Popsicles event, when children have a chance to get up-close with the site’s furry personnel. Admission to Pets ‘N Popsicles is $3, and includes a popsicle.

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