The first time I visited the Shelburne Museum, I was completely intimidated.
The museum grounds are huge and filled with so many interesting things. Unfortunately, it is impossible to see everything in one visit, particularly if you have children in tow. Now that I have visited the museum countless times over the past several years, I know exactly what my children like best. Here are their favorite things.
1} The carousel
My kids adore the carousel and it is always our first stop of the day. They can choose between riding a horse or sitting on a bench. The best part is that everyone can ride the carousel as much as they like. It’s free once you pay admission to the museum. Just be aware that the carousel closes in bad weather. I have had to deal with many tears on rainy days for this precise reason.
2} The Circus Building
The Circus Building is a large, horseshoe-shaped building next to the carousel. There is a wooden model of an old-fashioned circus parade that runs the entire length of the building. My children often end up running through this building while I simultaneously urge them to slow down and read all the labels on the circus cars. They insist on visiting this building every time.
3} The train
At the train station, there is a steam train and visitors can go through an old-fashioned passenger car, complete with bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen. My children also enjoy the rare opportunity to walk on the railroad tracks since there is no risk of any train traffic.
4} The Ticonderoga
The Ticonderoga is a gigantic steamboat. It is filled with interesting things from top to bottom. My children enjoy climbing to the very top of the boat to check out the pilothouse and to get a fantastic view of the museum grounds. They also enjoy checking out the lowest level of the boat, where the engines and crew quarters are located. They were a little scared of the engine room at first, but now they take pride in being brave enough to visit the bowels of the Ticonderoga.
5} The Toy Shop
The Toy Shop is a small building at the far side of the museum grounds. It is filled with a variety of toys from ages past. The item that draws children like a magnet, though, is the model train. Kids can control the train and several features of the layout by pressing buttons. It’s easy enough for young children to master and fascinating enough for older children to enjoy. It can also serve as a good lesson for taking turns and sharing.
6} The Variety Unit
Located near the Toy Shop, the Variety Unit lives up to its name by being filled with a hodgepodge of unrelated items. Go up the stairs to the second floor and you will be surrounded by dolls and dollhouses. My doll-loving daughter loves them all. There is even a room filled with automatons, which are enough like robots to grab the attention of my son. They both love to sit and watch the video of the automatons in action.
7} The Owl Cottage
The Owl Cottage is basically a gigantic playroom. The toys change each year and include a wide variety of items, from dress-up clothes to blocks to a play kitchen. Over the summer months, there is also an art project that changes weekly. My kids would be perfectly happy to spend half the day in the Owl Cottage.
I also make my children explore at least one other place on each visit. Some of the exhibits definitely interest them, like the blacksmith shop, while they practically run through other buildings in an effort to escape as quickly as possible. There are also many rotating exhibits that change every year. Again, some of them are hits with the kids while others are misses. Either way, I get to enjoy the exhibits myself and expose my children to the wide world.