Fort Atkinson is a Nebraska State Historical Park in Fort Calhoun, which is a short drive north of Omaha. Considering how close it is to Omaha, it’s been a major oversight that I’ve never visited, especially since there are monthly events that are incredibly interesting for families.
You can visit any time of year to explore the fort, but for I cannot recommend enough that you try to time a visit for a historical re-enactment.
I never thought of myself as being into re-enactments, but my opinion has evolved, especially after attending the June historic re-enactment of fort life in the 1820s at Fort Atkinson. I was impressed and could not believe more people don’t know about it.
On the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, May through October, Friends of Fort Atkinson recreate life 200 years ago. Their attention to detail and characters they create is great, and made the whole experience fascinating.
Rooms throughout the fort are recreated with the typical items of the time and characters describing what their life would’ve been like.
The blacksmith shop looked as real as it gets. You could also watch ladies weave, men make barrels or talk to soldiers getting ready for battle.
And for the serious history buffs, it was acknowledged that there wouldn’t be any women found inside the fort back in its hay day. The actresses explained why that some recreations were done just to give a better idea of life at the time – whether it was cooking, sewing or selling goods.
What kids will like about Fort Atkinson
When you arrive at the fort, stop at the info table to grab a scavenger hunt.
Kids need to ask the re-enactors questions in order to successfully finish the hunt. This provides shy kids with talking points to interact with the actors. It was a handy way to learn about things you wouldn’t think to ask about.
Kids can take their finished scavenger hunt to the general store and receive a free piece of rock candy.
Speaking of that store, this is another kid-favorite if only because they have candy, lemonade and toys. Good luck leaving it without a treat.
You don’t have to do the scavenger hunt, of course. We didn’t. The kids still found ways to interact, helping sew a quilt and trying on the colonel’s hat, for instance.
One thing to note: They fire a cannon during the re-enactments. Some kids are going to love the loud boom and others won’t (cover their ears regardless). My kids were not fans.
If you go
Historical Re-enactments at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park
Where: 201 S. Seventh St., Fort Calhoun, Neb.
When: First Saturday and Sunday of the month through October. The first weekend in July has a focus on the Fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence will be read aloud. Park is open year-round 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Valid state park permit is required. Visitor Center is $2 for adults, $1 for children under 13, and FREE for children under 3.