On cold winter days, it can be hard sometimes to find indoor family activities. On a cold and rainy Saturday we made the trek out to the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum in Sterling, VA, for their Tractorpalooza weekend. While the draw of tractors was what first appealed to my transportation-loving four year old, the museum itself was what has already got her asking when we can go again.
We started in the Waxpool General Store & Post Office. The exhibit is a re-creation of the actual Waxpool General Store which was in operation from 1890 to the early 1940’s. My daughter quickly grabbed a basket and started “shopping” for fruits & vegetables. After she was done shopping, she carefully rang up each of her items on the antique cash register. There was also a post office section where several kids were sorting and delivering the mail. Many of the families at the museum commented that this was their child’s favorite room, and my daughter enthusiastically agreed.
Next up was the Claude Moore Children’s Farm. This exhibit encourages children to be a farmer for a day. Costumes are available so you can dress the part, and my daughter happily collected eggs from the chicken coop and took a turn milking a cow. She also really liked the section with horses – there are two horses that you can ride and groom. Also in this area were pedal tractors to drive, picture books about farms, and a puppet stage to act out your own farm story.
The final “please touch” exhibit is Grandma’s kitchen, a re-creation of a kitchen from the decade before WWI. We poked around the kitchen for a few minutes, noticing the similarities and differences between it and our modern kitchen at home. Then my daughter put on an apron and set to “cooking” us all a nice lunch. For kids that love a good play kitchen, you could spend all day in this one.
We did also take some time to look at the rest of the exhibits. While they are geared more to older children and adults, it was interesting to look at them and talk about them. While my daughter was playing, my husband and I each took some time to walk through by ourselves and learned a lot about the farming history of our area.
The museum has several events throughout the year, and it was Tractorpalooza the day we attended. In addition to the museum activities, the event featured storytimes, a “tractor walk” (sort of like musical chairs), 2 tractor crafts, a scavenger hunt, and tractor face painting. There were also two additional hands-on activities set up – a station with giant nuts and bolts that you had to match and put together, and a large floor map of the area with small tractors to “drive” along the mat. My daughter happily made a tractor hat and completed the scavenger hunt before she decided that she would rather go back to taking care of the chickens and horses. Apparently a farmer’s work is never done. The event usually also features antique tractors outside to look at and climb on – these are weather dependent, and were not on display this year due to the rain.
My daughter loved the museum. It was small enough to keep a 4 year old from being overwhelmed, but enough to do that we stayed for nearly 2 hours. Tractorpalooza didn’t add that much to our experience – it was definitely age appropriate for a 4 year old, but my daughter was much more interested in the actual exhibits than the activities. But if you have a little one who is into tractors, you might want to check it out next January. Even with the special event, the museum was not at all crowded – on a regular weekend you can have an exhibit all to yourself!
Before you go
- Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and military, and $3 for children 2-12. Special events (like Tractorpalooza) are included in your admission. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday 9:30am to 4:30pm and Sunday 11:30am to 4:30pm. During the month of January, local favorite Mr. Knick Knack will be performing at 11:30am – the museum will open early for these concerts at 11. Mr. Knick Knack is included in your admission.
- There are clean bathrooms with changing tables available as well as water fountains and places to hang coats and park strollers. No food or drink is allowed in the museum. There is also a small store with farm-themed toys and local products.
- Some snacks are available for purchase, but plan on leaving the museum for lunch. A shopping center with restaurants was about a mile away, and the museum is close to the Dulles 28 Centre which has Wegmans and lots of kid-friendly restaurants.
Photos by Mara Surridge