The truly unique experiences are the ones your least expect. It wasn’t until I started working at an operating, historic village fit with costumed residents that I realized just how much living history museums have to offer. These offerings include deliciously historic taverns, inns, and restaurants that, you, the visitor can enjoy as part of your overall experience into the past. There are even options to dine after hours in intimate settings.
Imagine being able to step back in time, to the beginnings of our country and sitting down to dine in an 18th century tavern. The lighting is low, the dining room set with fine china and an elegant cherry table with high back chairs. You choose from a menu of historically accurate food and are served by interpreters in historic costumes. You may not know it, but these restaurants are more common than you think.
Dining with History: Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg has four historic dining options to choose from. From this author’s perspective, the King’s Arm Tavern is the finest choice. Although the recipes are inspired by the 18th century, they are fitted to please modern taste buds. The first chophouse to open in the States was by Jane Volpe in 1772. Colonial Williamsburg’s current King’s Arm Tavern is a period correct reproduction, inside and out. The menu is highlighted by prime rib, game hen, and roast tenderloin. There are both lunch and dinner servings along with a kid’s menu. The food is delectable, the entertainment soft and beautiful, and the ambiance like nothing you have every experienced.
Genesee Country Museum
Genesee Country Museum in upstate New York has two historic dining options. One similar to Colonial Williamsburg, but with a more laidback country charm at Hosmer’s Inn and one inside a 19th century landed gentry’s home. The receipts, or recipes, used at both locations are more authentic, straight from 19th century cookbooks. The museum’s newest venture, starting in spring 2019, are the MacKay House family dinners.
The MacKay family were wealthy mill owners from Caledonia, NY. With the home being right within the historic village, as soon as you step on site you feel transported back in time. Although the home is one of a wealthy businessman, there is still a simplicity within the home. Only a few people can share the dining space, making for an intimate experience. The dinners are only served after hours and with reservations required, so the rest of the site is peaceful and welcoming to after dinner walkers. Hosmer’s Inn does often offer during regular hours dining, if you would like to partake in the whole Upstate New York historical experience during your visit.
Mount Vernon, Virginia
There is even historic craft fermentation to explore at historic sites such as Mount Vernon, Virginia. Our first president was more than a great political leader, he was also a successful businessman. By 1799, George Washington was one of the largest whiskey producers in the newly founded United State of America. Although the original structure burned down in 1814, it was rebuilt by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in 2007. The building was restored to the minutest of detail; hand hewed wood boards gracing the exterior of the building and blacksmith forged iron nails brought it all together. Although tastings are not available, you can purchase bottles to take home with you from the organization’s website or gift shop.
These living history sites are absolutely worth the trip no matter what, but knowing that there are excellent and exciting dining options laced within the overall historic experience makes the trip all the more alluring.