Old Bedford Village: A Hidden Gem

By Charleen - July 26, 2019

Bedford, PA USA. 

Located halfway between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, this open air, living history museum is truly a hidden gem. At a fraction of the cost of Colonial Williamsburg, and without the crowds, you can explore more than 33 historical buildings at your own pace. Stories are brought to life by craftspeople that have studied traditional methods of spinning, blacksmithing, leather work, woodcraft, basketweaving and more. It's great for all ages! 
We first crossed the covered bridge to Old Bedford in 2011, when my daughter and her friends were 10 years old, returning last week on our way to Washington DC. She enjoyed it just as much at 18 as she did when she was 10, although I appreciated the chance to linger for a longer chat with the spinner this time. We learned about grades of wool from different types of sheep, innovations in spinning wheels and the laborious process of making linen from flax. The flax had to be kept wet and carefully rotted to the right stage to allow removal of the strands inside. Flax seeds were a source of healthy fats, and folk remedies included putting one in the lower lid to treat eye irritation. 
At check-in, you will get a map of the village. The buildings that are staffed for the day with a craftsperson (up to 14 period skills) are highlighted. Even if unstaffed, all of the buildings are open for exploration, with displays, written information, and even audiovisual highlights on the free App for Apple, Android or MP3 players. As different craftspeople are present on different days, call ahead if you are committed to seeing a particular demonstration.

Buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries are clearly marked with the date and type of construction, along with notable architectural features. Some are residences, while others house toymaker, gunmaker, cooper (barrels), blacksmith, apothecary, tinsmith, saddleshop, or weaver. While I am not sure if you can still fire a black powder rifle, you can try your hand at creating a tin ornament, weaving a basket or dipping your own candles at the Chandler for only $1-$4, depending on the craft.

There is a gaol (jail), a church and a general store from which you can buy candies for a quarter, a bakery selling $1 cookies (try the huge snickerdoodles, just as good as we remembered from 8 years ago). And on weekends, you can enjoy a ploughman's lunch at the Tavern.

Living history in this open air museum stems back even further to the 11th century, considering that the village was built on the archeological site of an old Monongahela village. There is a museum with arrowheads and other artifacts used by the Late Woodland peoples of Pennsylvania. There is also an unique hexagonal schoolhouse, one of two schoolhouses on the site, and a paddock for horses.
The village hosts Civil War Re-enactments, and other themed weekends such as the PA Soldiers and Civilians Encampment or Wild West Weekends. Although the village is mainly open in the summer, there are special weekends such as the Murder Mystery Evenings and Pumpkinfest in October, Beer Festivals and Candlelit Christmas events. See the annual schedule of events on their website or facebook page.
A few hours spent visiting Old Bedford Village is highly recommended, whether as a day trip or en route to and from Harrisburg or Pittsburgh (~100 miles from either city), Washington D.C (142 miles), Baltimore (144 miles) or Philadelphia (202 miles). It is relaxing and informative, with plenty of interest for adults and activities to keep the kids and young-at-heart entertained.  

220 Sawblade Road
Bedford, PA USA 15522
800-238-4347; 814-623-1156
Open 6 days a week Memorial Day to Labor Day
9 am-5 pm (closed Weds)
Open Th-Sun 9 am - 5 pm Labor Day-Oct 31.
Admission: Adult-$10; ages 6-18-$5; preschool-free.

🐾 Bring a picnic lunch. There are both shaded and unshaded picnic tables scattered among the buildings.
🐾 Lunch in the tavern, which is open on weekends, is good. Or try Horn O Plenty, a nearby farm to table restaurant in a 1700s farmhouse.
🐾 Nearby in Bedford County, you can visit Gravity Hill, where water flows (and cars roll) uphill! Or take a Covered Bridge Tour.

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