Are you feeling lethargic and dizzyingly distracted? Sick of wasting away in the confines of a cubicle? If you notice yourself losing steam while charging through professional and personal to-do lists, escape the modern-day hustle and bustle and step into simpler times. For those aspiring vacationers hoping to indulge in America’s rich history, venture into the world of historical reenactments. Whether you participate in these living history events or watch from the sidelines, prepare for action-packed days of theatrics, stunning replicas, and costume props sure to impress any history buff.
Prepare for the journey ahead
Before you embark on this blast from the past, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. After all, you’ll want to wring every second of fun out of this theatrical excursion. With these simple steps below, you’ll evolve from a reenactment rookie to a past master of the past. Remember, no matter which reenactment you go to, a once-in-a-lifetime experience is awaiting you.
Pack like a pro
Ensuring your reenactment experience is unforgettable may require some extra packing time. With an eye for detail and a sturdy suitcase, you’ll have the essentials on hand for your battlefield duels. For starters, you’ll need to bring along a high SPF sunscreen, as most of these events take place outdoors. A first aid kit with bandages, sanitizing material, and pain killers can also be a helpful addition.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the times, historically accurate period clothing from retailers Samson Historical like can kick your reenactment experience up a notch. Along with your petticoats, frocks, and stockings, you’ll want to consider packing a rain poncho or other protective gear. Even if you think you will have good weather, rain gear can be helpful to keep your outfit dry.
Get a good night's sleep
While reenactments are packed full of fun, they can also be a lot of work. Even if you're only watching, standing for extended periods in harsh conditions, i.e., the beating sun or pelting rain, can take a toll on the first-time reenactor. That said, a good night's sleep will help ensure the whole experience is a positive one.
You may be outside in some extreme heat. Drinking enough water and fluids can help ward off fainting spells and keep the event lighthearted for everyone involved. A pro tip: Bring water for yourself because you don't always know what will be available at the event.
Take notes and ask questions
None of the performers will expect you to be a reenactment aficionado your first time around, so feel free to ask questions. Remember, there’s no shame in taking notes if it means you can understand what you're doing. Whether you have questions about reenactment etiquette or the historical period itself, speak up.
Possessing a basic understanding of the historical period/event is critical when participating in the event. Still, some would say it’s equally fun to stand as an outside observer and soak up reenactment tips and tricks like a sponge. Most people at these events love talking about history, so expect a passionate explanation to most questions.
Have fun, but remember what you are doing
Of course, reenactments are a time to escape from the real world’s trials and tribulations, but they should also be educational. Remember to keep in the spirit of the event and follow other people's leads when breaking character and immersion.
Seven trip worthy historical reenactments
Once you’ve studied historical reenactment etiquette and packed the necessary garb, it’s time to start your time-traveling journey. Before heading out, remember that dressing up for spectators is usually acceptable, but you will want to check the rules for each event.
Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment, Gettysburg Pennsylvania
Every year, reenactors gather in Pennsylvania to recreate the Battle of Gettysburg. There are a few groups that take part in this event, reenacting different aspects of the battle. In the name of historical accuracy, these events take place during the weekend of July, which often coincides with the original battle that occurred from July 1st to July 3rd.
The main event is a four-day festival that includes reenactments, activities, tours, and many family events for all ages. Tripadvisor lists the park as one of the top 10 world landmarks.
The Battle of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana
For those history buffs in the making, who may not be well-versed in this faceoff, The Battle of New Orleans was the last major conflict of the war of 1812. The Americans in New Orleans won a significant victory, even though the war ended 18 days earlier with the Treaty of Ghent. Ultimately, the battle helped Andrew Jackson become elected as the 7th POTUS.
You can experience the battle on the weekend closest to the original date of the fight, January 8th, at Chalmette Battlefield. Most events are free to participate in, but you do have to pay park dues for the day.
Red Earth Art Center & Red Earth Festival, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Red Earth Festival is a commemoration of the art and history of hundreds of Native American tribes. On the second weekend of June, members of more than 100 tribes and over 1,000 exhibitors proudly display the pottery, textiles, and basketry infused with centuries-old cultural practices. Participation in the event is limited to members of recognized tribes.
If you’re a traveler who belongs to a Native American tribe, prepare for performers reenacting traditional ceremonies and lively parades.
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
The Battle of the Alamo was a 13-day siege of a mission in San Antonio, Texas. From February 23rd to March 6th, the battle events are commemorated and reenacted on the site. Should you choose to dabble in the world of historical reenactment, plan to spend these two weeks attending shows that illustrate the reenactment site’s history and the tensions between the Republic of Texas and Mexico.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone, Arizona
The Gunfight at the O.K Corral is reenacted three times each day in 30-minute time slots. While the original fight took place on October 26th, 1881, you can enjoy these reenactments year-round, no matter when you chose to cash in your PTO.
You can't participate directly in the shootout, but there are plenty of other Wild West reenactment groups you can get involved with while in Tombstone.
Washington Crossing Reenactment, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania
Relive one of the most famous events of the American Revolution, where you’ll witness Washington cross the Delaware River up close and personal. This scene that Emanuel Leutze famously reimagined in a painting comes to life every Christmas day.
The crossing is dependent on weather conditions, but even if they can't cross the river, visitors can enjoy live history at the park and special shows about the event.
Civil War Remembrance, Dearborn, Michigan
Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, commemorates the Civil War every Memorial Day weekend. When in attendance, visitors will have the opportunity to participate in reenactments of battles and encampments during the four-day event.
While at the Village, you can also visit a plethora of historic buildings, including Edison's Menlo Park Lab, Henry Ford's home, and the Wright Brothers Bicycle Store. These are all original buildings moved brick by brick to their new location. It is fun for the whole family.
Enjoy your trip
Watch history come alive at these historical reenactments. Even as an audience member, opportunities to honor these historical figures are bountiful. By taking part in these reenactment events, you can take away a unique view of the history that may just change your understanding of the events often relegated to the pages of dusty history textbooks.