There is a beautiful quilt garden in front of the museum, as well as many flowers for a nice looking landscape.
In the back of the museum, there are several bat boxes. I'd love to watch the bats coming out one evening. We should check it out one night! There is also a park behind the museum, which is part of the parks system of Bristol. Cummins Park has a new splash pad, tennis courts, and a basketball court. My kids really like this splash pad!
There is also a small historical cemetery, called Cathcart Cemetery. I also found this historical blog while looking for more information on the cemetery--cool! It is written by a local reporter and highlights historical buildings and places.
Beware the poison ivy growing up the trees! We have some like this, too!
The walk down by the river is pretty. Makes me want to go kayaking! My husband has taken youth groups and scouts down the river several times. There were several birds in the area, too.
The hours are below. Admission is free; however, donations are gratefully accepted. As I entered, there was a collage of Elkhart County's past.
My son was at the Pioneer Life Day Camp this last week. It is very reasonably priced and nice that there were a few options for his age. They made rope, candles, played pioneer games, and more!
There is a large historic gym that is often used for special events. We've been to several activities here. There is one room that is reserved for temporary exhibits. Right now there is a quilt exhibit. I loved seeing the natural themes throughout the designs, fabrics, and quilters' insights.
My four-year-old would have loved the cardinals!
The museum has three floors and is FULL of all types of artifacts! There are several rooms, with a tribute to music in the area, school and education, toys, and more.
There is even a Great Horned Owl! Nearby is a bird collection. In the past it was very popular for people to make bird, nest, and egg collections; however, due to over collection there are laws in place to protect birds today. I've seen an egg collection at Woodlawn Nature Center that about 120 years old as well.
There was also a stone building set! A dining area and kitchen are also set up to see what was used in times past. Herbs are drying along the wall.
A stained glass window lets light inside. There is also a train room, with smaller versions to see.
Upstairs, find an American Indian exhibit with various arrow, spear, and other points. There is information about tribes that lived in the area. There is also a fossil and rock display, with information on geology in Elkhart County.
There are several "stations" with information and artifacts for children to look at and experience. There are also clothes to try on various places throughout the museum. Here is a cart related to archeology, with tools, information, and a few artifacts. There are also a few heads on the wall.
There are also more upscale rooms that show typical clothing, furniture, wall coverings, knick knacks, and more.
One room has smaller display cases focusing on the history of each township in the area. Music is also highlighted again.
There are also a couple libraries and research rooms to help those looking for information in Elkhart County's history. The museum offers guided tours on a regular basis, as well as special events.
If going with kids in the summertime, I would suggest walking around outside down to the river, touring the museum (don't forget the friendly explore stations, as well as an I Spy activity), and then ending up with time at the splash pad before we left. We'd also consider going to Congdon Park after we were done.
If going sans kids, I would visit for one of the special tours (quasi nature related tours on the Inside Outside Michiana calendar of events), check out the quilt garden, and spend more time in the quilt exhibit and research room. The historical society also offers a membership, which may be something to consider. It's great we have a place to point us to our roots in the county!