Voices of Christmases Past


Wandering the streets of Old Salem Museums and Gardens, I wondered what my children would think of the town. At 10, Kathleen was old enough to understand history — in fact, had studied Old Salem in fourth grade. But would 8-year-old David enjoy the town, or would he be bored? To make matters worse, we were visiting the day after a sleep-over, so David was a little sleep deprived and cranky.

We were off to a rocky start, but thumping along the covered bridge that crosses over the road from the Visitor’s Center to the historic portion of the museum cheered him up slightly, and by the time we made it to the historic Tavern (not to be confused with Old Salem Tavern restaurant), good humor had been restored, especially when we got to walk through the food cellars into the kitchen at the back of the Tavern. Though not spooky, they are a fun trail of rooms little ones will enjoy running through.

We all agreed the Tavern was not to be missed for several reasons. First, George Washington slept there. Yes, really! If you visit one of the upstairs bedrooms, you will find a copy of the letter he sent to the tavern owner following his stay. Next, you can try out one of the beds, which are much more comfortable than you would have expected. And finally, in the kitchen, you can learn about the cooking methods of the day. While we were there, the guide roasted coffee beans, which was really interesting. OK, well, those of us who wanted a cup that chilly afternoon were fascinated; the kids wandered back through the cellars again, and had their own fun.

Whether you only have 20 minutes or all day, Old Salem offers a great time for you and your kids. And there’s no better time to visit than during the holidays, when there are lots of special activities available for the entire family to enjoy.

Michelle Speas, the vice president for development and external relations, suggests that families visit Winkler Bakery if they are short on time, or if they are worried that their children have limited attention spans. The bakery, which recently celebrated its 200th birthday, can be visited without buying a ticket to Old Salem, and it is one of the oldest continuously operating bakeries in the country. If you’re doing a quick visit, park on the street outside the bakery.

“When children come to the Bakery, they learn that food doesn’t come in a bag with a twisty tie,” said Speas. “They can see a traditional bakery. . . . The people who lived here grew what they ate. In the spring and summer, you can walk through the gardens and see how the food was grown.”

Once you enter, you will learn about the oven, the original one, that bakers use to make bread and sugar cake six days a week, as well as receive a small sample of something they’ve baked. They’ll also tell you about the kind of wood they use to heat the oven once in the morning that allows them to cook all day long.

Next, you can enjoy a stop in the bakery shop, where you can buy cookies, muffins, cakes and sugar cake, as well as something to drink to enjoy on a bench outside the bakery. This was by far my son’s favorite stop.

Children of all ages enjoy playing with the hand pump, which is on Main Street at the Salem Square. Also free and open to the public, kids can pump cold water and enjoy a drink or splashing, depending on the weather. This simple pleasure captivates children, so be prepared to stay here a few minutes as your children beg to get back in line to use the pump again.

Parents who need some time to sit or families who want a great place to warm up will love the Toy Museum and the Children’s Museum, which is in the Frank L. Horton Museum Center on South Main Street. The Toy Museum is a fascinating walk through toys from 225 to 1925. Girls will love the dollhouses on the first floor, boys will love the trains, planes and boats on the second floor, and everyone will love looking at the circus display!

The Old Salem Children’s Museum is designed for children up to about age 8. Here children can learn to weave with ropes, pretend to live and cook in a child size Miksh house, use scales and crawl through a maze. Kids cans even try on colonial clothes to learn what Moravian children would have worn during colonial times.

Holiday Hoopla!
Old Salem puts on her holiday best during the Christmas season. Whether it’s one of the puppet shows or one of the candlelight tours, Old Salem offers something for everyone in December. Here’s just a sampling of what you can enjoy.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., visitors can Celebrate the Season, learning about the traditional smells and tastes of colonial holidays. Several 19th-century candlelight tours are scheduled that evening, and they are appropriate for adults and children 8 and older. Celebrate the Season is included in the All-in-One ticket; candlelight tours require reservations and an additional ticket.

Many family-oriented events will take place on Saturday, Dec. 15, during the Season for Families event. Hands-on activities, games, wagon rides and opportunities to make Moravian Christmas decorations can be found throughout the museum buildings.
Children will also have a chance to visit with St. Nicholas and Christ Kindel in the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) auditorium , 10-11 a.m. Reservations are required for this portion of the day. It is included in the price of an All-in-One ticket, or you can pay a $10 fee for adults, $5 for children if you do not want to visit the rest of Old Salem that day. Pamela Sanders will perform traditional music in MESDA’s Catawba Gallery several times throughout the afternoon. Children will be able to play bells and drums; Sanders will sing and play hammered dulcimer, autoharp and other instruments.

“This is an opportunity for children to see instruments that aren’t common today and hear their sounds,” said Speas. “We offer children a very unique look at history, including auditory and tactile exhibits. There’s no where like Old Salem.”

A $2 coupon is available on the Web site, www.oldsalem.org. All-in-One tickets for Old Salem, which include the historic town and gardens, Old Salem Toy Museum, Old Salem Children’s Museum and Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, are $10 for children 6-16, $21 for adults. Discounts are also available for AAA and AARP members.

If You Go

Old Salem Museums and Gardens
600 S. Main St.
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Hours of Operation
Closed Monday
Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Sunday, 12:30 p.m.-5 p.m.

March- December:
Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Sunday, 12:30-5 p.m.

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