Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site

Take a trip back in time at these Old World heritage sites

History lovers will find great insights into the life and times of the region’s early settlers at these museums and historical sites.

Haywagon at Old World Wisconsin
Old World Wisconsin (Credit: Travel Wisconsin)

See what life was like for settlers in Wisconsin in the 1800s, tour the first permanent European settlement in Missouri or discover the music and crafts of Arkansas’ famed Ozark Mountains. These historical sites share the stories of Mississippi River Country’s settlers and their impact on life and culture that lasts through today.

Old World Wisconsin

Located about halfway between Wisconsin’s capital city of Madison and its largest city, Milwaukee, Old World Wisconsin is an open-air history museum that shows how settlers of different ethnic groups lived and worked in 19th-century Wisconsin. The 480-acre (194 hectare) site is the largest outdoor rural life museum in the United States and contains more than 60 historic structures (several of which were relocated to the site), including barns, farmsteads and a full 1880s crossroads village. Old World Wisconsin is divided into themed areas that represent how different groups settled in the state, from African-Americans to Germans to Finns.

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, Missouri

One of the newest additions to the National Park Service, this historical park was established in southeastern Missouri in October 2020 to share the stories of the French Canadian settlers who came here in 1750, making Ste. Genevieve the first permanent European settlement in Missouri. Notable attractions in Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park include the Amoureux House (one of only a handful of surviving poteaux-en-terre buildings in the United States), the Memorial Cemetery (established in 1787) and the Jean Baptiste Valle Gardens.

Ozark Folk Center State Park, Arkansas

Located in the scenic Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, Ozark Folk Center State Park is dedicated to preserving and sharing the music, crafts and culture of the Ozarks. The park is open from mid-April to mid-November and is home to more than 20 working artisans who create and sell handmade items in-season on Tuesdays through Saturdays. These items include everything from soap and candles to stained glass and leather goods; these local artisans also hold hands-on workshops. But the biggest draw of Ozark Folk Center State Park is music—the park’s 1,000-seat theater hosts live concerts three nights a week, and the weekly Ozark Highlands Radio show is recorded weekly on-site.

Acadian Cultural Center, Louisiana

One of six sites in the National Park Service’s Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve–scattered throughout southern Louisiana–the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette educates visitors about the origins, history and contemporary culture of the Acadians (also known as Cajuns). The cultural center—and the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve as a whole—uses music, storytelling, food, dance and more to explore the lives of this unique cultural group. Tours are available in French, Spanish and English, and the park store sells local crafts, music and books (including cookbooks). Ranger-guided boat tours of the nearby Bayou Vermilion are offered in spring and fall.

Other heritage sites and experiences in Mississippi River Country: