One of the best kept secrets in Iowa might be the Fort Musuem and Frontier Village in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The museum complex and grounds provide a fascinating look at frontier life in an immersive environment. If you're heading to or through Fort Dodge for fun, for work, for a sporting event or for a family occasion, plan a few hours for stopping at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village. I got to visit with my family on our way to a wedding elsewhere in north central Iowa, and based on our visit, here's what other families should know about the fort museum.
What is the Fort Museum and Frontier Village?
The Fort Museum and Frontier Village in Fort Dodge is a museum complex consisting of several historic and reproduction buildings. They combine to show visitors what the historic fort and frontier life in the area more generally were like in the 19th century. Many of the buildings are authentic from the 1800s and early 1900s, while others are faithful reproductions. There's also a gift shop.
Where is the Fort Museum and Frontier Village?
The Fort Musuem and Frontier Village are located at 1 Museum Road, Fort Dodge, IA 50501. It's right off of historic Highway 20, and less than 10 minutes away from modern Highway 20. There is ample free parking at the museum.
The Fort Museum
The bulk of the museum complex is the fort itself. Fort Dodge was built in 1850 as a lookout for the Dragoons. Today, visitors can explore and learn throughout the rebuilt fort and climb into the second story of the stockade.
The exhibits included many artifacts related to the military history of the fort, but also pieces related to 19th century history of the area more broadly.
One of the more unusual exhibits at the fort is a reproduction of the Cardiff Giant, which is an entertaining look at one of the biggest hoaxes in American history. But all the buildings are full of fascinating exhibits. My preschooler was pretty interested in the historic baby stroller we found in one building.
The Frontier Village
The frontier village consists of historic buildings that have been moved to the museum grounds over the years. They are arranged into a sort of main street which makes it really feel like you have stepped into an old wild west town! Amongst the buildings are a general store, a jail, and an original cabin from 1850.
One of the most notable buildings in the frontier village is the Opera House. Special events are often held here, from private banquets to trade shows, Bingo nights, live musical performances, and much more.
For more information
Admission to the Fort Museum and Frontier Village is $10 for adults, $8 for college students, $5 for kids 5-17, and free for babies and kids 4 & under (according to their website as of 10/1/23.) To find out more about the Fort Museum and Frontier Village, check out their website or connect with them on social media.
The Midwest is full of fun places to go for family vacations, and I'm so excited to share them with you as I experience them. Check out my Midwest destinations page for more ideas to plan your next family trip.