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I won’t sit here and say that that I’m by any means a field trip expert (as if there were such a thing), but really and truly, let’s just agree that I’m an old hand at this thing called Field Tripping. It’s not very often that I find myself completely blown away by a particular field trip. This is not to say that all museums are the same or that I don’t enjoy them or that each outing is same-old same-old, because quite often the opposite is true. But if I’m honest, having visited so many places I can tell right off the bat which museum, event, etc etc is stellar and which was kind of a waste of time. For example, as much as I love the Science Museum in Richmond it doesn’t even begin to compare to the Science Museum in Portland, Oregon. Same with the Kid’s museums we’ve visited, none have been to the caliber or amazingness that the the Portland Kid’s Museum even begins to be (they have a SCHOOL at the Kid’s Museum in Portland… a school! How cool is that! and they bring in children’s musicians – once a week!, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg – it’s no wonder B and I would spend an easy 6 to 8 hours there and return the next day for more of the same).

Back to Pamplin Park… I really and truly only signed up for this particular field trip because it was 18 minutes away from my front door. We typically drive 40 to 45 minutes one way for most of our activities. 18 minutes was a breeze! Plus, it had all kinds of good reviews and accolades from different organizations, so it got my attention.

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Pamplin Park lived up to the hype. It was crazy good. The interpreters that were there were engaging, funny, quick on their feet, and incredibly knowledgeable. Our guide was just as amazing. Our group was small enough that the exhibits inside weren’t crowded, and the grounds had so much to offer, to see and do, that we just knew right away we had to visit a few more times (probably in the spring, when the weather is a tab bit warmer).

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I think what I LOVED the most (other than the content of the field trip – I’m a bit of a history nut so I’m enjoying all this Civil War stuff) is that the exhibits inside were not reading intensive *B and I will read every little thing posted and can easily get lost in just one exhibit doing so). They provided everyone with headsets that allowed you to follow a soldier’s story during the Civil War. They automatically “talked” when you entered a new area, at which point you were then free to explore the exhibit, picking on your headset what topics and which exhibits you wanted to hear more about. There were also interactive stations throughout that were quite fun to complete. After our official tour was over The Boy and I stayed and redid the inside exhibits (and still only completed half of what was there to see and do).

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One of my favorite parts of the inside exhibits was an interactive, “real” feel infantry moment when you kind of (obviously) get to experience what the soldiers may have when marching into a battle. You enter a forest that is somewhat dark, there are flashes of light, lots of noise and as you get closer to the battle the ground shakes and you “bullets” passing by. Some of those walking through even get “shot” at (they’re harmless blasts of air) but you get the picture. Obviously this isn’t for the smallest kiddos to experience but My Boy was quite taken by the whole experience and we went back through again (which was kind of eerie on our our own).

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The outside grounds include a plantation, with a Big House, slave quarters, out buildings, and fields. We were able to see for ourselves what some slaves may have experienced in terms of their living situation, and the stark difference between those that were forced to work the fields and those who were forced to work within the home or to provide skilled labor.

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There were also outdoor drills demonstrations that showed how the soldiers trained, as well as a small camp that allowed us to see first hand how the soldiers may have lived while traveling from battle to battle. It included discussions of what the soldiers ate, how illnesses affected them, camp discipline, morale, etc etc. We were able to see and participate for the 2nd time in a civil war cannon demonstration. I’m beginning to think by the time we leave this area B will be able to recall all the necessary steps on his own.

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All in all this was by far one of my most favorite field trips, ever. Really and truly.

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