I first discovered Jefferson Patterson Park on a winter day when all the museums were closed and the archaeologists weren’t digging. It was quiet, but the gates were open, so we parked in the empty parking lot and walked around exploring the path to the Indian Village and down along the water’s edge. It was beautiful even then and fun to explore, but when summer hits, it’s amazing.
Though understated, thousands of years of history have happened here and the volunteers at Jefferson Patterson Park are happy to tell you about it. At the Visitor’s Center, my girls love the hands-on Discovery Room where kids can dress up, play with old-fashioned toys, and learn about archaeology. There’s also a great interactive exhibit about archaeology that’s interesting for all ages.
I think that’s one of my favorite things about JefPat. The archaeologists are so approachable. Many days you’ll be able to see them at work on sites that where they’re doing digs. Stop and ask questions. They’re happy to talk to visitors. In the spring, you can even volunteer.
The Barn is perfect for history buffs with a great exhibit about the War of 1812 with a significant battle right around the corner at St. Leonard Creek. It’s interesting, but not open daily, so check the website for seasonal hours.
The Indian village is authentic right down to the timbers pulled from a local Calvert farm. With a fire pit and 4 longhouses, I’m stunned that it isn’t guarded. Instead, there it is, sitting on its own along a small path with the houses open to explore. My girls enjoy going inside each one, seeing the beds and furs, and imagining how they lived. For those interested in learning more, you can dial up a free walking tour on your phone and listen. At certain times of year, volunteers will show different parts of Native American life through pottery, flint napping, and more.
The MAC lab and the historic Patterson home are open for free tours as well, so check the website for the schedule.
When everything is open, you can easily spend a day here exploring. When the buildings are closed, drive straight down to the end of the road where the Patuxent meets St. Leonard Creek. There’s a tiny parking lot and a small beach where you can have a picnic and enjoy the view.
Any time of year is perfect for a family outing to Jefferson Patterson Park. The kids love to run and explore and we even bring the dog.
Jefferson Patterson Park
Audio Tours: 410-246-1966 (free)