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Exploring Military History at the U.S. Army Heritage Center in Carlisle

If you’re ever driven along Interstate 81 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, there’s no doubt that you’ve noticed the collection of military tanks and airplanes sitting next to the highway. These vehicles are part of the display at the U.S. Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, one of the state’s most in-depth looks at military history.

The Army Heritage Center is located on the grounds of the United State Military War College and the Carlisle Barracks. The museum opened in 2011 to tell the story of the U.S. Army’s history though the use of displays and interactive elements. The site is also home to what might be the most comprehensive library in the world of Army history.

There are two areas at the Army Heritage Center to visit and both are free to the public. The first is the museum inside the visitor center, and the second is the outdoor displays next to the highway.

Visiting the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Displays at the Army Heritage Center.

Before starting into the indoor museum, pick up a card from your choice of historical conflicts, which will allow you to follow a soldier through the museum. Various stands inside the museum tell you about a soldier from a particular war, what their military life was like, and what happened to them during and after the war.

The museum is called the Soldier Experience Gallery and covers the various conflicts that the US army has been in, soldier training, and what life is like for soldiers. Artifacts and signage are used to tell these stories, allowing visitors to quickly browse the information or spend a long time absorbing it all.

Soldier Experience Gallery at the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
The entrance to the Soldier Experience Gallery.

While the museum exhibits are well done, my favorite part was the many interactive elements that are scattered throughout the museum. Here, visitors can practice shooting a laser gun on a range, parachute during a mission, and try their hand at following orders from a drill sergeant. These interactive exhibits make the museum at the Army Heritage Center a fun place to visit whether you are interested in military history or not.

The outdoor area of the Army Heritage Center also offers a great opportunity for visitors to learn about the Army’s history. This outdoor museum features old tanks, helicopters, and artillery, and it was neat to get a close look at these pieces of machinery.

Helicopter at the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
A helicopter on display outside at the Army Heritage Center.

There are also several recreated military camps, including ones from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Vietnam War, and other conflicts. While I enjoyed them all, my personal favorite was the World War 1 trench. Walking through this recreated trench, it really felt like I was walking along the front lines of the war.

The Army Heritage Trail leads you through the various exhibits, which span from the French and Indian War to modern conflicts in the Middle East. Each exhibit offers a unique look at what life was like for soldiers during those time periods, and it’s a great way to compare and contrast how things have changed throughout history.

World War I Trench at the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
The very cool World War I trench.

Overall, the U.S. Army Heritage Center in Carlisle offers a unique look at the history of America’s military, and how the tools and instruments of war have changed over the years.

Whether you are a military history buff, simply enjoy learning new things, or just want to try out some fun interactive elements, this is a fun place to visit in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. It’s not only one of the top free things to do in the Harrisburg area, but it’s also one of the best free museums in PA.

Looking for more things to do in the area? Check out the grave of Molly Pitcher, Letort Falls, and the abandoned World War 2 POW camp.

U.S. Army Heritage Center

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10am-5pm
Sunday: 12pm-5pm
Grounds open dawn to dusk

Cost: Free

Website: Carlisle.Army.mil/AHEC

Address: 950 Soldiers Drive
Carlisle, PA 17013


See map below for other area attractions.

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1 thought on “Exploring Military History at the U.S. Army Heritage Center in Carlisle”

  1. Well worth the time! The indoor museum is extremely well done. The staff is helpful and polite. The outdoor trail is a long walk, but it’s mostly level and there is much to see. The hardest part for me was getting there: Going south on 81, the outdoor area is clearly visible on the right side. But when you get off 81, you need to go left, and cross 81.


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