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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. Army Heritage Center
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10am-5pm
Address: 950 Soldiers Drive