While Cumberland Valley is known for having great hiking and biking trails, you don’t have to spend your entire day outdoors (especially if the weather decides not to cooperate). We are home to several must-see, unique museums geared toward various passions. Less than two hours away from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., here are five of the coolest museums to visit during your Weekend Easy getaway.
Appalachian Trail Museum
Planning on hiking through Cumberland Valley? Get a head start with a trip to the Appalachian Trail Museum. While there’s no strenuous hiking involved, you’ll get the lay of the land along with lots of insights into the area’s landscape. It’s the only museum in the country dedicated solely to hiking. Plus, it’s located inside a 200-year-old grist mill in Pine Grove Furnace State Park and surrounded by plenty of nature. You’ll find exhibits spotlighting the early founders of the trail as well as profiles of early pioneers.
In 2019, the Museum added five new exhibits sue to entice even more visitors to this off-the-beaten-path gem.
- "A Night on the Trail": A multi-media exhibit to give children a sense of what it's like to spend a night on the Appalachian Trail.
- "Blazing the Trail in Maine": Featuring photos showing how the Appalachian Trail was established in Maine and featuring the folding kayak (Folbot) used by Appalachian Trail pioneer, Myron Avery.
- "Walkin' Jim Stoltz": An exhibit dedicated to the late Jim Stoltz, renowned long-distance hiker, songwriter, artist, poet, photographer, author, entertainer, and environmental activist.
- "Hikanation": Celebrating the groundbreaking 1980-81, Pacific-to-Atlantic Hike organized by the American Hiking Society.
- "Our National Scenic Trails": An exhibit celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Scenic Trails System established by Act of Congress in 1968.
U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
Spanning a spacious campus that includes the U.S. Army War College Library, the U.S. Army Military History Institute and more, you’ll want to dedicate a few hours to experience the center in its entirety. If you’re looking for an immersive experience, opt for the mile-long outdoor Army Heritage Trail, which takes guests through interactive military exhibits. For a general overview, begin your journey at the Visitor and Education Center, where you’ll find interactive exhibits that shed light on the culture and experience of U.S. soldiers. USAHEC hosts Army Heritage Days each May, a weekend-long living history event spread out along the one-mile trail.
You don’t have to be a car lover to appreciate the Rolls-Royce Museum, but it definitely helps. Located on Hempt Road in Mechanicsburg, the 5,000-square-foot facility houses a variety of fancy Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars. Visitors are encouraged to take a self-guided tour of the museum, which usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your pace. All guests are welcome to sit inside the cars, and touch, see and feel the luxury for themselves. For an insider’s view of what it takes to keep these cars looking shiny and new, there’s a functioning garage on-site where technical seminars are hosted.
Mechanicsburg Museum Association
For a glimpse into what life was like in Cumberland Valley during the 1800s, pay a visit to the Mechanicsburg Museum. The association preserves several historic buildings that focus on the town's history, including its crucial role as a stop along the Cumberland Valley Railroad: 1899 Washington Street Station, the 1866 Stationmaster's House, the 1886 Freight Station, the 1867 Passenger Station, and the 1801 Frankenberger Tavern. Entrance is free but guests are welcome to purchase books, toys and other souvenirs at the museum store.
TIP: To learn more about the Cumberland Valley Railroad, head to Shippensburg for a visit to the Cumberland Valley Railroad Museum. Located inside a restored 50-foot boxcar, the museum now serves as a focal point at the Shippensburg Station trailhead of the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail (CVRT) and provides visitors with an opportunity to celebrate and learn more about CVRT's heritage.
Cumberland County Historical Society
Located in historic downtown Carlisle, the Cumberland County Historical Society includes a library, museum, education center, photo archives, and a shop (History on High) selling locally- made items. The award-winning museum encompasses 16 galleries, each serving as a visual guide to Cumberland Valley’s past. There are several ways to get involved, whether signing up for a walking tour, attending a lecture, or participating in a workshop.