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 with the scenic natural beauty of the mountains as a backdrop. You’ll find exhibits spotlighting the early founders of the trail as well as profiles of early pioneers, a children's area in the basement with a children's version of the A.T. and beautiful panels for children to follow along the route to educate them about each state and the trail itself, a research library, and indoor/outdoor storytelling area, and more. Nearby hiking opportunities include the Pole Steeple and Buck Ridge Trails, as well as a short hike along the A.T. to the official halfway marker of the trail.
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. Exhibits include The Soldier Experience Gallery, This Will Not Stand: The U.S. Army's Road to Victory during the Persian Gulf War, A Call to Arms, Where the Hell is Korea, Enter the War on Terror, and On Patrol.
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. Currently, all tours must be scheduled in advance and are by appointment only.
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. Be sure to check their website for hours of operation.
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. Adjacent to the Cumberland Valley Railroad Museum, the newly-opened Conrail Museum is located inside a restored 86-foot boxcar and display a portion of the archival collection owned by The Conrail Historical Society.
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. They host numerous events including walking tours, lectures, and genealogy workshops.