5 Things to do in 2022: Hands-On History

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The AACA Museum is one of several places in Central Pa. where you can experience history.

Winter is here—even if it has felt more like spring—and at some point, Cabin Fever is sure to set in. No matter what the weather—warm day or snowy day—here are five great local history places to visit this year:

  1. Conococheague Institute Museum, Library and Gardens—located between Greencastle and Welsh Run on Rock Hill Farm at 12995 Bain Road, Mercersburg, CI is an 18th century preserved farmstead. The 30-acre site includes two house museums with outbuildings, a research library, two historic log structures, historic gardens and walking trails with access to a pioneer cemetery. Trails are open from dawn to dusk and leashed dogs are permitted. Historic programs are offered every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  2. The Old Jail, at Franklin County’s Historical Society/Kittochtinny Genealogy Library and Museum, 175 E. King St., Chambersburg. Built in 1818 as the county’s third jail, the property features old cells, gallows and more. It was retired in 1971. Open November to April: Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours, when docents are available, are $5 for adults; $4 for children 4-17.
  3. Fort Loudon Historic Site, 1720 N. Brooklyn Road, Fort Loudon. Situated west of Chambersburg just off Route 30, Fort Loudoun came to being as part of a chain of frontier forts from the Blue Mountains in Easton to Franklin County ordered by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1756. The forts were needed as the French and Indian War resulted in many raids upon settlers. The fort was abandoned in 1765, and a grand house was built on the northeast corner of the fort, possibly in 1798, and was used as a farm until its 207 acres were purchased the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1967. Recently, work has been done by volunteers to restore the original fort. Events are also hosted there. Visitors are welcome to walk the site during daylight hours. Most Wednesdays, volunteers are there and can offer tours.
  4. U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle. Located about 45 minutes north along I-81, this military history campus offers a library, museum and living history trail. The Soldier Experience Gallery, located in the Visitor and Education Center, offers visitors the opportunity to experience the U.S. Army through the eyes of the men and women who lived its history, in war and peace, from the Spanish American War to operations in Afghanistan. Visitors first stop by the VEC information desk to pick up a “dog tag” representing one of six Soldiers whose story is part of the USAHEC collections. Guests use the dog tag to experience Army life as a Soldier does, learning about their Soldier throughout the gallery. The exhibit also features hundreds of artifacts, oral history recordings accessible from your smart phone, a movie theater, and the opportunity to write a letter to a currently serving Soldier. In addition, guests may test their marksmanship at the digital shooting range, parachute into Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion, and experience a night attack during the Korean War. Outside, The Army Heritage Trail covers about one mile and highlights nearly every era of Army history with different exhibits and artifacts designed to provide an immersion into each period represented. Visitors can venture into WWI trenches, WWII obstacle course and Civil War cabins and see a UH-1 Iroqois “Huey” up close. The trail is open from dawn to dusk. Buildings on the trail are open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. All of the exhibits at the USAHEC are self-guided.
  5. AACA Museum, 161 Museum Drive, Hershey. Car buffs and kids will find 71,000 square feet of autos, with featured exhibits, as well as a permanent collection of vintage vehicles displayed in unique settings. You’ll find tour buses, a DeLorean prototype, the Hershey Kissmobile and even a model railroad display. On special exhibit now through April 23 is “Survivors: Unrestored Classic Cars, Trucks, & Motorcycles,” featuring classic vehicles that have not been altered since they were built and the Keystone Packards’ historic Packard display. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $12.50 for adults and $9.50 for children 4-12.
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