We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see in your travels.
Note: Because Pennsylvania offers so many interesting places to visit, I have broken it into two separate blog posts. Part 1 ran last week and this is Part 2.
Perkasie: Author Pearl S. Buck wrote many of her bestselling books at her home here on Green Hills Farm, which is now open to tours. She is buried at the farm.
Philadelphia: All sorts of odd and ghastly anatomical items are on display at the Mutter Museum. The Museum’s collections include over 20,000 objects, including fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens, medical instruments, anatomical and pathological models, and items of memorabilia of famous scientists and physicians.
Philadelphia: Visitors to the Independence Seaport Museum can explore the region’s marine history and culture with exhibits of boats, ships, and nautical artifacts. Included is the cruiser USS Olympia, the world’s oldest steel warship still afloat, which was the American flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War. Another vessel on display is the World War II-era submarine Becuna, a veteran of five wartime patrols in the Pacific Ocean, and credited with sinking at least three Japanese ships.
Philadelphia: The African American Museum was the first institution built by a major United States city to house and interpret the life and work of African Americans. Visitors can experience the richness and vibrancy of African American heritage and culture in four exhibition galleries filled with exciting history and fascinating art.
Philadelphia: Visitors can take a guided tour of Independence Hall, where the Continental Congress met, and both the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed.
Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Doll Museum collection includes African, Europeans, American Folk Art dolls, the renowned Roberta Bell Doll Collection, American and internationally manufactured dolls, and more.
Philadelphia: The Mummers Museum is dedicated to the Philadelphia celebration of the new year. The museum houses a rich collection of mummers’ paraphernalia and memorabilia, including spectacular costumes, a few of which date back to the turn of the 20th century.
Philadelphia: The Graff House was originally built in 1775 by Philadelphia bricklayer Jacob Graff, Jr. During the summer of 1776 Thomas Jefferson rented the two second-floor rooms and there drafted the Declaration of Independence. The first floor contains exhibits and a short film on the drafting of the Declaration. On the second floor, the bedroom and parlor that Jefferson occupied have been recreated and contain period furnishings. Also included are reproductions of Jefferson’s swivel chair and the lap desk he used when he wrote the Declaration.
Philadelphia: An icon of American freedom, the Liberty Bell is displayed at Liberty Bell Center, along with displays on our nation’s history and the struggle for equality.
Philadelphia: When Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 it was the world’s most expensive and high-tech prison. The prison quickly became one of the most expensive and most copied buildings in the country. Some of America’s most notorious criminals were held in the prison’s cells, including bank robber Willie Sutton and gangster Al Capone. After 142 years of consecutive use, Eastern State Penitentiary was closed in 1971. Today special guided tours enlighten visitors on the subjects of daily life, escapes, and prison uprisings.
Philadelphia: Founded in 1888 by veteran Union military officers, the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia was created to preserve the history of that conflict and to promote public education. It is the oldest chartered Civil War institution in America. Exhibits include Old Baldy, Major General George Gordon Meade’s horse, who was wounded at least fourteen times during the Civil War, including once at the Battle of Gettysburg; the saddle upon which Major General John Fulton Reynolds was riding when killed at the Battle of Gettysburg; General Ulysses S. Grant’s field glasses and case; and hundreds of other Civil War artifacts.
Philadelphia: Visitors can tour the Betsy Ross House and learn about the woman credited with sewing the first American flag.
Philadelphia: The National Constitution Center is dedicated to increasing public understanding of, and appreciation for, the Constitution, its history, and its contemporary relevance, through an interactive interpretive facility within Independence National Historical Park.
Philadelphia: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution, located in Washington Square, honors the unknown war dead of George Washington’s Army.
Philadelphia: Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site preserves the home where the author wrote many of his most famous works, including The Black Cat and The Tell-Tale Heart.
Philadelphia: Established in 1695, Christ Church was intimately associated with the men and events that created our country, and because of this it is often called “The Nation’s Church.” John Penn, George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, Francis Hopkinson, Dr. Thomas Bond and Tench Coxe all worshipped here. The Christ Church Burial Ground is one of America’s most interesting Colonial and Revolution-era graveyards, and the final resting place for some of our most prominent leaders including Benjamin Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Philadelphia: At Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial you can visit the house where Polish freedom fighter Thaddeus Kosciuszko lived and hear how this brilliant military engineer designed successful fortifications during the American Revolution.
Philadelphia: New Hall Military Museum is dedicated to honoring the contributions of America’s military to our history. Displays include military uniforms and equipment, weapons, artifacts, and artwork.
Philadelphia: The National Liberty Museum was created to celebrate our nation’s heritage of freedom and the wonderful diverse society it has produced. It honors 1,000 men, women, and young people of all walks of life who dared to step beyond their comfort zones to help make the world a better place, from world leaders to the firefighters and police who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
Pittsburgh: Situated in the re-created Monongahela Bastion at Point State Park, the Fort Pitt Museum commemorates the strategic importance of the Forks of the Ohio during the period when British, French, Colonial, and Native American forces struggled for control of North America. Through exhibits and programs the museum also addresses the important role of Fort Pitt during the American Revolution and the early development of the city of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh: The opening of western Pennsylvania to settlement was the result of a decisive victory over the Native Americans at the Battle of Bushy Run in 1763. Today Bushy Run Battlefield includes a visitor center, as well as guided and self-guided tours, special events, and educational programs.
Pittsburgh: From dinosaurs to polar bears, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History explores every aspect of the natural world.
Pittsburgh: The Andy Warhol Museum celebrates the pop art and life of Andy Warhol, using unique collections and dynamic, interactive programming as tools.
Pittsburgh: The USS Requin holds the distinction of being the Navy’s first radar picket submarine. She participated in defense and scientific missions, some of which are still classified. Today visitors can tour the submarine and learn about her place in history.
Pittsburgh: At the Senator John Heinz History Center, Pennsylvania’s largest history museum, you can step inside a 1790s log cabin, discover how immigrants shaped this region, learn about the Underground Railroad, experience the thrill of the state’s unmatched sports legacy, and climb aboard a 1940s Pittsburgh trolley.
Pittsburgh: Located in the Smithsonian wing of the Senator John Heinz History Center, the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum spans 20,000 square feet of exhibit space over two floors. This “museum within a museum” captures the Pittsburgh region’s evolution and impact as a sports leader over more than a century, from amateur to pro and across the spectrum of sports. Exhibits include Mario Lemieux’s hockey skates, Satchel Paige’s baseball glove, the pitching rubber from the 1960 World Series, Arnold Palmer’s sweater and golf bag; Chip Ganassi’s 2000 Indy 500-winning race car; the Homestead women swimmers Olympic medals from the 1920s and 1930s; hundreds of Pirates baseball cards; and much more.
Pittsburgh: The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit bird zoo. The Aviary is home to 600+ birds of more than 200 species. Many are threatened or endangered in the wild. Natural exhibits allow visitors an up-close view of the bird world. From Pacific Parrotlets to Andean Condors, the birds represent nearly every continent, with a particular emphasis on rainforest and wetland habitats.
Pottsville: Jerry’s Classic Cars and Collectibles Museum is a private collection of cars from the 1950s and 1960s, along with a soda fountain, barber shop, and other memories of the good old days.
Punxsutawney: If you get here on Groundhog Day you can climb to Gobbler’s Knob and see if the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow.
Scranton: The cinders, grease, oil, steam, people, and stories of railroading have returned. You can relive the era of steam locomotives as the engines come back to life at Steamtown National Historic Site. Visitors can take a walking tour of the Locomotive Repair Shop, which houses the machinery used to make parts for steam locomotives and provides space for repairs and restoration projects. Rides on vintage trains are also available.
Scranton: Magician Harry Houdini is remembered at the Houdini Museum with artifacts, posters, and magic demonstrations.
Scranton: At the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum, displays and artifacts tell the story of the immigrant coal miners who came here from Europe to dig the region’s rich coal resources.
Scranton: The Lackawanna County Coal Mine Tour takes you into what once was an active anthracite coal mine. At one time in this region, coal was king and the main industry was anthracite mining. The tour is conducted in what once was part of the Continental Coal Mine. Deep mining commenced in the area around 1860.
Sharon: The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Museum honors the best singing groups in the country.
Shartlesville: Roadside America is a wonderful miniature display that traces over 200 years of life in rural America. The life work of Laurence Gieringer, the accurately crafted miniature houses, stores, churches, farms, people, and implements draw visitors from around the world.
Somerset: On September 11, 2001, the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 courageously gave their lives thwarting a planned terrorist attack on our nation’s Capital. The Pennsylvania field where the airplane crashed is now a National Memorial to those who died on Flight 93.
Strasburg: The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania houses one of the most significant collections of historic railroad artifacts in the world. Devoted to preserving and interpreting the broad impact of railroad development on society, the museum displays over 100 locomotives and cars from the mid-19th and 20th centuries, including the priceless Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Collection.
Strasburg: What boy doesn’t love a toy train set, no matter how old they are? At the National Toy Train Museum you will see one of the most extensive toy train collections in the world.
Titusville: The world’s first commercial oil well was drilled here in 1859. The Drake Well Museum, a 218 acre park, includes displays and outdoor exhibits on the earliest days of the petroleum industry.
Ulysses: Pennsylvania’s lumber industry is relived at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, a reconstructed 1890 logging village.
Valley Forge: Valley Forge National Historical Park, where George Washington and his troops spent the terrible winter of 1777-78, commemorates the sacrifices and perseverance of the Revolutionary War generation and honors the ability of citizens and their leaders to pull together and overcome adversity during extraordinary times.
Valley Forge: The World of Scouting Museum houses one of the finest and largest collections of Girl and Boy Scout memorabilia in the country.
Washington: You can take a ride into the past at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. Visitors can see historic trolley cars, watch a video on the days when trolleys were the most popular method of mass transit, and ride on a vintage trolley.
Washington: F. Julius LeMoyne, successful 19th century doctor, reformer, and builder of the first crematory in the western hemisphere, opened his home and properties as stops along the Underground Railroad, the series of safe hiding places for runaway slaves as they trudged north on their precarious journey to Canada and freedom. The LeMoyne House is now a museum filled with period artifacts and is dedicated to Dr. LeMoyne’s memory.
Washington: The LeMoyne Crematory, the first crematory built in the United States, is open for tours in Washington. The first cremation at LeMoyne’s facility took place on December 6, 1876. A total of 42 cremations were done here, the last in 1901. Doctor LeMoyne, ironically, was the third person cremated in his own crematory, after his death in 1879.
Weatherly: The old coal mining company town of Eckley has been preserved as Eckley Miners’ Village, with original buildings and equipment just as it was when the mine ceased operations and the miners moved away.
West Chester: For a behind the scenes look at television home shopping, take a guided tour of the QVC studio in West Chester.
Williamsport: You can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Little League Baseball at the Little League Museum in Williamsport. The Hall of Excellence showcases famous former little leaguers like President George W. Bush, musician Bruce Springsteen, and basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabar.
York: The USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, at the York Barbell Company, displays photos and artifacts from the sport of weightlifting.
York: The Agricultural and Industrial Museum of York County displays industrial and agricultural products manufactured in York County. Exhibits include antique cars, farming equipment, a machine shop, railroad equipment, and a grist mill.
York: You can watch Harley Davidson motorcycles being built at the company factory in York.
York Springs: At the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing you can see a collection of race cars and racing memorabilia.
Thought For The Day – Don’t judge somebody just because they sin differently from you.