I didn’t know what to expect when I pulled into the parking lot at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. I had spent the last day in nearby Hershey – learning about the history of Milton Hershey and buying all the chocolate gifts I could find – when someone gave me a tip about an awesome museum to visit. With my dad and grandfather as Army veterans, I thought it would be worth the detour to see the museum.
The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center are more than just a museum; it is an expansive campus with several buildings dedicated to historical research and telling the U.S. Army’s stories. The focus of the heritage center is on the men and women who serve in the Army, telling the stories of bravery from generations of conflict worldwide.
950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, PA | 717-245-3972 | https://history.army.mil/museums/usahec/index.html
Visitor and Education Center
My first – and only – stop on campus was the Visitor and Education Center. Although all buildings on the campus are open to the public, this was the only place spontaneous visitors can explore without making plans in advance.
Admission was free, so after a brief chat with the gentleman at the front desk, I was off to explore the museum. The Soldier Experience was the first section of the museum, recounting U.S. Army history from the Spanish-American War to modern times. Exhibits included uniforms, weaponry, and even a small tank.
Interpretive panels gave depth and detail to the displays. Stories of veterans, moments in history, and explanation of conflicts kept me reading for well over an hour. With comfortable carpeting and subdued lighting, it didn’t feel like a stuffy museum. I was quite comfortable during the time spent learning the history of the U.S. Army.
Army Heritage Trail
The Army Heritage Trail was a fascinating one-mile loop trail winding around the campus beside Interstate 81. The paved trail was easy to walk and accessible, and something I recommend every visitor does while visiting the U.S. Army Heritage Center.
The trail begins at the parking lot and passes the first of many exhibits – a WWI trenches recreation. It’s one thing to see these trenches in movies, but it was something else entirely to stand above them and wonder what life would have been like at the bottom.
The trail passed field tents, a Cobra helicopter, and M-18 Tank Destroyer, and passed through a small earthen fort. The 30-minute walk on this trail was equal to – or perhaps even better – than some national parks I have visited.
Plan a Road Trip with Google Maps
Use this step-by-step guide to create a custom map, add stops and a route, and upload to your mobile device.
U.S. Army Military History Institute
Located inside Ridgeway Hall on the heritage campus, the U.S. Army Military History Institute is the United States Army’s premier historical research facility. The collection includes almost 15 million documents, photographs, and other items. The institute also has the largest collection of Civil War photos in the world.
Although the U.S. Army Military History Institute is not open to the public for tours, it is available for anyone who wants to conduct research into the Army’s history. Reservations must be made, but there are no fees associated with research. Could you imagine spending a few days sifting through those documents and discovering amazing stories to tell?