Read on for some of the best hands-on learning experiences at Pennsylvania museums, where exploring is not only allowed – it’s encouraged.
At Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia, learn the process of making ice cream by milking mechanical cows, developing your own virtual flavors and savoring plenty of yummy samples. The new Turkey Hill Taste Lab gives visitors the opportunity to bring their virtual ice-cream flavor to life.
Stroudsburg’s Kitchen Chemistry, a gourmet cupcake shop, will arm you with the skills you need to create your own edible works of art. Sign up for a variety of baking, cake-decorating and sugar-artistry classes.
Hop on the American Chocolate Tour Ride at Hershey’s® Chocolate Worldto feel, hear and smell the transformation of cocoa beans into decadent chocolate. Then, concoct your own candy-bar flavor and wrap it in customized packaging at the Hershey’s® Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction.
Touchscreens and mini theaters tell the story of how Milton Hershey revolutionized the chocolate industry at the Museum Experience at The Hershey Story®. A special exhibit running through spring 2016, “Chocolate Workers Wanted: Experience Factory Life Working for Mr. Hershey,” visits the early days of the sweets factory and allows visitors to try jobs in different departments, including roasting, packing and order fulfillment.
While battlefield tours are a must at Gettysburg National Military Park, the museum at the park’s visitor center offers rare opportunities to view the pivotal battle from a soldier’s perspective. Learn Civil War signal calls, how to pack a soldier’s bag and more. Nearby, the Seminary Ridge Museum gives history aficionados the chance to climb to the cupola overlooking the city used by Union General John Buford during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Located at the Titusville site where Colonel Edwin Drake drilled the oil well that launched the modern petroleum industry in 1859, the Drake Well Museum sheds light on how oil influences our everyday lives. View a replica of the original well and demonstrations of various methods of oil extraction, and admire the lovely park that surrounds it all.
Experience frontier life in the Endless Mountains at Old Mill Village in the borough of New Milford, where historic buildings, artifacts and re-enactments exhibit the heritage of the late 1800s. The annual Spring Farm Festival (May 23, 2015) will include sheep shearing, weaving and spinning displays, and hands-on demonstrations about baking, maple-syrup making, butter churning and animal care.
Several prominent Underground Railroad conductors resided in Indiana County, and the modest Blairsville Underground Railroad History Center tells their stories. Take the driving tour of significant Underground Railroad sites and schedule a tour of the history center, where the exhibit “Day in the Life of an Enslaved Child” gives visitors the chance to experience chores and activities of the time.
For the Kids
A replica supermarket for pint-sized shoppers and grocers, an art studio and exhibits explaining oil and magnetics are just a few favorites at the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum in Erie. The environment instills little learners with knowledge about natural sciences, social studies and the arts without them even noticing!
Your kids won’t want to leave the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, where the possibilities for educational fun include racing sailboats in water currents, playing hop scotch on clouds and taking on the role of architects, doctors and shop keepers in City Capers, a recreation of buildings seen in Philadelphia’s famous skyline.
An Egyptian tomb, coal mine, giant bird’s nest and American Indian longhouse are among the many models and replicas at Bloomsburg’s Children’s Museum. Other highlights include a seasonal butterfly garden and exhibits about health and hygiene.
The Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County’s Children’s Creativity Center hosts a colorful, inviting space for tykes to create their own masterpieces. The free museum, which features exhibits by local and international artists, also hosts art classes, receptions and meet-the-artist events for grown-ups every first Sunday of the month.
Valley Forge National Historic Park’s Join the Continental Army program arms children ages seven and up with wooden muskets and teaches the mini recruits the fundamentals of being one of General Washington’s soldiers, including drills and commands.
Visit Punxsutawney Phil’s burrow, feel the effects of lightening and learn how the science and folklore of weather prediction collide at the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center. Born to broadcast? The Weather Discover Studio even gives amateur meteorologists the chance to get on camera.
Environmental science is spotlighted at the Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center in Armstrong County, where walking trails reveal the natural beauty of Crooked Creek Lake and Park. Past events hosted by the center feature activities like geocaching and ladybug protection.
Textbooks don’t hold a candle to the active exhibits at the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown. Experience what it’s like to have tunnel vision in “Watt’s Up,” an exhibit highlighting electricity, light and the human senses, and endure 78-mile-per-hour winds in the hurricane simulator.