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Experience the rich history of Pennsylvania | Travel Smart

This week, we’re showing you where you can experience the rich history of Pennsylvania, just steps from the State Capitol building in Harrisburg.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — From groceries to gas, the price of just of about everything has been on the rise lately, including travel. That’s why we’ve been taking you to destinations right in your own backyard, perfect for day trips that won’t break the bank.

This week, we’re showing you where you can experience the rich history of Pennsylvania, just steps from the State Capitol building in Harrisburg.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania has been collecting and preserving cultural and natural history for more than a century. With almost a dozen unique exhibits, the museum is a gateway to all different types of history and hands-on learning experiences.

“Everything from natural history, science, astronomy, political history, military history, industrial history,” Charlie Fox, the State Museum’s acting director said of the museum. "There’s something here for everyone.”

Step into Mammal Hall, arguably the State Museum’s most popular exhibit. The timeless dioramas depict both common and rare species in their natural habitats. Or, marvel at the native red fox pups investigating a small box turtle or get up close and personal with the majestic bison. In one scene, you can almost see its breath on a chilly night.

“They are just to give you a sense of what you can see,” Jeni Ashton, the chief of education at the State Museum said. "Again, the variety of habitats and animals that have lived or currently live in Pennsylvania.”

Travel back in time by walking down the hall. You can learn all about the prehistoric flora and fauna, some that even date back millions of years. The most impressive is the Marshall’s Creek Mastodon. Discovered in Monroe County, it’s one of the most complete Mastodon skeletons in North America.

“People can come here and see the bones of the Mastodon, you can see the real thing,” Fox said. "It’s not like looking at something through a screen of even seeing a picture in a book.”

No visit to the State Museum is complete without a stop at the planetarium. There, you can learn all about the creation of our solar system or view some of the clearest images of our universe recently taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.

If you’re looking for a guide to show you all of the highlights, the museum runs daily tours that show off the most impactful exhibition pieces.

“The tour is designed to give you the unique pieces about Pennsylvania History,” Ashton said. "We’ll talk all about William Penn and the Pennsylvania Charter, as well as hitting Mammal Hall and our state symbols. It’s really the highlights of the story of Pennsylvania.”

On any hot summer day, there’s something for everyone to explore, discover, and enjoy at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

“Oftentimes people think of museums as just books on a wall; that is not the case here," Fox said. "People come to museums because they have a hunker for the real thing; people want to have experiences and that’s exactly what we offer." 

Last month, the State Museum of Pennsylvania opened up its newest exhibit. It’s called “A Place for All: Three Stories of Integration in Pennsylvania” and combines three episodes in Civil Rights history that were originally presented at the museum as different temporary displays between 2002 and 2005. The State Museum has revived and updated the exhibits, now presenting them as one comprehensive installation.

You can learn more about the exhibit, as well as everything else the museum offers by clicking here.

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