One article about the best museums I’ve visited just wasn’t enough. Without further ado, here’s eight more museums that I’d recommend making stops on your next two-wheeled tour.
Louisville Slugger Museum
Location: Louisville, Tenn.
As far as traditional museums go, this one hits it out of the park. The museum portion teaches you everything you could want to know about how baseball bats have been manufactured and improved over the decades through fun, easy-to-understand exhibits. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, the exhibits are plenty entertaining, and may even turn you into a fan of America’s pastime. There’s also an opportunity to take a guided stroll through the Louisville Slugger factory where baseball bats are manufactured and painted.
International Towing Museum
Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.
This was one of my Johnny Cash stops, and I was planning on making a very quick stop and getting right back on the road. Instead, I was there for about 45 minutes and really enjoyed the exhibit. It looks like an old storefront, but don’t let that deceive you. Inside there are some neat tow trucks and related artifacts. When I was there, they had the world’s fastest tow truck on display. I won’t spoil its story for you, but that’s just one example of the cool things you’ll find here.
Fort Pitt Museum
Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.
While Pittsburgh’s Point State Park is a serene place today, it was a battlefield in the 1700s. The museum is housed in a rebuilt bastion of Fort Pitt, which was the second permanent fortification construction at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. The museum is full of artifacts from the era when the fort existed, and there’s still one permanent structure from the fort standing (known as “the blockhouse”). There’s also an impressive model of the fort and its surrounding terrain near the museum entrance. The museum was built as part of a several decade-long effort to transform the point from an industrial wasteland into what it is today.
Barksdale Global Power Museum
Location: Shreveport, La.
Admission to this military museum isn’t as easy as it used to be, but its artifacts make the advance arrangements worth it. The Barksdale Global Power Museum’s grounds are located along the northwest boundary of the Barksdale Air Force Base. The outdoor portion of the museum features more than 15 retired military planes, including a B-17, SR-71 Blackbird and a B-52G Stratofortress. There’s also several indoor exhibits (that I didn’t get a chance to tour) and a gift shop.
Unless you have a U.S. military common access card or a military sponsor, you’ll need to complete a visitor request form at least 30 days prior to your planned visit.
Erie Canal Heritage Park
Location: Port Byron, N.Y.
While it’s only open a few months each year, it’s more than worth making Erie Canal Heritage Park a stop on your summer trip along the New York State Thruway. The park features a restored Enlarged Erie Canal lock, as well as a visitor’s center that contains exhibits about the canal’s history. One of the exhibits is a a 1893 lock model that was built to showcase the canal’s technology at World’s Fair in Chicago There’s also several buildings from the Erie Canal era that make up a small living history exhibit on the east end of the park. The park can be accessed from eastbound I-90 between exits 40 and 41, or from Rochester Street (State Route 31) in Port Byron. It’s open May 1 to Oct. 31 each year.
Location: Coshockton, Ohio
This isn’t your typical museum. It’s a preserved portion of an Ohio and Erie Canal town that mixes the old with the new. For a small fee, visitors can visit several of the buildings that showcase what canal town life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries. Mixed into the village are modern restaurants and shops housed in 1800s structures. It’s great stop on a trip through Ohio, and there’s enough to see to fill up an afternoon or more.
Abraham Lincoln Museum
Location: Springfield, Ill.
This is one of the stops I chose for my Johnny Cash riding project. The museum puts more of an emphasis on re-creation of Lincoln’s environment than “hard” history with lots of artifacts and infographics. However, the fine level of detail in its design and construction help bring the story of one of the nation’s most famed presidents to life.
Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor
Location: Youngstown, Ohio
Ask any Youngstown local about their city’s history, and they’ll happily tell you all about the region’s formerly thriving steel industry. The Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor is the institution tasked with preserving that industrial heritage. It’s exhibits cover more than just the machinery of the mills and focus on the story of the workers who toiled and sometimes suffered in the steel mills. There’s also a section that captures the despair of the 1970s when the emergence of the post-industrial economy decimated Youngstown’s heavy industries.
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