I have no interest in sitting on the beach or sipping daiquiris by the pool. When I go on trips, I want to learn something.
I want to go to museums, check out visitor centers and learn about the areas I’m exploring. Luckily, Pennsylvania State Parks are filled with opportunities to keep information-hungry visitors well fed. So for International Museum Day (May 18), let’s look at learning opportunities in our favorite state parks. From environmental centers to interpretive museums, there are so many great parks that feature learning exhibits.
During my visit to all 121 state parks in 2021, I was fortunate to find so many amazing places of learning and discovery throughout the Commonwealth.
Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorite places to learn at Pennsylvania’s state parks.
Tom Ridge Environmental Center
Presque Isle State Park
The Tom Ridge Environmental Center minutes from Presque Isle State Park in Erie is one of the best natural museums. Not one of the best in a state park. Not one of the best in the commonwealth. It is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
The depth of information it has is amazing. The presentation – which some museums handle poorly – is modern, creative and fun. It is entertaining for adults and children.
My wife Abby and I were stunned by how great it was. Every corner opened into a new and interesting exhibit. We spent a couple hours taking out time reading everything. We even came back the next day to see some things we forgot to check out.
And, with an expansion planned, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center is only going to get better. If you plan to visit Presque Isle, make sure you visit the environmental center.
Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitors Center
Kinzua Bridge State Park
The multimedia experience awaiting you at the Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitors Center is just awesome. The downstairs of the visitors center provides tons of information on the former Kinzua Viaduct – which was destroyed by a tornado in 2003 and revamped into a skywalk in 2011.
The exhibits include videos, sounds of local animals and plenty to read about the park. My favorite section includes a number of drawers that when pulled, provides entertaining stories. My personal favorite is the story of Odo Valentine – a daredevil that flew under the viaduct in 1939.
There’s also a great gift shop, for those of us who can’t help but pick up a postcard or magnet from everywhere they go.
Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
Denton Hill State Park
Located across the street from Denton Hill State Park –a former ski lodge that is planned for a revamping – is the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum.
This massive wooden structure houses hours of interesting and entertaining content about the lumber industry in Pennsylvania. The museum is working to preserve and share the history of Pennsylvania’s forests, inspiring its audience to become better stewards of Pennsylvania’s forest resources and heritage.
The museum includes indoor and outdoor exhibits. Inside, you can take your time strolling through the exhibits learning about an industry that’s meant so much to the commonwealth. Then, you can head outside and walk through the lumber camp and Sustainable Forest Trail.
The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum also has a top-notch gift shop – with crafts made by local artisans. You know, if you’re into that sorta thing.
Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center
Parker Dam State Park
Located in Clearfield County, the Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center at Parker Dam State Park provides a look back in time. I have a soft spot for any information about the so-called “CCC boys.”
The Civilian Conservation Corps was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal. The government work relief program that ran from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men.
Hundreds of thousands of men in dozens of camps around Pennsylvania provided labor with a focus on conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments.
What are some of your favorite learning centers in Pennsylvania state parks or forests? Let me know!
Christian Alexandersen ran one mile in each of Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks in 2021 and has been sharing with us stories and tips from his journey! To read more blog posts from Christian and other PPFF guest bloggers, visit our News page.
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