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10 Pennsylvania museums and cultural activities

Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick is a freelance writer and editor who contributes regularly to SheKnows, MintLife, AOL, iVillage and other sites. In her articles, Elizabeth covers a variety of subjects including relationships, pregnancy, paren...

Culture galore

History, architecture, art and science are present en masse in the groupings of Pennsylvania museums and cultural activities listed below. The state is teeming with one-of-a-kind, educational experiences, from historic battlefields to national historic landmarks, from art retrospectives to hands-on science exhibits exaggerated to immense proportions. Visitors can experience life through the eyes of others – the Amish, modern artists, soldiers, inventors, patriots and visionaries – at these family-friendly destinations, unique to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Museum

Pittsburgh Area

1. Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater

The only major Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house that is open to the public with its original furnishings, artwork and setting intact is Fallingwater, located in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. America's most famous architect, Wright designed the house for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh. It was built between 1936 and 1939. His design integrated the house into its natural landscape, and this National Historic Landmark appears as though it does not stand on solid ground but rather stretches out over a 30-foot waterfall. Wright told the Kaufmanns that he designed the house as such so they could live with the falls. A guided tour introduces visitors to the open-air walkways, the constant sound of the soothing falls and the signature ochre and Cherokee red color palette. Fallingwater is surrounded by Bear Run Nature Reserve. Advance ticket purchase and tour reservations are essential.

1491 Mill Run Road, Mill Run, PA 15464. Hours: Daily tours, except on Wednesdays, mid-March through November; open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in December; open only for self-guided grounds tour January and February. Admission: Adults $18; youth (ages 6-12) $12; grounds only pass $8; in-depth tour $65; other tours and packages available

2. The Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol is known for his Campbell's Soup cans, shock of messy white hair and "world-famous for 15 minutes" quote, but there was plenty more to the life and work of this influential 20th century artist. The Andy Warhol Museum, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has extensive permanent collections of Warhol art and archives, making it the most comprehensive single-artist museum worldwide. The ever-changing museum has more than 250 restored Warhol films, regularly exhibited in The Warhol's theater and galleries. There are over 4,000 Warhol works in all media on display, including paintings, prints, drawings, photos, sculptures and installation. The Warhol is one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and is considered a primary resource for contemporary art and pop culture.

117 Sandusky St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Hours: Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, and Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; closed Monday. Admission: Adults $15; senior citizens (55+) $9; students with valid ID $8; children (3-18) $8; group rates and discounts available.

3. Fort Ligonier

Located in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, the reconstructed Fort Ligonier invites visitors to journey back to the 18th century, when the flag of King George was still flown. Eight acres of the original 1758-1766 site of Fort Ligonier have been preserved in a full-scale restoration. The 200-square-foot inner fort includes an officers' mess, barracks, quartermaster, guardroom, underground magazine, commissary and officers quarters. The fort is defended by four bastions and accessed by three gates. An outer retrenchment surrounds the fort as well as a smokehouse, saw mill, log dwelling and hospital (two wards and a surgeon's hut). Admission to Fort Ligonier includes access to the fort itself for self-guided tours and access to all galleries and exhibits in the museum, including the French and Indian War Art Gallery, the rare George Washington Collection showcasing the George Washington Pistols and more.

200 S. Market St., Ligonier, PA 15658. Hours: Open mid-April – mid-November; Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Admission: Adult $8; child (ages 6-14) $5; children 5 and under free.

4. Carnegie Science Center

The Carnegie Science Center, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is home to a treasure-trove of scientific and technological demonstrations, as well as exciting hands-on experiences for kids and adults. The museum's goal is to inspire and entertain by connecting science and technology with everyday life through their many interactive experiences and exhibits. There are learning opportunities around every corner at the Carnegie Science Center. Visitors can explore the spark of electricity or get up close and personal with sea creatures, from jellyfish to sea horses. Guests can take a trip to the stars and planets in an exhilarating planetarium experience, or learn how robots think in the world's most comprehensive robotics exhibition.

One Allegheny Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Hours: Sunday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Admission: Adult, $17.95; children (3-12), $9.95; Omnimax films and laser show at additional cost.

Southern Pennsylvania

5. American Civil War Museum

An educational, inspiring experience, the American Civil War Museum in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, presents the entire story of the Civil War era and Battle of Gettysburg. Visitors are introduced to this historic time through remarkable realism – voices from history tell the story of this infamous battle and recreate the Civil War era through various life-sized dioramas. From Jennie Wade's death to John Brown's execution, from slaves using the Underground Railroad to Abraham Lincoln's assassination, there are five hallways of scenes that bring historic moments to life. In the digitally enhanced Battleroom Auditorium, the fight between the Union and Confederate soldiers is recreated, Lincoln delivers his Gettysburg Address, and the causes, effects and outcome of the battle are revealed.

297 Steinwehr Avenue, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Hours: Daily March-December, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; extended spring and summer hours; open weekends and holidays in January and February. Admission: Adults (18 and over) $5.50; youth (ages 6-17) $3; children (5 and under) free; special rates available for groups.

6. The Amish Experience

The Amish Experience touring center in Bird in Hand, Pennsylvania, is the heart of the oldest Amish settlement in the world. Visitors can opt for a three-activity tour that best exemplifies the Pennsylvania Amish to see how this culture lives today. The Amish Farmlands Tour travels the scenic back roads and makes stops at an Amish property or stand, while a guide relays information about Amish traditions. The Amish Country Homestead tour takes visitors through a nine-room house, unraveling the "secrets" of Amish culture regarding everything from their clothing to life without electricity. The Amish Experience Theater offers an hourly showing of "Jacob's Choice" – an Amish boy's decision to join the faith or live in the modern world. Amish Visit-In-Person tours are available, offering visitors the rare opportunity to talk with Amish at work and home.

3121 Old Philadelphia Pk., Bird in Hand, PA 17505. Hours: Daily, late March – October; tours depart at 10:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. on Sundays; daily at 11:30 a.m. in November, weekends in December. Admission: $29.95 per person, plus adults $10 and children $6 for SuperSaver Tour Package.

7. Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park

Anyone planning a trip to historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, will want to make the Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park the first stop on the itinerary. The Gettysburg experience begins properly at the visitor center, where guests can plan their battlefield tour throughout the area. The 139,000-square-foot museum and visitor center itself offers a film entitled "a new birth of freedom," as well as state-of-the-art galleries with artifacts from the historic Battle of Gettysburg, including weaponry and uniforms, interactive exhibits and hands-on displays. The center's Cyclorama was designed to immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of Pickett's Charge via the massive, 360-degree "Battle of Gettysburg" painting-in-the-round, first exhibited in 1884. This Cyclorama gives the illusion of being in the middle of battle, further exemplifying the magnitude and significance of this Civil War battle.

1195 Baltimore Pike Gettysburg, PA 17325. Hours: November-March, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; April-October, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Admission: Cyclorama, Film and Museum Experience: adult (19+), $10.50; seniors (65+)/military, $9.50; youth (6-18), $6.50; children under 5 free.

Philadelphia Area

8. Please Touch Museum

Ideal for families with young children, the Please Touch Museum invites kids to do the opposite of what every other museum orders. Instead of "Hands off!" it's "Hands on!" Interactive exhibits, various play activities and live theater performances happen daily at this children's museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Family interaction is part of the experience in this 38,000-square-foot space, so grown-ups are encouraged to play just as much as the kids to demonstrate the possibilities each exhibit holds. Children will learn as they play in a unique environment that allows guests to personalize each and every visit – there is no wrong way to play!

210 N. 21st St., Philadelphia, PA 19103. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: Children and adults, $15; under age 1 free; group discounts available.

9. The Franklin Institute

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Franklin Institute is known for their amazing interactive exhibits and live science shows. Opened in 1934, this attraction was one of the first hands-on science museums in the United States. The Franklin Institute was founded in the spirit of inquiry and discovery that was embodied by Benjamin Franklin and that mission continues today. From astronomy to sports to weather to wellness, The Franklin Institute illuminates issues in contemporary society through their science and technology exhibits. One especially popular exhibit – initially installed for only a temporary stay in 1954 – is the Giant Walk-Through Heart, which has undergone various "surgeries" since its debut to keep it running smoothly. Admission to The Franklin Institute includes the Science Museum exhibits, a live show and one show in the Fels Planetarium. IMAX Theater and Franklin Theater require additional tickets.

222 N. 20th St., Philadelphia, PA 19103. Hours: Daily 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. for exhibits; hours vary for theaters. Admission: Adult $15.50, senior (62+)/military $14.50; child (ages 4-11) $12.

10. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Fans of Rocky will recognize the massive staircase leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (in fact, an imprint of Rocky's feet can be found in the cement at the top of the stairs). This famous museum, one of the oldest in the United States, is home to 200 galleries containing artwork that spans two millennia and six continents. This eclectic gathering includes one of the biggest collections of Pennsylvania German art, the largest collection of artist Thomas Eakins and an extensive display of 18th and 19th century handmade furniture and wares. Renaissance master paintings, elaborate sculptures, French Impressionism, galleries dedicated to modern and contemporary art and so much more all have a place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: Adults, $16; seniors (65+), $14; students with valid ID, $12; children (13-18), $12; under 12 free; first Sunday of each month: pay what you wish all day.

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