Travel

A Guide to Philadelphia and Yorktown for History Lovers

“Siege of Yorktown” painting. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.

When two new Revolutionary War museums debut at nearly the same time, it’s hard not to compare. Here’s a head-to-head look at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

On Exhibit

Philadelphia: Open since April, this museum offers more actual artifacts and relies on tried-and-true informational “flipdoors” for its interactive elements.
Yorktown: Open fully since March, it features more digital screens as well as holograms and other high-tech exhibits.

Most Immersive Exhibit

Philadelphia: Stand your ground as the Battlefield Theater’s video—aided by strobe lights and sound effects—places you in the Battle of Brandywine.
Yorktown: At the “Siege of Yorktown,” a 180-degree surround-sound screen plus special effects (you’ll smell gunpowder and feel your seat rumble) puts you amid the fury of battle.

Revolution-era farm. Photograph Courtesy of Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.Revolution-era farm. Photograph Courtesy of Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
4-D film experience. Photograph Courtesy of Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.4-D film experience. Photograph Courtesy of Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
Army encampment. Photograph Courtesy of Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.Army encampment. Photograph Courtesy of Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
Life-size George Washington. Photograph Courtesy of Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.Life-size George Washington. Photograph Courtesy of Virginia’s American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

Did You Know?

Philadelphia: The Oneida tribe broke with the powerful Iroquois Confederation to aid the Colonists, a fact you learn as you walk among life-size statues in the Oneida Nation Gallery.
Yorktown: Battles were fought not just in the 13 original Colonies but in what would become almost every state east of the Mississippi, as explained in the opening galleries.

Best Exhibit on the Life of Soldiers

Philadelphia: In the Valley Forge exhibit, discover hardships endured by soldiers, including freezing temperatures, limited food, and lack of warm clothing.
Yorktown: At an outdoor living-history encampment, “join” the Continental forces to present arms and assist in firing a reproduction of a cannon.

Best Digital Exhibit

Philadelphia: At the Finding Freedom exhibit, learn what liberty meant to five African-Americans during the war years and what choices they made.
Yorktown: Post your definition of freedom, and read others, on digital screens hanging from the Liberty Tree.

If You Go

Philadelphia: Adults $19; ages 6 to 17 $12; 5 and younger free. 877-740-1776; amrevmuseum.org.
Yorktown: Adults $17; ages 6 to 12 $8; 5 and younger free. 888-593-4682; historyisfun.org.

“Siege of Yorktown” painting. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.“Siege of Yorktown” painting. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.
Interactive digital wall. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.Interactive digital wall. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.
Liberty Tree. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.Liberty Tree. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.
Newspapers from 1776. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.Newspapers from 1776. Photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.

This article appears in the August 2017 issue of Washingtonian.

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