Road Trip: New York City To Carlisle Pennsylvania

Road Trip: New York City to Carlisle Pennsylvania

by Michael Satterfield - Photos by Lucas Kepner - 06/29/2024

Our journey began in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of New York City; we had picked up our GMC Yukon Denali in the city and made a few quick stops before heading towards New Jeresey towards America's heartland. If you will be on the road for several hours, the Yukon Denali, with its smooth ride and luxurious interior, is not a bad vehicle to do it in. With its robust 6.2-liter V8 engine, this full-sized SUV promised a comfortable and powerful ride, perfect for our road trip to America's Transportation Experience / AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania. 

Carlisle Pennsylvania

After a night in a roadside motel, we arrived at the Carlisle Fairgrounds; we were greeted by a sea of classic cars and endless rows of parts and memorabilia for sale. The show is sensory overload for car enthusiasts... everywhere you look, there is gleaming chrome, vintage gas pumps, and enthusiastic haggling. Nearly everything was focused on Classic American Cars, but you can find some really unique European cars and parts mixed in; the Carlisle Spring Show is the East Coast version of The Pomona Swap Meet I would go to as a kid growing up in Southern California, only the prices are way better.  After a full day of exploring and reveling in automotive history, we loaded our newfound treasures and souvenirs into the Yukon and set off toward Hershey, Pennsylvania. 

The drive from Carlisle to Hershey was scenic, with the Yukon Denali effortlessly navigating the rolling hills and picturesque landscapes. As we approached Hershey, we could see the theme park off in the distance, and the faint scent of chocolate filled the air, a sweet prelude to our next destination: America's Transportation Experience / AACA Museum.

Nestled in the heart of Hershey, the AACA Museum stands as a monument to the evolution of transportation in America, covering everything from the earliest production cars to public buses and motorcycles. Walking into the AACA Museum, we were immediately greeted by some of the most iconic vehicles ever sold in America, a Ford GT, a collection of performance trucks like the 454 SS, and Lightening. 

AACA Museum

Depending on how you explore the museum, you can start by seeing some of the earliest examples of motorized transport. The collection of horseless carriages and early automobiles, including an 1895 Chicago Motor Benton Harbor, a pioneering vehicle that represented the cutting-edge technology of its time. With its brass fittings and wooden body, the Benton Harbor was a stark reminder of the humble beginnings of automotive engineering.

Moving forward, we entered the era of the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. The museum’s collection from this period is a vibrant display of innovation and resilience. Gleaming Cadillacs, stylish Packards, and elegant Duesenbergs lined the exhibits, each car a testament to the craftsmanship and artistry of the time. One particularly striking exhibit was a 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow, a car that epitomized the glamour and sophistication of the pre-war era. Its sleek lines and luxurious features starkly contrasted the austerity that would soon follow.

AACA Museum

The post-World War II era brought about a surge in automotive innovation and production. The AACA Museum’s collection from the 1950s and 1960s captures this period of prosperity and creativity. From the tail-finned beauties of the 1950s to the powerful muscle cars of the 1960s, this section of the museum celebrated American ingenuity.

The museum’s bus exhibit was a fascinating journey through the history of public transportation in America. One of the standout pieces was a beautifully restored 1941 GM Yellow Coach, a reminder of when bus travel was a primary mode of transportation for many Americans. The exhibit also included memorabilia and artifacts, such as vintage bus tickets and promotional materials, providing a glimpse into the daily lives of those who relied on these vehicles.

AACA Museum

The motorcycle exhibit was a highlight for fans of two-wheeled transport. The collection included classic Harley-Davidsons, Indians, and other iconic brands. Each bike told a story of speed, freedom, and the open road. The exhibit also explored the cultural significance of motorcycles, from their role in post-war America to their portrayal in popular culture.

The AACA Museum is not just about looking at cars; it's about experiencing history. Several interactive exhibits allowed us to engage with the history of transportation hands-on. From simulators that let us experience driving vintage cars to interactive displays that explored the mechanics of different vehicle types, these exhibits added an extra layer of engagement to our visit.

Michael Satterfield visits the AACA Museum

No visit to the AACA Museum would be complete without acknowledging its location in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Known as "The Sweetest Place on Earth," Hershey is famous for its chocolate, and the museum has embraced this connection. The museum shop offers a delightful selection of Hershey-themed souvenirs, perfect for taking a piece of this unique experience home with us.

Visiting the America's Transportation Experience / AACA Museum was a highlight of our road trip. The museum’s extensive collection, thoughtfully curated exhibits, and interactive experiences made it memorable and educational. For anyone interested in cars, history, or simply the story of how we got from there to here, the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is a must-visit destination.

AACA Museum

As we loaded back into the GMC Yukon Denali and prepared for the drive back to New York City, we carried with us memories of beautiful cars and fascinating exhibits and a deeper appreciation for the transportation journey in America. Knowing the rich history that paved the way, the road ahead seemed all the more exciting.

Whether you’re a lifelong car enthusiast or simply looking for a unique and engaging experience, the AACA Museum offers something for everyone. It’s a journey through time, a celebration of innovation, and a tribute to the enduring spirit of adventure that drives us all.