US Army Ordnance Museum (Gone)
Rockets! Tanks! Bombs! The US Army Ordnance Museum has 'em all, on a scale worthy of the grandest military machine on the planet. It's a place best appreciated by children under 12 (and men over 40) who see nothing wrong in making rumbling and "ka-pow!" noises as they wander among the hardware.
"Ordnance," as every boy scout learns, is a code word for "bombs and tanks." If you thought that the gutted Sherman in your town square was fun, wait'll you come here. The Ordnance Museum has over 200 tanks and self-propelled guns, all different, spread across 25 acres at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Any vehicle with an open hatch is an invitation to hop in and play Patton or Rommel; cautionary signs are largely ignored.
A pleasing selection of mechanized death rounds out this impressive collection -- giant artillery shells, a 16-inch coastal defense gun ("the most powerful ever built"), and "Anzio Annie," the giant Nazi railroad cannon used to shell Allied beachheads. The museum doesn't make any effort to pep up these displays, but it doesn't have to. Twenty-five acres of lethal machinery, though it may be rusty, is impressive.
At the center of all this steel stands the museum building, its entrance marked by a 30-foot-tall bomb perched on its nose, the way it would look to the enemies of America at their instant before vaporization. Walk past the Desert Storm memorial tombstone and the sign that cautions: "All weapons in this building are inoperable" -- you'll see exhibits on shrapnel and chemical weapons, a display named "Vietnam, America's War of Agony," and a very impressive Nazi "Rheintochter," an especially nasty-looking, flying torpedo-bomb.
Don't miss the gift shop, which has a cardboard box of training grenades for sale. A sign warns, "Don't pull the pin or it's yours."
The Ordnance Museum is pure testosterone, and as solid as the American dollar we defend. In a world that is rapidly becoming virtual, you need look no further than the military for a commitment.
[Update: The museum has announced plans to move most of its collection to a massive, all-indoor museum at Fort Lee, south of Richmond, Virginia, in 2011.]