Official Woodstock Rock Festival Museum
Bethel, New York
For many years, travelers nostalgic for the muddy three-day meeting of music and mayhem that was the 1969 Woodstock Festival would journey to the event site only to come face-to-face with -- a field. It wasn't until 1984 that a slab featuring the famous image of a dove perched on a guitar was added to the site, but that was it.
Today, the quintessential historic hippy dippy experience is encapsulated in a lavish and spacious exhibition space within The Museum at Bethel Woods -- which is not called The Woodstock Museum because the original organizers still own the name (and, frankly, the Festival was in Bethel, not Woodstock). The museum building, which opened in 2008, is reminiscent of an Aspen ski resort. Inside are interactive exhibits, 70 oral history videos, a giant contextual timeline, and artifacts including a full-sized psychedelic bus. A theater screens a 21-minute selection of unreleased musical outtakes from the festival. There's a gift shop where you can stick your head into the Woodstock crowd and leave with a wishful thinking yet humorous printout.
The museum stands at the top of a hill. Sloping away from it is the bucolic field that served as a natural bowl and held the Woodstock stage and much of the crowd. It remains undeveloped and is neatly manicured. After visiting the slick multimedia museum, don't forget to wander over to this modest patch of land. Try to imagine the sights, sounds, and pungent smells of the overflowing bacchanal that was Woodstock -- something that will never be imprisoned in a glass case, man.