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Ride a tank at the American Armory Museum | Bartell's Backroads

The American Armory Museum is a hands-on experience where you can touch rocket launchers and climb inside a variety of war machines.

FAIRFIELD, Calif. — There are few places where you can ride in real military tank and the American Armory Museum in Fairfield is one of them.

“We have a membership program and basically the bigger the membership, the bigger the toys you get to play with,” said museum curator Geoff Lippman.

Rocket launchers, motorcycles and jeeps are just a few of the toys Lippman gets to play with, but one of his favorites is the museum's British-made Abbot, which, according to the Brits, is technically a “self-propelled gun.”

“I tell all the kids that come in here, 'If it looks like a tank, smells like a tank, then it’s a tank,'” said Lippman.

You’ll find tanks big and small at the museum, including a rare WWII-era Marmon Harrington. 

“Out of the 65 built, there is only three left in the world,” said Lippman. 

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Just in case you are wondering, yes, almost all the retired war machines at the museum start up and move but the firing mechanisms do not work. That’s a good thing because this is one of the few museums allowing kids to play with the exhibits.

“When they get in here they get into the seats and behind the weapons,” said Lippman.

Inside the museum you will find exhibits taking you from the Civil War all the way up to the Gulf War. One of the prized collection pieces is a replica of General Patton’s military-issued jeep. Patton served in both world wars and was the first officer assigned to the Army Tank Corps.

“He was in the battles, he led them, he always wanted to be there so the men really respected him,” said Lippman.

Much of the museum is donated or on loan by locals who insist on sharing their collection with students and young people who have not experienced war.

“We want to make sure we educate our young about the cost of freedom and why we are free,” said Lippman.

One of the best times to experience the museum is on one of the live demonstrations days when you can go for a ride and watch cars getting crushed.

The American Armory Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

MORE MILITARY MUSEUMS ON THE BACKROADS: Over 70 historic military aircraft on display at Castle Air Museum, including a decommissioned Air Force One.

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