flycOn the second day of my Weird Al Yankovic tour-chasing trip in April 2022, I was gifted to visit a very special and famous place of music history: Bethel Woods, home of the legendary Woodstock Festival. Even though there is still an open air music venue at this location (which is very high on my bucket list), this visit concentrated on what has happened in 1969. Nowadays, you can visit the Museum at Bethel Woods, which illustrates the history of the festival.
Museum at Bethel Woods – Location & Admission
Bethel in New York State is located South of the Catskill Mountains in Upper New York State. You should visit the area by car, public transport options are rather limited. There are huge parking facilities at the museum due to the open air venue, which is hosting quite a lot of big North American acts in summer. By the way, Bethel Woods is located some sixty miles / 90 minutes away from the City of Woodstock.
The museum is opening daily from 10:00 to 17:00 hrs. If you pre-book your tickets, it is 17 USD (adult admission). Parking is free. There is also the possibility to have walk around the area and have an augmented reality experience of what has happened in 1969. This requires an additional fee – I did not do this part due to the bad weather at this day.
Museum at Bethel Woods – The Museum
The museum starts way before the Woodstock Music & Art Fair presents An Aquarian Exposition (yeah, that’s the official full name) in fact took place. The first steps of the colorful presentation take you back in time and explain you how the world has been on global level. However, then the museum is of course focusing on the festival itself. You get a really good overview, especially about why the organizers had to move the location from the original grounds in Saugerties near Woodstock, NY, to its in fact place. The Museum at Bethel Woods feels to give a very truthful overview – including, how the original plans to have a commercial music and arts finally failed or how the local people reacted when the Woodstock Festival lead to a chaotic traffic situation.
Of course, you also learn how the festival itself has been. There are a lot of interactive screens where you can see snippets and rather long excerpts of the show. For that reason, there are also major screens including a cinema-alike seating.
Museum at Bethel Woods – Basement Exhibits
In addition to the museum itself, the building hosts some information on basement level. The most eye-catching one is likely an original speaker. However, you will also find all artists, their setlists and some snaps and background information. Even if you learn it in the museum already, this part of my Bethel Woods illustrated to me, how much the original schedule of the festival has been missed. In fact, the concert lasted until Monday morning, the 18th August 1969, instead of Sunday evening, as intended.
The basement also hosts a temporary exhibition space, which held a Woodstock festival arts selection during my visit.
Museum at Bethel Woods – Original Festival Ground
Independent from a visit of the museum, you may have a visit to the original festival grounds. Close to the original location of the state, there is a memorial sign and some information. There are also some parking lots.
Museum at Bethel Woods – Services
At the end of your museum visit, you pass the museum shop, which has a really nice and wide selection of items. The lobby also hosts a cafe for dining – however, it is closing significantly before the museum is closing, which I felt rather bothering.
Museum at Bethel Woods – My View
Bethel Woods is a magical place. The museum is really nicely made up and tells the story of one of the most important events of popular music in a really nice way. The only really bothering thing is that the location is rather remote – but that’s part of the story of Woodstock. I absolutely recommend the museum visit to any music lover.
These are all articles, in which I dealt with events and places influencing musical history: