We were looking for something to do this past weekend and early last week I had come across another blogger’s post about the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Since we live in Ohio and only about an hour and a half away, we decided to go check it out for ourselves. Yep guys, I am a copycat. With my husband’s military background, my (and our daughter’s) fascination with history, and both our son’s obsession with aircraft I knew this little trip would probably be worth it. And it was. It was better than I expected.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is open to anyone. It is open every day of the week – including weekends from 9am to 5pm. It’s near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. There are no admission costs. Free for all visitors and free parking. Donations are always welcome and they do have some amenities that do cost if you are interested. They have some really fun flight simulators and virtual adventures. There’s a gift shop, theater, souvenir photos, and two cafes to grab something to eat.
The layout of the museum is great. It’s very easy to navigate and it goes in order of the years too. There are basically 4 buildings. These buildings are giant hangers that contain a lot of aircraft. In the first building you will see the Early Years (WWI) to your right. To your left you will see WWII. We started at the beginning in the Early Years.
The Early Years
There was a lot of information and history about the Wright Brothers. Our youngest son was really interested in it because he remembered learning about Wilber and Orville in school. He was fascinated with them ever since. There was an original bicycle on display and a wall of history of the Wright brothers from printing, to bicycles and wind tunnels and later on, sky transportation. We even saw a couple of the wind tunnels on display as well.
The aircraft in the Early Years and World War I was what excited our youngest the most. He’s the same way with cars too. Absolutely loves those early models. One of the things that my oldest son thought was interesting was the first rifle ever shot from a plane. Yep, they had the very first rifle ever shot from a plane in a case and the history behind it. Pretty neat huh?
We learned a lot about the Early Years and World War I. I love that there are information panels near each aircraft telling the history. History about the craft, the pilot and the story/history behind it.
World War II
Next we headed off to World War II. This is where the boys started to get even more excited. The aircraft was getting bigger. This was also the time in history where some aircraft was decorated. Like the one below that looks like a shark.
As we moved from craft to craft, we read the history. Sometimes the kids were just too excited when they saw something else they wanted to take a closer look at though. I couldn’t blame them. Taking in all the planes and displays was truly breathtaking.
The Memphis Belle
In the World War II Gallery, we finally saw the Memphis Belle. I was blown away. I think my husband was lost for words for a moment. If you don’t know anything about the Memphis Belle, she was a bomber. The Belle flew in every combat zone in WWII and completed 25 missions. She is one beautiful aircraft.
The next stop we made was the Korean War gallery. As we were walking through the area, we found a cockpit that you could actually climb into. It was a real cockpit and the kids loved checking out what the inside of one looked like.
Southeast Asia War (Vietnam)
Next up was the Southeast Asia War – Vietnam. Here we started seeing some really, really large aircraft! Our older son was completely amazed by these planes. He got even more excited when we moved into the Cold War gallery.
There were even bigger aircraft in this area. A lot of these huge aircraft had their bomb release hatches/doors open so that you could walk underneath them to see what they looked like inside.
Our older son was asking about the bombs and how they were dropped from the aircraft as he was looking at on of them in amazement. He was in even more amazement when he saw some of the bombs. There was a gentleman who was more than happy to tell my son all about it. Another thing about this museum is that the staff is amazing. He was definitely intrigued in all of it.
In this area we also found and aircraft that we could actually go inside. All three of our kids thought this was very cool. And well, so did my husband and I. Very cool indeed. I’m pretty sure this one was a troop carrier.
We also found another aircraft cockpit they could climb in. I can’t remember which one this one was but I am pretty sure it was a fighter plane. It had a pilot and a co-pilot seat on this one.
This was also about the time I realized that every photo I took up until this point didn’t save to my SD card. I was so angry! Somehow I stayed calm as my husband reminded me that we had to go back out the same way we came in. I was able to get the pictures I wanted after we were finished.
After Cold War there is the Missile gallery which was a small area but still pretty neat. In this area, there is an above level that has a cafe. This cafe was called the Refueling Cafe. There is another cafe called the Valkyrie Cafe but that one was toward the beginning. I have been told there are more options at that cafe but we were hungry and didn’t want to walk back. We still had another hanger to go anyway.
The food wasn’t spectacular but it was pretty good. Prices were reasonable. They weren’t much different than at a convenience store. Some of the options was in a cooler which you helped yourself and took it to the counter to pay. I got myself a turkey and cheese wrap. My kids ordered a small personal pizza and my husband ordered a mac and cheese hot dog. He says the hot dog was phenomenal. I’ll have to take his word for it because if the hotdog isn’t cooked on a grill and almost burnt, I’m not eating it.
There are two overlook areas in the cafe. One side overlooks the Missile gallery and the other side overlooks hanger 4. In building 4 there are four exhibits. There’s Space, Research Development, Global Reach, and Presidential.
This is the part where my little girl self squealed with delight. In the Presidential gallery is President Kennedy’s Air Force One. I was really excited to see it! I plan to write about our day at the museum in three parts. Part two will be all about Air Force One and the other Presidential aircraft such as Truman’s Independence and Eisenhower’s Columbine.
Keep a lookout for part two!
By the way, I highly recommend checking out the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to anyone!
Posts in Series
Our Day at The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (Part One)
Our Day at The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (Part Three)