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I'm Terri. I took my kids to all 50 states and I want to help you achieve the same goal. Learn more...

Florida – National Naval Aviation Museum

On our recent trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast, we found ourselves with some rainy weather and in need of an indoor activity for the day. With Pensacola just a 45-minute drive away, the National Naval Aviation Museum was the perfect outing. This free museum is home to over 150 restored aircraft as well as the Blue Angels, the Navy’s aerobatic flying squadron. The museum is roughly organized by the history of aviation. One wing displays early aircraft and exhibits; another focuses on the World War II era; and a new expansion area, Hangar Bay One, includes the post-WWII era.

We had only three hours for our visit and wanted to get some recommendations on how to best spend our time. I stopped at the Information Desk and asked a not-so-helpful volunteer what exhibits were best for kids. She replied, “Everything.” So we were left to tour “everything” on our own. Fortunately for my readers, I can now make the kind of recommendations that I was looking for.

Little Kids:

The museum has a great little kids play area which they unfortunately left off their map. It can be found in the West Wing. If you head left at the entrance of the museum, you should find it near the restrooms. Little ones who need to burn off some energy between exhibits can do so on the aviation-themed play structure.

Kids can also climb into the cockpit of a jet and play with the controls, or play with some toy aircraft carriers.

There are also several small fighter plane cockpits that you can climb into at several places in the museum. Here’s one in the kids’ play area and another in a section of Blue Angels planes.

 

 School-age kids:

A great choice for school-age kids is an IMAX film which costs $8.75 per adult and $8.25 per child. They have several films to choose from, each showing at different times. We saw The Magic of Flight (IMAX), which was an excellent introduction to the Blue Angels.  My father-in-law and I both left the film having been convinced of an important point:  neither one of us ever wants to be an aerobatic flyer. On a more serious note, it was a very interesting film, but an older film. I’ve since discovered that it is available on DVD from my library and is also available on Netflix. If you are on a tight budget, you could watch it at home before your trip and save some money. Or you could watch that one at home and see one of the newer films in the IMAX theater when you get there.

Another big hit for school-age kids are the flight simulators. One option is the motion-based flight simulator. If you see an IMAX film, the cost is only $2.50 per person; otherwise it’s $5. They have two options to choose from: Fly with the Blue Angels or Desert Storm. My girls rode it and chose Fly with the Blue Angels. I let them ride it by themselves because, after the IMAX movie, I had no desire to simulate any kind of flight. I especially had no interest in the 3D Flight Simulators that are interactive and can simulate pitch and roll. This option costs $20 for two people. We ran out of time before my kids could convince me that they needed to ride that one.

The Flight Adventure Deck is a must-see exhibit for school-aged kids.  Designed to educate middle-school children on science and technology, this area contains interactive devices and educational kiosks.  Tours are offered five days a week (not Tuesday or Sunday) at 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm. We really enjoyed this area and wish we’d had more time to spend there. Here are a few of the exhibits there: a frictionless air track and a device for measuring air pressure.

We had fun with the Bernoulli blower.  There were also some meteorology exhibits, including this Cloud Kiosk.

 

Adults and kids of all ages should stroll around the museum to view the aircraft and other exhibits.  Guided tours are available several times a day, but these are rather slow-moving tours that are best for teens and adults. Parents with younger kids will probably want to set their own pace.  In addition to planes, there are other interesting things to see:  Skylab Space Station and the cockpit of a blimp,

weapons,

and a ship’s propeller and aircraft carrier models.

From March through November, the Blue Angels practice on Tuesday and Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. We visited in February, so we missed it, but I’ve heard it’s great.

We enjoyed our visit to the National Naval Aviation Museum and wish we’d allotted more than three hours for our visit.

If you’d like to go:

National Naval Aviation Museum

1750 Radford Blvd., Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL  32508

Open 9-5 Daily

Free Admission

 

You might also enjoy reading:

Alabama – Seashells by the Seashore

Alabama – Sand Castles

Alabama – Mardi Gras Parades

Disclosure:  This post contains a link to Amazon.com, an affiliate.

 

 

 

4 comments to Florida – National Naval Aviation Museum

  • I must agree with you on the part that the personnel working there were not very helpful nor friendly. I too ask them questions and getting the same reply. So therefore I toured the museum myself and discovered tons of information. Deep in my heart, I believe the personnel do want to be friendly, but they are so uneducated about what is in the museum and what are some of the favorites. They most likely require training by the museum curator or from an outside source. I wish I worked there and someone such as yourself ask me a question. I would be able to say to you that the IMAX is the best and should be done last. My very special favorite is the area where the marine corps stuff is located. Now that is real history, and hey don’t forget the little deli there with the bar that actually brought there from the old Subic Bay base after it was closed down. There are so many stories and memories within this museum and I wish there were veterans (our heros) there to tell us the stories. Anyways my visit was pleasant and I would go back again.

  • Jen

    Oh man, I wish I had known you would be here…Pensacola is my hometown! I am glad that, despite the fact that you didn’t get much help, you enjoyed your visit. My kids love this museum and we go every couple of months. You can’t beat the entrance price! Did you see the lighthouse while you were there? What else did you do in Pensacola?

  • Terri

    Jen – We were there for a short trip, just three days. Most of it was spent in Gulf Shores, with just an afternoon in Pensacola, so this museum was the only thing we saw. Hopefully we’ll be back next year and can see you then!

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