When planning our trips there are always a couple of stops I try to stick in if they are not too far off course.  We had planned to head from Chicago to Florida so Dayton, OH was not out of the way.  So we headed from Michigan to Dayton, OH.  I had heard great things about a Museum and I should check it out. Wow am I glad I did.

The description from their website “Welcome to the official website of the National Museum of the United States Air Force — the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world — located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.” In short it has almost every plane the Air Force has every created.  And it is free.

The museum consists of 5 hangers and 1 silo. It is a massive amount of space.


The collections of planes, rockets, missiles and NASA aircraft and equipment was stunning.  I could have taken a picture of every plane and piece of equipment in the buildings.  We spent all day walking through the hangers, reading the stories and playing in the simulators. We started at the beginning, the historical beginning.  After the wright brothers were able to successfully design an aircraft that could fly the government contracted with them to design more with of course a military focus.

Wright Planes
Wright’s early planes.

Early flight history
The early history of flight, balloons, blimps, helicopters and planes.


We moved ahead in history to WWII.  The planes in this area were fun.  Many planes had colorful additions to them, teeth, animals, names or pictures of women maybe because it was such a serious time they needed a little brevity.

WWII planes were decorated very colorfully.

Women Air Force Service Pilots, WWII


WASP, Women Air Force Service Pilots in WWII were women pilots who helped the Air Force during WWII.  They were not allowed into the Air Force so the were considered civilian contractors.  They flew refueling and cargo transportation missions.  Thirty-eight WASP pilots were killed flying WWII missions.

Planes, Planes and more Planes.

F 15 flight simulator
F 15 flight simulator, it wasn’t in operation but the kids could climb in and out. Tight fit even for the kids.

There were a few jets where they could climb into the cockpit.

The Hangars were gigantic and packed with planes.

Travel America fighter pilot
Climbing into the cockpit of a fighter jet.


We visited all the other sections of the museum and each one was as amazing as the next.  A tremendous amount of history. Our last hangar was the Space and Presidential Section.  This section contained past presidential aircraft and different NASA shuttles, rockets and equipment along with other experimental aircraft.  My favorite was the first Air Force One, Kennedy’s plane and they marked the section where Johnson was sworn in as president after Kennedy’s assignation.

Air Force One
Kennedy, Nixon and Johnson used this Airforce One. It was the first plane to be called Air Force One.

Air Force One Entry


Truman's Plane as president
Truman, while president, flew his own place when needed.

Trumas Plane Cockpit
Trumas Plane Cockpit

Roosevelt's Plane
This was Roosevelt’s plane while he was president.

Roosevelt Plane Office
Roosevelt Plane’s Office, I think this was nicer than Kennedy’s or Truman’s office

Space and Presidential hangar
This is the new space and presidential aircraft hangar. So cool.

A reconstruction of a space shuttle. Only the cockpit was real.

Alien Invasion
Alien Invasion

Space President Hangar
There were also experimental aircraft.

Space shuttle landing
A space shuttle flight simulator. The goal was to land .the shuttle after a space flight


I highly recommend this museum.  It is an amazing collection of American History in flight and ingenuity.  There are a bunch of interactive exhibits for kids and amazing stories for the adults. The exhibits are grouped together by historical eras making it easy to understand.  It was well worth going 12 hours out of the way.

So I originally mentioned we were going to head south, to Florida, so how did we end up 12 hours out of the ways? While we were in Ohio, and the month previously, a couple of large hurricanes had spun up in the Gulf Coast area and off the coast of Florida.  So we decided to head north to Maine.  After we decided to head to Maine, we figured Niagara Falls was on the way so onward we went.  But we had one more stop before we left Ohio, The Erie Canal.