Here in Cincinnati, we are so lucky to have many topnotch museums right in our backyard. Several of these are within the city limits, but if you drive just north to Dayton, you’ll find the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force – one of the best museums around.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the largest aviation museum in the world and one of Ohio’s most glorious hidden gems, and it makes for a perfect day trip from Cincinnati.
Last week, when the forecast called for both rain and 90+ degree temps, I decided to finally check out this museum, which had been on my bucket list for awhile. It was an easy 45-minute drive up 1-75, and the museum itself is incredibly accessible with free parking and free admission.
The museum is divided into four massive buildings/hangers, each housing a different time period of the history of the Air Force, from WWI and WWII to the Cold War and even space travel. There are countless planes, engines, models, missiles and space shuttles, spread out throughout the grounds. My four kids were able to spread out and explore at their own speed, and I was thrilled to find the museum spacious and very family friendly.
While you’re not allowed to touch most of the aircraft, there are still opportunities for hands-on learning and fun. My 5- and 6- year olds enjoyed the kid-sized touch screen computer games and stories, which were reminiscent of the kinds of interactive exhibits at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
The highlight of the day was being able to climb inside several of the planes and aircraft. My kids have been inside trains, construction vehicles and fire trucks, but never aircraft. It was a fun experience for them and they had the goofiest smiles on their faces the entire time. (It was especially adorable watching my pint-sized toddler beside these massive flying machines.)
My eight-year-old and I especially enjoyed the history – especially getting to go inside the Presidential airplane that brought JFK back to Washington D.C. after he was assassinated, and was the spot where Johnson was sworn in as President.
We spent a few hours exploring and only scratched the surface of this incredible museum. We will definitely be back, and I’m excited to return for one of the museum’s acclaimed Family Days. Each month (with the exception of December), the Air Force Museum’s Education Department hosts a themed (and free!) Family Day, with activities, crafts, speakers and demonstrations the whole family will love.
I can’t say enough wonderful things about this museum. Dayton is known for its ties to America’s aviation history and the Air Force Museum is its crowning jewel. The museum is accessible for all ages: from babies in carriers to grandparents, and it’s well-suited for strollers, spacious for antsy kids and family friendly with plenty of restrooms and a nursing room. If you’re looking for something different to do with your family, this is it.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located at 1100 Spaatz Street Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433. The museum is open every day of the year from 9 am – 5 pm, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission and parking are always free. For more information, check out their website here.