Our next stop was at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. We have been here before, nearly 2 years ago, but this free museum is worth a second (or third) visit!
The museum is located on 37 acres, and has close to 350,000 sq ft of indoor exhibit space, and features over 150 restored aircraft.
This visit we knew about the cute little aircraft carrier play equiptment, so when the littles (in this case, meaning Caleb), got antsy, we would come here and play for a few minutes to get the wiggles out!
The boys were in their element, and it wasn’t long before our tribe broke into 2 groups to explore at our own paces (meaning the boys were left behind so they could pour over a single ‘cool’ aircraft for half an hour. Cool ones like this F4U-Corsair that was flown by WWII Ace Pappy Boyington (Jake’s fav plane in the museum)…
Or how about this German ME262 – which was one of the first ever jet fighters. The guys are looking in the nose cone of this jet with the flashlight on Vaughn’s phone. I’m not going to tell you why they are looking in there 😉 but if you go to Pensacola, you need to check it out! (I’m telling you, it pays to show your interest and talk to those older vets that haunt these military or historic places – they love to share fun secrets/tidbits/details when they know you care!). 😀
The museum isn’t just restored aircraft. There are tons of displays, WWII footage, whole room displays, and interactive activities.
Upstairs in the main building are all sorts of different areas covering various topics dealing with naval avaition.
Lots of aircraft carrier stuff…
Looking down into the main building…
Upstairs there is a long area that you walk through that are made to re-create WWII era settings…
including a town ‘back home’…
Pensacola is home to the Blue Angels, so of course they are hanging around…
The museum even has an IMAX theater that is one of the largest IMAX screens in the world, and is the largest screen in Florida. The IMAX shows mostly movies covering some aspect of flight, and a favorite is The Magic of Flight, which features the Blue Angels.
The museum also offers a special treat for Blue Angels fans; in Hangar Bay One there is the Blue Angels X4D Experience ($7) which is a 3-D movie with special effects. There are some limitations on the Experience (limited to 12 people each showing, and ages 5 and up and taller than 48″…).
While the guys were off looking over every little rivet and tire tread on each plane, we checked out the displays. Did you know that we almost didn’t have a President George H W Bush, and that the risk wasn’t injuries from being shot down? The island he was detained on was ChiChi Jima. ChiChi Jima later became known for the cannibalism that was practiced by the Japanese there.
What, you weren’t taught that in your history books? Look it up for yourself. I’m always surprised how many people are quick to say how awful the US is, and think that all these poor other countries would be happy and nice and peaceful if we’d just stay home… gag.
The museum has several flight simulators, and there are old cockpits for the kids to climb in and pretend in. I don’t know where Caleb picked up his cute little salute, but he would do it several times before he got into each cockpit! LOL!
Where he would sit contentedly pushing buttons and moving the stick.
Besides the main building, there is also a second building (behind the main one, called Hangar Bay One) that has more aircraft and displays in it. The museum also offers a free tour of the outside grounds via bus.
You can find out more about the museum at NavalAviationMuseum.org. The museum is free, and open every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The museum is located on a base; if it is the off season, you should easily be able to park your RV in their generous parking lot, but keep in mind that you need to go on base (with it’s restrictions) to visit. Also located on the base are a couple of National Park sister sites that you can visit. Plan on at least one whole day to spend out there; it’s definitely worth the time!