The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Is Worth Exploring

Kids of all ages will enjoy this high-flying (and free!) museum—a hidden gem just up the road in Gem City.
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Photograph by Sarah McCosham

Here in Cincinnati, we are so lucky to have many top-notch 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, a world-class destination sure to delight and impress everyone in your family.

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 the Queen City.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

The museum is divided into four hangers, each housing a different 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, and they’re spread out nicely throughout the space. When we visit, I let my kids disperse and explore, trailing behind and boning up on my aviation history, too.

Prior to visiting this museum, my kids had seen trains, construction vehicles, and fire trucks up close, but never aircraft. We’ve been to this museum a few times now, and they remain awe-struck by these massive, man-made marvels.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

As my kids have gotten older, they’ve become more interested in the history of these machines. Getting to see the presidential airplane that brought JFK back to Washington, D.C., after he was assassinated and standing in the spot where Johnson was sworn in as president are experiences every American ought to have.

Dayton is known for its ties to America’s aviation history (hello, Wright brothers!) 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. Oh, and did I mention admission and parking to this museum are always free? If you’re looking for a good old-fashioned family-friendly day trip this summer, this is it.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, 1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson AFB

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