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Naval Aviation Museum and Other Southern Museums of Flight

Updated on August 17, 2015

Take a Tour by Car or via the Internet

"The desire to fly is an idea handed down by our ancestors who, in their grueling travels across trackless lands in prehistoric times looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space, at full speed, above all obstacles, on the infinite highway of the air." Orville Wright

It took two brothers to take us places where our imagination and dreams took us before. On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright manned the Wright Flyer for 120 feet and 12 seconds above the sands near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina while his brother Wilbur looked on. Those 12 seconds changed the world.

Flight has its roots in Chinese history with kites followed by gliders. With the introduction of hydrogen, balloons took flight powered by the gas. Manned ballooning was all the rage in the 18th century. In the late 1800's, experimentation began with gliders that were powered. It took the Wright brothers three years of trial and error with different glider designs before the first flight in 1903.

In this lens, take a tour through the southern United States to visit eight museums and national sites that all celebrate the history of aviation. We'll start in Florida and the National Naval Aviation Museum followed by the Kennedy Space Center. Next we head to Alabama and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site followed by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and for fun the Unclaimed Baggage Center. Continuing west, stop in to tour New Orleans and the National WWII Museum. Time to turn east toward North Carolina to visit the memorial for the Wright brothers. And finally the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia.

If you have the time, this would make a great driving tour. If not, check out the various websites for a virtual tour. Can you even imagine what this world would be like if there were no aviation?

National Naval Aviation Museum

Jump in the cockpit with a Blue Angel pilot. Experience the thrill of the ride as the plane makes quick turns and maneuvers all from the Motion Based Simulator. This is just one of the many exhibits at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

The National Naval Aviation Museum is the largest of its kind in the world. Get up close to the history of Naval Aviation by exploring hundreds of exhibits and over 150 airplanes. Take a free guided tour of the museum or take the Flight Line Bus tour on a tour of aircraft displayed outside the museum. In the West Wing, check out the full-size replica of an aircraft flight deck. Also check out:

  • Cockpit Trainers Exhibit where you can jump in the cockpit of a real plane. Play with the radio or move the control stick just like a real pilot.

  • Static Exhibits including Balloons and Skyships, Space flight, Naval flight, Coat Guard flight, WWII aircraft carrier, WWI aviation and much more

  • Aircraft on Display includes biplanes, experimental planes, war planes from history and new, etc. Over 150 to view.

  • IMAX theater with changing movies.

  • Watch the Blue Angels as they practice just outside the museum. Following their Wednesday practice, you can hang out and meet the pilots.

  • Cubi Bar Café for a great bite to eat.

  • Don’t forget the Flight Deck Store where you can find a variety of flight inspired gifts.

Can’t visit the museum? Not to worry, their website offers tons of footage of exhibits as well as exhibits only viewed online.

Admission, parking and tours are all free! There is a fee for the simulators and movies. Check the website for pricing and schedules.

Location:

National Naval Aviation Museum

1750 Radford Boulevard

Pensacola, FL 32508

1-850-452-3604

National Naval Aviation Museum.

If you are travelling to the area:

Visit Pensacola

1-800-874-1234

Visit Pensacola

Be a Pilot

Live feed from inside the cockpit of a Blue Angel flight.

Kennedy Space Center

Ever since Neil Armstrong uttered the words, "One small step for a man; one giant step for mankind", there has been a fascination for space flight. Head to the Kennedy Space Center, located on Merritt Island east of Orlando, Florida for a grand tour of where rockets are launched. You will be able to tour the launch areas, see actual rockets, train in a spaceflight simulator, watch a movie, meet a veteran astronaut or even view a launch.

Kennedy Space Center is home to NASA's launch headquarters and the Space Shuttle program. It is the only place where humans have been launched into space - and returned. It is a real government working facility, but it is also a place for visitors to come and celebrate the history of space exploration and look forward to what the future holds.

This is much more than a carnival ride. Your admission price includes:

  • A bus tour where you check out the launch pads, vehicle assembly building.

  • Step into the Explorers Wanted exhibit and you set into a world of space beyond earth.

  • The Apollo/Saturn V Center, see a real rocket as well as a gallery of treasures from the Apollo moon missions.

  • The Rocket Garden features real rockets on display plus you can climb in a rocket capsule.

  • View a collection of memorabilia at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

  • Early Space Exploration Artifacts includes a collection of artifacts from the earliest space flights.

  • View space up close through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope at the Eye on the Universe exhibit.

  • You can watch movies in either of the two IMAX theaters.

  • For an extra fee you can take part in Astronaut Training.

The website offers videos and up-to-date information on what's happening at NASA. They have an interactive planning page to help you plan your visit.

Location:

Kennedy Space Center

Orsino, Florida

1-866-737-5235

Kennedy Space Center

If you are travelling to the area:

Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism

1-877-572-3224

www.Space-Coast.com

Learn More About the Kennedy Space Center

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Before 1940, African Americans were denied military leadership and banned from flying because many believed they lacked the skills. Pressure from civil rights organizations resulted in a squadron composed entirely of African Americans. Located in Tuskegee, Alabama gave the squadron its name of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The first students complete training in May of 1940. These students went on to become pilots, bombardiers, maintenance, and the support staff who kept their planes in the air. They became one of the most highly respected air fighter groups of WWII.

At the /www.nps.gov/tuai/index.htm">Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, you can visit the Hangar #1 Museum. Take in a video that tells the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Then check out the exhibits that tell their story and the WWII training aircraft. Don't forget the Junior Ranger program.

On the Saturday before Memorial Day, or the Sunday before Labor Day be sure to head to the park. A celebration includes historic aircraft, military fly-bys, exhibits, vendors, and good food.

Location:

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

1616 Chappie James Avenue

Tuskegee, AL 36083

334-724-0922

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site,

If you are travelling to the area:

Macon County/Tuskegee Community Tourism Network

334-725-8496

Community Tourism Network

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Is being an astronaut in your future? You might wind up at the Space Camp or Aviation Challenge. You'll find both at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. It is world famous for being a comprehensive space flight museum.

Along with Space Camp, you will find the Spacedome Theater, Rocket Park, Education and Training Center for NASA. While there, you will be able to follow the history of man in space as well as watch tomorrow's astronauts in training.

Along with the main museum, other attractions include:

  • Space Shot - discover what it feels like when a rocket first takes off.

  • G-Force Accelerator - Hold on to your seat as you spin around with s-G's puching on your body.

  • Kids Cosmos Energy Depletion Zone - Take command in the Space Station.

  • Apollo Cockpit Trainer - Simulates what it's like to be inside the Command Service Module.

  • Discovery Theater - Learn all about the International Space Station.

  • Mars Mission and Climbing Wall - Learn about the red planet and climb part of Olympus Mons, the tallest volcano in the solar system.

  • Marshall Space Flight Bus Tour - You will see a working NASA space center including: the Historic Redstone Test Stand where engineers test rocket engines; Payload Operations and Integration Center where science experiments on the International Space Station are coordinated; the Marshall Rocket Park and more.

Location:

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

One Tranquility Base

Hunsville, AL 35805

1-800-637-7223

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

If you are visiting the area:

Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau

256-551-2230

Huntsville CVB

Watch Apollo 8 take off, the first human spaceflight to leave Earth’s orbit.

Unclaimed Baggage Center

Of all the domestic flights, 99.5% of lost luggage is returned to their owners. What happens to the remaining .5%? In 1970, Doyle Owens purchased his first load of unclaimed luggage from Trailways bus lines. He cleaned and sorted all the items and sold them.

That was the beginning of a huge facility where over 20,000 items are cleaned, sorted and priced each day. It is the biggest flea market you could imagine with items from all over the world. You can shop online or visit the store.

Location:

Unclaimed Baggage Center

509 West Willow Street

Scottsboro, AL 35768

256-259-1525

Unclaimed Baggage Center

If you are visiting the area:

City of Scottsboro

256-574-3100

City of Scottsboro

National WWII Museum

This is not just a museum holding spectacular exhibits of memorabilia from World War II. It is about the people and their personal stories. See the war through their eyes. Learn why the war was fought, how it was won, and what it means today.

The exhibits include personal accounts, artifacts, documents, photos and film. From the beaches of Normandy to the sands of Iwo Jima, you'll find permanent and travelling exhibits on three floors.

Also check out:

  • Louisiana Memorial Pavilion with large artifacts of the war

  • Home Front Gallery; World War II in 1939.

  • John E Kushner Restoration Pavilion where you can watch as artifacts are carefully cleaned and restored.

  • D-Day Planning Gallery where you will be faced with Hitler's Atlantic Wall. See the weapons, uniforms and gear used and be amazed at the ships used in this amphibious assault.

  • D-Day Beaches Gallery where you will hear the stories of those who wound up on Omaha Beach.

  • Pacific D-Days Gallery consists of artifacts, photos and maps beginning in Pearl Harbor and ending with the atomic age.

  • Solomon Victory Theater showing "Beyond all Boundaries".

  • Have a meal at the American Sector restaurant or the Soda Shop.

  • Hankering for the entertainment found in canteens of the time. Head to the Stage Door Canteen where you can watch singing, big band, dancing and more all from this era.

Location:

National World War II Museum

945 Magazine Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

504-528-1944

National World War II Museum

If you're visiting the area:

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau

504-566-5101

New Orleans CVB

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Located in the National Park Service Outer Banks Group, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is the only monument in the nation to be dedicated to a living person. Orville Wright was at the inauguration ceremony in 1932. Self taught, Orville and his brother Wilbur achieved the first successful airplane flight and changed the world.

Head to the Wright Brothers Visitor Center where you will find full-scale reproductions of the 1902 glider, 1903 flying machine, their wind tunnel and an engine block from the original flyer. Also visit:

  • Big Kill Devil Hill where the Wrights conducted their glider experiments.

  • Paul E Garber First Flight Shrine honoring those who made significant achievements in the development of flight.

  • Centennial Pavilion exhibit hall with exhibits on the evolution of aviation, as well as space exhibits and those dealing with the history of the Outer Banks area.

  • Living Quarters and Hangar are reconstructed similar to those used by the Wrights from 1900-1903.

  • Flight Line where a large granite boulder marks the take-off point for their first flight.

  • You can even take a plane tour and land on the first airstrip used.

Location:

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Milepost 7.5 on U.S. Highway 158

Kill Devil Hills,

North Carolina

Wright Brothers National Memorial

If you're visiting the area:

Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

877-629-4386

Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Virginia Air and Space Center

Home the NASA's Langley Research Center, Virginia Air and Space Center features interactive aviation artifacts and exhibits. Considered the birth of America's space program, the museum covers more than a century of flight. Check out more than 100 exhibits including:

  • Adventure in Flight Gallery where you can wing walk on a bi-plane, get inside a CD-9 jet, ride in a WWII bomber, be an air traffic controller or sit in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

  • Air and Space Center where you can check out airplanes and space ships on display.

  • Ham Radio Exhibit includes a fully automatic digital amateur radio satellite station.

  • Space Gallery offers the first phase of construction in their hands-on space gallery.

If that's not enough, you can program a Mars Rover for a mission, pilot a space shuttle, ride a carousel or bumper boats and more. There is also an IMAX theater and café on site.

Location:

Virginia Air and Space Center

600 Settlers Landing Road

Hampton, Virginia 23669

757-727-0900

Virginia Air and Space Center

If you're visiting the area:

This is Hampton Virginia

800-800-2202

Visit Hampton

Are You Ready to Fly?

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