National Museum of the US Air Force: Free and Super Cool in Dayton, OH

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So, you want to visit the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, OH and you’re wondering what you’ll find at one of the largest military aviation museums in the country. How long do you need to tour the museum? Will kids enjoy the museum? Where can you eat at or near the National Air Force Museum?

If you’re planning a family trip to Dayton, OH the National Museum of the US Air Force is one that you do not want to miss. After a family visit with a bunch of kids and teens in tow, we have everything you need to know about this awesome aviation museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Memphis Bell

Visiting the National Museum of the United States Air Force

You already know you’re interested in visiting, so let’s get right to the details you need and our experience tips for families.


The first thing you need to know is that admission to the aviation museum on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base is totally FREE. Aviation fans will already know that accessing a collection of planes of this magnitude without paying admission is a huge thing.

If you’d like to add on simulator rides or movies you can do that at the information kiosks but know that you can fill an entire day at the museum without spending even a dime.

The museum staff at the information kiosks will also be able to answer any specific questions you have about where to find aircraft you’re interested in and that kind of thing.

The museum is open 9 am to 5 pm daily.


Before entering the museum, you will pass through metal detectors. No weapons, including pocket knives, are allowed into the museum. You’ll want to leave those in your car.

Lunch and Snacks at the US Air Force Museum

No, you cannot bring food into the US Air Force Museum. You can bring a clear bottle of water per person. There are two places in the museum where you can purchase lunch or snacks, one is at the front of the museum, and one is in the furthest gallery from the entrance.

But, in order to save money, I highly recommend packing a lunch. After viewing the first two galleries, you’ll be back at the entrance. At this point, you’ve seen maybe about a third of the museum and it could be a good time to head outside and pick up lunch from your car.

There are lots of picnic areas at the adjacent memorial park, and many of them are covered. You can enjoy your picnic lunch even if it’s raining, which it totally was when we visited.

After lunch, you’ll need to go through the security line again, but it does go quite quickly. Then just head to the left instead of going to the information kiosks and pick up where you left off before lunch.

Of course, you could break for lunch at any point in the museum, you’ll just have to walk a little farther to get to the exit.

Picnic space at Memorial Park National Air Force Museum

Navigating the National Museum of the US Air Force

With over 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles to see, the museum can be a little overwhelming. But, you’ll find that the collection is organized in order by era through ten galleries. Use the links below to see the inventory of aircraft and exhibits in each gallery and an overview video the gallery.

Some galleries are larger than others and of course, the galleries containing aircraft you are especially interested in will take you longer to go through.

If you have aviation buffs in your party who really want to see specific aircraft, I recommend starting in the galleries with those aircraft. Otherwise, going through the museum in chronological order gives you a nice understanding of aviation history, how it started, and how it’s changed and progressed.

National Museum of the United States Air Force

Special Aircraft

The aviation museum of the US Air Force is full of historically significant planes, space museum exhibits, aerospace vehicles, and missiles. But a few really stood out to our family for their significant contribution to history. Here’s our “Don’t Miss These Planes” list.

Memphis Belle: B-17 Flying Fortress, flew in every combat zone in World War II

Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bockscar– The plane that dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki, August 9th, 1945. You’ll also find a replica of the Fat Man bomb here. The plane is not a replica, it is the actual plane.

Bockscar B-29 Air Force Museum

X1- First plane to break the sound barrier. The museum has one of three X1 aircraft in the world

XB-70 Valkyrie: The only Valkyrie left in the world. It is a Mach 3 Nuclear Bomber.

Valkyrie at National Air Force Museum

X15- Fastest aircraft in the world, 4500+ mph. The museum has one of two X15 aircraft in the world.

Mig-15 flown by a North Korean Defector

MIG 15 at the National Air Force Museum

A real zero (most of the ones you see in museums are replicas)

X29: Reveresed swept wing, technology demonstrator. The only one left in the world.

X29 Reverse wing

Two of five F82 aircraft left in the world: twin Mustang

The actual Apollo 15 command module

Air Force One for Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton. It was the plane that carried Kennedy’s casket from Texas. You can walk through this plane.

National Museum of the US Air Force
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB Ohio 45433

FAQ: National Museum of the US Air Force

Where is the National Museum of the US Air Force?

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located in Dayton, Ohio, which is widely recognized as the birthplace of aviation.

How long does it take to go through the National Museum of the Air Force?

Our family toured the museum for about 5 hours and it was barely enough time. Big aviation fans might want to plan two days to see everything, others who just want to walk through and view the planes without stopping to read a lot or who only want to see a few historical highlights should allow at least 3 hours. However, if you have less time, it’s still worth a stop even just to view one or two galleries. Admission is free, so you don’t have to view everything to get your money’s worth.

Is the National Museum of the US Air Force good for kids?

Yes! You might need to temper your pace to keep it interesting for the kids, but we saw lots of kids in strollers and wagons, and my own kids and teens really enjoyed our visit.

Kids at the National Museum of the US Air Force

Are the planes in the Air Force Museum real?

Yes, the planes are real. Lots of these planes are one of only two or three left in the world. It’s a place to see a super unique collection of real planes.

Is there a space shuttle at the Air Force Museum?

No. There is not a space shuttle at the Air Force Museum. There is a trainer and a large space shuttle exhibit but it does not have an actual space shuttle. Check out our article on the Kennedy Space Center for one place where you can view a space shuttle, the actual Atlantis Space Shuttle.

Can you take water into the Air Force Museum?

Yes. You can take a clear, sealable bottle into the Air Force Museum. You cannot bring in food or any other beverage. Food is available for purchase, and picnic facilities are located at the Memorial Park next to the parking lot.

When is the Museum of the Air Force open?

The hours for the National Museum of the Air Force are 9 am to 5 pm, daily.

How much does it cost to go to the Air Force Museum?

Admission and parking are both free.

More for Aviation Fans in Dayton, Ohio

Home of the Wright Brothers, Dayton is considered the birthplace of aviation. It was here that Wilber and Orville Wright made their plans for their flight experiments in Kitty Hawk, NC. And, after their flying success at Kill Devil Hill in Kitty Hawk in the Outerbanks of North Carolina, they returned home to Dayton to perfect their plane and understanding of flight, and eventually a school to train pilots.

There are a number of aviation historical sites in Dayton that tell the Wright Brother’s story, most of them are free to visit and part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. For information on the brother’s early life and Kitty Hawk experiments, visit the Wright Dunbar Interpretive Center. Then visit the Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center to learn about their work perfecting their plane and training pilots.

You can also visit the Huffman Prairie Flying Field where all of this work occurred, and I definitely wouldn’t skip this. There’s signage to their story, a replica workshop shed, and a replica of the tower equipment they used to launch their planes. The field is not located adjacent to the interpretive center. But, you can get directions to it from the center or just use your map app. We had no trouble navigating to each location.

Bonus: Dayton’s Food Hall

West Social Tap and Table is located right across from the Wright Dunbar Interpretive Center. It has a wide variety of food families can pick from including kid favorites like pizza and tacos, plus Vietnamese food, Cajun food, salads, sandwiches, coffee, and craft beer. We really enjoyed the food here, so much that we ate there both nights of our trip.

Where to Stay in Dayton, Ohio

Find hotels and vacation rentals near the Air Force Museum. The map below comes from Stay22. Kidding Around earns when you book through the links on this map.

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About the Author
Maria Bassett is a former school orchestra teacher, turned homeschool mom. She and her husband homeschool their 3 sons and 1 daughter, who range from 4th grade through 9th grade. Believing children learn best when they are engaged and having fun, this family loves to take their homeschool on the road, around Greenville and beyond.

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