More than 360 planes, jets, missiles, and unusual aircraft are parked in Dayton’s National Museum of the United States Air Force—the world’s largest military aviation museum. Collection highlights include the Wright Brothers’ 1909 Flyer, a decommissioned atomic bomb, the first Air Force One, and a Sopwith Camel biplane from World War I.
The Air Force museum’s extensive collection is held in four hangars divided into a dozen themed galleries and exhibit areas, spanning from the early years of flight to modern-day space travel. Downloadable podcasts facilitate self-guided audio tours of the collection, with topics like D-Day, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Cold War, strategic bombing, and nuclear testing. Admission to the museum is free, though the theater and flight simulators are not and thus are ticketed separately.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This museum is a must-visit for history buffs, aviation enthusiasts, and families.
- Bring photo identification with you: the museum is on the grounds of a working military base so you may be asked to show ID.
- Photography and tripods are allowed inside the museum, but flashes are not.
- Most of the museum exhibits are accessible to wheelchair users and strollers. Free wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
How to Get There
The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on the grounds of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, six miles (10 kilometers) northeast of Dayton, Ohio. While the easiest way to reach the museum is by car, you can also arrange free transportation through the Regional Transit Authority Connect On-Demand program.
When to Get There
The museum is open daily except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The attraction gets busy on weekends and school holidays, so plan to visit on a weekday morning if possible.
Take Flight at the Air Force Museum
While not included in the free admission, the museum’s flight simulators and rides offer a unique opportunity to experience the thrills of aviation firsthand. The Interactive Flight Simulator lets you choose from four historic airplanes from the Golden Age of Racing. The family-friendly Movie Ride takes passengers on a journey through aviation history or into outer space, while the Virtual Reality Transporter takes you on a space walk on the International Space Station.