24 Hours in Dayton, Ohio

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day, but it was also Andrew’s 32nd birthday, so we spent Saturday seeing something he has wanted to since we found out we were moving to Ohio–The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The museum is in the Dayton, Ohio area, about three hours southwest of where we live, so we left Friday after work and spent the night at a nearby hotel. Ellie slept in the car a lot of the way, so she was wild by the time we got there. It took a while to get her settled down and she ended up going to sleep way past her bed time. She actually slept in Saturday morning and, Hallelujah, it was glorious! I can’t remember the last time we slept past 8 a.m.

Since we got a later start to our day, we had an early lunch at Smashburger before heading over to the museum. I had never been to Smashburger. It’s kind of like Five Guys, but has even more options, including chicken sandwiches instead of just burgers. Andrew and I tried the cheddar bacon cheeseburger and smash fries–Ellie devoured the fries–and we loved it. We will definitely be going there again.

After lunch, we made our way to the museum and couldn’t believe the vast size of it. The museum is very well organized, with several hangars of planes separated by war era, and it seemed like for every plane on the museum floor, there was also one suspended from the ceiling. There was even a gallery of items from space missions. Here’s a floor map I found online that shows how the museum is laid out, but you don’t get a sense of how big it is until you’re standing inside one of the hangars.

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We started in the World War II hangar and ended at Presidential Aircraft. Andrew’s dad is a retired Colonel and pilot of the U.S. Air Force, so it was really cool to get to see some of the planes he flew during his military career. I took pictures, but the hangars had very low lighting and I didn’t bring our tripod so they’re a little blurry. There are over 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles on display and even artifacts like sections of the Berlin Wall and an authentic space suit. We tried getting a picture of Ellie in the space suit but she wasn’t into it, so I gave it a try. 🙂

Andrew’s favorite was the first plane we came to–the B-29 Bockscar that dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945, the second and last nuclear attack in history. Seeing the giant yellow bomb shell strapped to the plane was definitely jarring. It seemed to be the most popular of the planes we saw, with many visitors crowding around it and taking pictures.

There were a few jet fighters spaced around the floor with stairs leading up so you could sit in the cockpit. Naturally, Andrew had to do it! The museum also had several flight simulators that you could ride for a small fee that looked fun. We decided to wait until Ellie was a little older to go on those.

We eventually made our way to the part of the museum I looked most forward to–Missile & Space. There is something so fascinating about seeing artifacts that have actually been in space, and it was especially cool to see the Gemini space hatch used for launch and reentry to and from space and the Apollo 15 Command Module, used in the fourth successful moon landing mission.

The last thing we did at the museum ended up being my favorite! We walked through an Air Force One airplane used by eight U.S. Presidents over a 36-year span. The Presidential Gallery included several planes once used by U.S. Presidents that visitors could walk through–very cool!

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I planned this visit for Andrew, but I ended up loving it as much as he did. I completely underestimated this place, and highly recommend it if you’re interested in historical artifacts, airplanes, or space travel. Not only is it a fun day, but it’s completely free–free parking, free entry and free A/C on a hot summer day.

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