Be prepared to feel small in the shadow of this museum’s giants. Missiles stand tall outside the entrance, while a Blackbird fighter plane looks menacing as it tilts toward visitors entering the museum. Just off Exit 426 on Interstate-80, the museum houses historic U.S. Air Force military aircraft and a few vehicles from space. Each boasts its own claim to fame, such as the SR-71A Blackbird, a titanium craft that could fly from New York to Los Angeles in an hour.
You have to admire the strategy required to park these behemoths into two hangers packed with bombers, fighters and transporters with numerical names and nicknames such as the Tornado, T-Bird, Goblin and Intruder. They angle in every direction or hang from the ceilings. Visitors can see the mechanical evolution of Air Force defense with a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber from World War II, a U-2 Dragon Lady for Cold War reconnaissance, and a sleek 1970s B-1A Lancer designed for strategic bombing.
If all of the aircraft feels like overload, there are human stories to focus on, including exhibits about Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders and the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II. Special events include overnights at the museum and a Top Gun weekend camp for kids, along with hands-on traveling science exhibits on topics such as robots and outer space. Pilot and astronaut wannabes can pay extra for a ride in the museum’s multiaxis trainer or a flight simulator that spins, drops and elicits a few screams.