Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Travel Tuesday: Pensacola Naval Air Museum

So after we hit up the USS ALABAMA, the next day we headed over to Pensacola to the National Naval Aviation Museum.  My father-in-law was a navy pilot, so we had no trouble convincing them to tag along.  It's on the Naval Air Station property, but you can get in as a civilian, though you may have to submit to having your car searched.  It's worth it, though, I promise.

Since it's Florida, they smartly put most of it indoors.  They also have more to climb in and play on than any other aviation museum, and I've been to a lot of them in my days.  Admission is FREE!  Guided tours are FREE!  Volunteer retired pilots with nametags wander around answering questions.  Some, like my father-in-law, didn't have a nametag, but still wandered about, sharing plenty of knowledge.

Okay, you can't get on those babies above.

One of my favorite parts I couldn't take pictures in because of the dark atmosphere, as it's meant to feel like you are underwater.  It has a movie and artifacts from recovering planes and items from Davy Jones' locker.

There's a restaurant on site, and it contains all the memorabilia from a flying club joint that used to be on the Naval Base in the Philippines, making it an actual exhibit of its own.  Food's not bad - mostly sandwiches- and prices are not exorbitant.  If you want to eat on the cheap, you can bring your own chow and picnic outside, but otherwise, you have to drive a couple miles just to get off base, and frankly, there isn't much just outside, either.  So plan ahead.  Also, the diner's lunch hour is busy.  So busy you have to pronounce it "bizz-zay."  Plan ahead.

Other things to spend money on are a sweet gift shop (Really, it's great.  I still have stuff I got there as a kid.), flight and motion simulators, and an IMAX theater, but there's plenty to do and see while keeping your cash.  You can try to also coordinate your visit with Blue Angels' practices or shows, just be aware everyone else will, too.

Pensacola itself is a nice little town, just keep in mind the sketchier areas are right outside the main gate, so invest in a local map and explore the areas closer to the highways.  Don't forget the one of the nation's prettiest beaches is down the way from the Naval Base. Just follow the giant beachball to glistening white sand.