High-Flying Days

Take off on this high-flying itinerary where antique planes, commemorative museums and space-age learning centers teach about the past, present and future of flight.

In love with all things flighty - airplanes, jets, hot air balloons, helicopters, spaceships, shuttles? Travel with your head in the clouds and stars in your eyes when you follow this itinerary to Florida's wealth of aviation and space attractions.

Day One: Northwest Navigation

Northwest Florida is entrenched in military aviation, thanks to its three coastal military bases. From most beaches, you can regularly hear and see aircraft on maneuvers, but the ultimate in military flight performance rocks the skies (and the earth) outside the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where the elite six-aircraft Blue Angels squadron practices. Practice sessions are open free to the public most Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting at 8:30 a.m. from March through November. Call or check the website (navalaviationmuseum.org) advance to confirm a practice performance.

To see Blue Angel planes, war bombers and more military aircraft close up, step inside the hangar-sized National Museum of Naval Aviation. Its period displays recreating war eras, cockpit trainers, motion-based flight simulator, flight line bus tour, IMAX® theater and interactive Flight Adventure Deck make this free-admission attraction a must-see. (There is admission for the simulator and IMAX® movies.) Have lunch at Cubi Bar Café, which replicates a once-popular Pacific-arena officers club.

Nearby Gulf Breeze has been dubbed Florida's UFO capital because of the many sightings reported there. Rumor has it that the UFOs are really experimental military aircraft. Keep your eyes peeled as you head east and see what's out there. Stop in at the Air Force Armament Museum in Fort Walton Beach for another free-to-view collection of vintage warplanes and their bombs, missiles and rockets - gathered both outside and inside the facility.

Arrive in Tallahassee in the afternoon and spend some time in space at the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee. Home to a space mission simulation and seasonal kids' camps, it shows space films in its IMAX® theater and star shows under its planetarium dome throughout the day and evening.

Day Two: Central Air

In central Florida, flight-hounds can get their first "fix" of airplane-gazing at Florida Air Museum, part of the Sun 'n Fun airport complex in Lakeland. The museum covers 100 years of aviation history - the human as well as the mechanical aspects. In summer, kids earn their wings at hands-on air and space camps.

Now it's time to get airborne. Fly above the crowds and clouds in a 1929 New Standard D-25 or 1942 Boeing Stearman PT-17 bi-plane October through May at Fantasy of Flight in nearby Polk City. Or if you prefer a more serene ride, opt for a two-and-a-half-hour hot air balloon lift. Afterward, tour the world's largest private aircraft collection, take a virtual trip into the world war eras, test out the simulators and have a bite at the sleek retro airport-style Compass Rose Diner.

Other flight-seeing opportunities exist through two hot air ballooning operations that puff through Orlando skies. With Orlando Balloon Rides, you explore metropolitan outskirts, skimming from treetop level above swampland and soaring up to 6,000 feet. Orlando Balloon Rides gets you closer to theme park hovering.

Loft-loving daredevils may choose instead for a short drive to Zephyrhills to jump out of a plane (parachute in place, of course). Skydive City offers tandem dives for beginners, accompanied by an instructor.

Day Three: Space Coast

From the Orlando area, it's a short drive to Florida's Space Coast, where everything revolves around the aeronautical and astronomical. Start the day where the coast's reputation got lift-off, the Kennedy Space Center. Tour the exhibits, talk to an astronaut or ride a bus to the launching pad and moon exploration center. You can also watch an IMAX® movie, roam the rocket garden, lunch at the totally space-age Orbit Cafe and experience launching aboard the space shuttle on Shuttle Launch Experience (but maybe not RIGHT after you eat!).

If time permits, visit related attractions in the Titusville area. The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum is a free-admission memorial to the space program in a park setting with a view of Kennedy Space Center. Valiant Air Command Warbird Air Museum examines flight of an older ilk with fighting planes dating from World War I to Desert Storm. In nearby Cocoa, Astronaut Memorial Planetarium & Observatory shows star-studded programs and hosts weekend telescope viewings.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners


You are signed in as:null
No comments yet