Ohio’s Free Museum: The National Museum of the Air Force

The National Museum of the Air Force front entry

When the kids were little and even now, I was always looking for great things to do together. I wanted them to be both entertaining and educational and, because we were on a budget, it helped if they were cheap or free.

Some things never change. I’m always looking for great things to do in Ohio. And, just as then, I love saving a few dollars on an entertaining afternoon.

The collection of airplanes continues on the outside at Ohio's free museum: the National Museum of the Air Force.
The collection continues on the outside of the museum.

That pursuit led me to Dayton and to the greatest free museum in the state, the National Museum of the Air Force. That’s right, you can spend an entire day there absolutely free, including parking.

The National Museum of the Air Force

The National Museum of the Air Force is located in Dayton, Ohio, near the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. What began as a small engineering study collection in 1923 has grown over the years into the world’s largest military aviation museum.

The museum is open 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. seven days a week. And 2023 marks the 100th anniversary!

There are over 350 airplanes to see at Ohio's free museum, the National Museum of the Air Force. Several are suspended from the ceiling.
If you love airplanes (or have a little one that does), there are plenty to view at the museum.

The museum houses more than 350 vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts in 19 acres of indoor space. Outdoors you can tour additional exhibits at the Air and Memorial Parks.

Inside, the museum is organized into different galleries from the early years through the Cold War. There’s a Presidential Gallery that houses planes used by our US Presidents.

Planes from the World War II gallery at the National Museum of the Air Force.
The World War II collection was my favorite.

My favorites were the World War II Gallery and the Space Gallery. I could have spent an entire afternoon in the World War II Gallery alone, so make sure you leave plenty of time.

Is Everything Free at the Air Force Museum?

If you’re wondering if you need to bring any money, the answer is both yes and no. You can have a great visit to the museum without spending a dime. And if your kids or grandkids are young, they will be perfectly happy with the experience.

On the other hand, there are experiences where you can spend a little bit of money. If you have older children, they may like to experience the flight simulator. This experience is $10 per ride.

A young lady poses inside of a space suit at the National Museum of the Air Force, Ohio's free museum.
We didn’t try the simulators, but Natalie checked out the space suit photo op. (And no, she didn’t touch the suit!)

And if you have a history buff with you, it might be good to take in one of the movies playing in the theater. Tickets for these documentaries are $10 each.

The Valkyrie is a cafeteria that is on site. You can stop in for lunch or just for a snack. We did not, so I can’t vouch for the quality of the menu items.

And lastly there is a gift shop. Good luck trying to get out of there without spending a few dollars, especially if you have some junior aviators on your hands.

Planning Your Trip to the Air Force Museum

If you’re interested in more information about the museum or want to take a peak ahead of your visit, the Museum offers a virtual tour. If you’re like me and love planning ahead, this will help you know what to expect on your trip. Check it out on their website before you go.

If you’re looking to make a day or even a weekend out of your trip, there’s plenty to do and see in the Dayton area. You can visit nearby Yellow Springs, which is an eccentric little village. Shop the stores, eat at the local restaurants and hike the nearby trails.

The Memphis Belle at the National Museum of the Air Force.
The Memphis Belle, one of the more notable planes in the collection.

And if you’re like us, no visit to the area is complete without a stop at Young’s Jersey Dairy.  My kids are grown now, so we just go for the ice cream and to shop the gift shop. But if you have younger kids there’s plenty there to let them run off some energy. They have a petting zoo, mini golf and more. You can read a bit about it at near the bottom of this article that I wrote on a visit to a local lavender farm.


Thanks for FindingOhio with us today. A visit to the National Museum of the Air Force is definitely worth the drive, no matter where you live in Ohio.

Check out our Day Trips section if you’re looking for more Ohio adventures. We are fortunate that there are so many wonderful things to do in our beautiful state. And, if you can, please share our content to your social media. We want to let everyone know about the great opportunities in the Buckeye state.