Located in the same area as Bradley International Airport and the National Guard base, the New England Air Museum has 90,000 square feet of exhibition feet spread across 3 hangars, and an additional outdoor space, to display 60 of the 110+ aircrafts in the museum’s collections. The museum library includes a collection of over 6,000 aviation related books, over 10,000 aviation manuals, and thousands of pieces of artwork, drawings, blueprints, and photographs.
The museum has tons of open space to spread out and explore the 60+ aircrafts at a leisurely pace. Guests are able to peer through, look under, and sit in many of the aircrafts. However, what is most impressive, and truly priceless, are the docents, many of whom are veterans who flew the aircrafts on display. They are eager to share their adventures and explain how the aircrafts work, and they are incredibly patient with children.
The museum has big plans to expand in summer 2021, with new exhibitions Women in Aviation and Kosciuszko Squadron, which features the Polish unit that fought in the Battle of Britain.
The museum is open every day from 10am-3pm- check here for updates on hours, dates, and admissions. Kids age three and under receive free admission.
The entire museum is handicap accessible with elevators to the mezzanine floors in the Civil Aviation Hangar and B-9 Hangar. Strollers are allowed, but the toddler crew won’t want to sit- too much to see, climb, and touch!
Restrooms are located near the main entrance and in the Civil Aviation Hangar.
The “Wings N’ Things” gift shop (with a huge used book collection!) and a small cafeteria area (vending machines only) are located near the admissions desk.
Make sure kids grab a scavenger hunt to fill out while touring the museum; they can return it at the admission desk for a prize.
Plan on 2-3 hours to explore the three hangars and outdoor space.
12 Ways to Explore the New England Air Museum:
1. Walk through a Sikorsky Skycrane 1962 helicopter, which served as a mobile hospital. Military Hangar
2. Use the touch screens to see photos of the dedication of the museum and listen to interviews with veterans who piloted the aircrafts on display. Military Hangar
3. Climb the stairs and peek inside the cockpits of aircrafts such as the Reida Rae, a B-26 that went on 39 combat missions in World War II, a F-100 Supersabre, and the only remaining VS44 Flying Boat (there were only three!).
4. Compare the sizes of half a dozen jet engines and learn how they propel airplanes. Military Hangar.
5. Sit inside a Kaman SH-2F Seasprite, a ship based helicopter, and the cockpit of a Boeing 707.
6. Follow the timeline of the life and inventions of Charlie Kaman, a philanthroper and creator of the K125 helicopter, on display in the Military Hangar.
7. Pretend to fly a Cessma 172 in the flight simulator. Military Hangar
8. Learn about the Apollo missions and the making of the spacesuits and backpacks worn by astronauts from “Dr. Flush” (you’ll have to ask him how he got the name!) in the mezzanine of the Civil Aviation Hangar.
9. Take a peek inside the Restoration Hangar and watch the museum staff working on restoring aircrafts. Walk around the outdoor courtyard and check out six aircrafts, including several owned by the Coast Guard.
10. Climb under and then climb the stairs and look into the cabin of a B-29 in the B-29 Hangar. Learn about the B-29 Superfortress, the most expensive weapon produced by the United States in World War II.
11. Explore the KidsPort exhibit- the toddle crew will love dressing up in aviation costumes, completing arts and crafts activities and more in the space between the Civil Aviation and B-29 Hangars. Note: Currently closed to due pandemic restrictions.
12. Participate in a Flights of Fun Family program offered every weekend at the museum. Activities include Investigation Station, Flight Science Demonstrations, and Build and Fly! workshops. The museum staff guide children in creating personalized parachutes, hand gliders, and sling shots. Note: Due to pandemic restrictions in 2021, the challenges are currently “grab and go” to take home.
For other family fun in nearby Hartford, check out our adventures at the Connecticut Science Center and Mark Twain House. For more fun in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, check out our adventures at the Amazing World of Dr Seuss Museum, Basketball Hall of Fame, and Springfield Armory.
Disclaimer: Our family was given a media pass to visit the museum; all opinions expressed are my own.