The Hill Aerospace Museum at Utah's Hill Air Force Base has been my go-to destination to beat boredom since my children were very young. It is a unique and interesting attraction for visitors to the area, and it holds up to repeat visits from locals like us. The museum consists of two climate-controlled hangars and a large outdoor yard full of historic airplanes, from a replica of the Wright Brothers' flyer to the modern F-16 fighter jet, which trains daily over Northern Utah.
The large, uncrowded spaces of the museum, wide stroller-friendly walks and fascinating exhibits make the Hill Aerospace Museum a great destination for families. With no admission fee, the price is right. Whether you are a casual observer who knows little about airplanes, or a serious military history buff, this museum is worth a visit.
The Hill Aerospace Museum houses military aircraft from every era of flight. Airplanes, helicopters and other vehicles and artifacts from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and more recent military aircraft are all on display. Air Force One is represented. Missiles and bombs, including a replica of one of the first nuclear test weapons are exhibited.
Interpretive materials help visitors appreciate the historical context and mechanics of the aircraft. The Korean War and the Vietnam War are particularly well represented with visually appealing and educational displays. There are also exhibits recognizing the roles of women in the Air Force since World War II. A memorial honoring the men and women from Hill Air Force Base who have died in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan can also be found in the first hangar.
One of our favorite planes is the big B-24 Bomber, used extensively during World War II. This plane is special to our family because my grandpa piloted the B-24 over the Pacific Ocean during the war. Seeing and learning about this plane at the Hill Aerospace Museum makes history personal.
Volunteers, many of them military veterans, are on hand to answer questions and offer additional insight to the exhibits. The small gift shop is stocked with a variety of unique Air Force souvenirs. My 5-year-old son collects the little die-cast metal planes sold there for $5 each. The first one we bought him was a tiny replica of his great-grandpa's B-24. On our most recent visit, he spent his allowance on a B-2 Stealth Bomber.
Just for Kids
The ACE Learning Center is located in the second hangar of the Hill Aerospace Museum. It is a long room full of science toys, computers and simulators. Some of the computer games and simulators are sophisticated, and only children over the age of 8 can use them. My kids have been too young for these, but they look fun even for teens and adults to practice their flying skills.
Younger children will enjoy blocks and puzzles and dressing up in flight suits. Volunteers are on hand to demonstrate the toys and explain the science behind them.
The Learning Center is not always open. The hours for Winter 2013 are Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 – 3 p.m. Other times are available by appointment for school and civic groups.
The Education Center is open to the public more often in the summer, when interns boost the staff. One time when I took my children and their cousins to the museum during the summer, the staff member in charge helped them build rockets from paper. Then we took them outside and shot them into the air.
Good to Know
Where: About 33 miles north of Salt Lake City, just east of Interstate 15. Take Exit 338 at 5600 South in Roy, Utah. You will not need to go through the gates of Hill Air Force Base to visit the museum. Here is the museum's address:
7961 Wardleigh Road, Bldg 1955
Hill AFB, Utah
When: Open every day, year-round, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
How Much: FREE, though donations of any size are gratefully accepted.
How Long: 1-3 hours
Amenities: gift shop, rest rooms, outdoor picnic tables
This post appeared on Travel Tips Tuesday on February 26, 2013.