Pensacola, FL

Before leaving Orange Beach we wanted to head to the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum.  We planned to stop there for a night by boat but then realized since we now had a car with us it would be a lot simpler to just drive the 45 minutes.

Right when we arrived a trolley tour of the grounds was leaving.  We hopped aboard just in time.  The trolley took us around parts of the restricted naval base grounds we were not permitted to walk around by ourselves.  It was a very cool giant parking lot with tons of old planes.  We thought the planes with folding wings were pretty cool.  Check it out in the pictures.  Our guide was retired navy and flew on I believe 7 different types of the planes and helicopters we saw.  It was a slow day for planes in the air but we did get to watch a few fighter jets take off while we were in the trolley.

Once back inside the museum we started with the Main Street USA exhibit from World War II.  They learned how gas was pumped and talked about ration books.  It’s always a good reminder that we are all very fortunate today.

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Planes, planes everywhere.  We could have spent an entire day studying the history this museum held.  But we had to pick and choose.  The Blue Angels are a favorite of ours.  We watch them perform most summers in Chicago and two years ago on our first loop we were lucky enough to anchor in Pensacola for their fall air show.  During their performance season, visitors to the museum are allowed to watch their practice sessions outside daily.  Unfortunately in January they are not practicing.  So we had to settle with playing on and climbing in their retired planes in the museum.

After looking around the main building a little more the girls practiced driving a few more planes and then we headed to Hangar Bay One.

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I loved this building.  We started with the Coast Guard exhibit.  A group near and dear to our hearts.  The Coast Guard risks their lives every day to keep boaters like us safe.  We took a look at the safety and rescue exhibit and Ben showed the girls how the basket is lowered from a hovering helicopter down to a boat or person in the water.  Maddy climbed into the basket for rescue.  We watched a video of actual rescue footage.  And discussed how terrifying it would be to be hoisted up in one of those wire metal baskets swinging through the air attached to a moving helicopter.  Yikes!

The girls climbed in a few more cockpits and drove a few more simulators.  We moved onto the sobering Vietnam exhibit.  And ended with this cute plane painted like a shark.

This is a fabulous, educational, FREE museum if you are in the area!

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