Exploring Dayton with Kids: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and the Oregon District

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Hi Everyone! I feel like I should make a major disclaimer before you read this post! There aren’t going to be a lot of technical details provided about what you see here, no (or few) historical facts offered to describe the pictures. Not only am I NOT an airplane expert, I also visited this museum with a 2 year old and a 5 year old (along with my husband!). There was not a lot of stopping to read signage or taking of notes. Nope, there was just a lot of running from one thing to see to another! And boy, oh boy, was there a lot to see! I think if you’ve had small children, you know exactly what I’m talking about! So with that in mind, I’m going to give you an overview of what there is to see and how to manage your time with kids at the Air Force Museum!

The first thing you should know about the museum is that it’s free! FREE! 🙂 Okay, now on to the rest!


There are 4 large buildings that make up the museum. It was my instinct to go in chronological order, starting with the earliest planes and ending with the newest. But as we headed in that direction, a staff member advised us to actually start at the back with the last building, take a snack break at the Refueling Cafe, and continue through towards the front of the museum and end with lunch at the restaurant. His advice was wise, and I pass it on to you!



Space Shuttle replica

As I mentioned, we started in the 4th building, where there is a Space Gallery. There is a large Space Shuttle replica. There were several simulators where you could attempt to fly the Space Shuttle! It didn’t seem easy, as you can imagine. 😉




Also in the 4th building is the the Presidential Gallery, where there were several former Air Force One planes. Those were really interesting, as you could walk through a good number of them and many artifacts were left intact!





The walk-through areas of the planes are completely covered with plexiglass.  A warning: many of the spaces are very narrow to get through! The one shown below was actually one of the wider walkways.



Between the 4th and 3rd buildings is a Missile Gallery and above it is the Refueling Cafe. By the time we had arrived at the museum, around 11:00 AM, and walked to the back, we were ready for lunch after touring the 4th building – and thankful for the advice we had received from the staff person! The Refueling Cafe offers wraps, salads, pizza, hot dogs and snacks like yogurt, cookies, chips, drinks, and granola bars. We ended up eating lunch here. (It’s worth noting here that no food or drink is allowed to be brought into the museum!) There’s nothing gourmet about the food at the Refueling Cafe, but it is what you would probably consider “kid friendly” and the prices are reasonable. We didn’t check out the Valkyrie Cafe, but it seems pretty kid-friendly, as well, according to the menu.


Let me stop here to say that we didn’t bring in our stroller. What were we thinking? Well, we were thinking that our newly 2 year old doesn’t want to ride in a stroller anymore, so why bring it? Well, by the end of the first building, we had acquired strollers for both kids! The museum offers them for free and since there is so much ground to cover, the strollers saved us from carrying tired kids!


The 3rd Building covers the Cold War, the 2nd Building covers the Korean War and Southeast Asia War and the 1st building covers World War II and the Early Years. Here is my non-technical list of just a few of things you can see and do: life-sized depictions of historical moments, airplanes you can sit in, photo galleries, videos to watch, and miniature airplane exhibits. A few examples of these things . . .











Some of the things we didn’t do include a theater, which shows 3D movies (you can see a list of shows that are being shown at the theater here), and the flight simulators. The flight simulators are $10 a person. There is also a museum store for souvenirs and official Air Force gear!

All in all, I would estimate we spent about 4 hours at the museum. There is so much to see, you have to manage your expectations with young kids. With older kids who are really interested in planes, you could easily spend the whole day!

So, we had a two year old who hadn’t napped yet on our hands, but I had read this article from Columbus Underground a few YEARS ago and I had been wanting to check out the Oregon District ever since. We needed coffee anyway, so we decided to take a chance on a tired kids and check it out!



This section of town is home to a funky selection of restaurants, galleries, shops, [adult entertainment stores!] and a coffee shop. It’s a fun area for lunch or dinner and to spend an hour or so browsing through shops.




Our main stop was at Press Coffee Bar for a pick me up for the drive home! Mayson fell asleep in the stroller and slept through his donut opportunity! (Don’t tell!)




If you stop in the Oregon District, make sure to get your picture here!


Overall, a really fun day! The trip to the museum was just about an hour for us and the fact that it’s free makes it a great day trip! You could pack a lunch to eat outside the museum, but the food there is also pretty affordable. I would just keep in mind that it’s a lot of walking for little kids, and manage your expectations accordingly! 😉

Know Before You Go:

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

1100 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433
Phone: 937-253-4629
Monday – Sunday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Press Coffee Bar

257 Wayne Ave., Dayton, OH 45402
Monday – Thursday: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Friday: 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM, Saturday: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM, Sunday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM


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ICYMI: Scenes from the New Albany Classic

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OSU Airport and Barnstormer Diner

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I’m just going to start this post by saying we love Mondays!  I know, we’re a little weird that way!  My husband is off on Mondays, so, unlike most of the rest of the world, we actually look forward to Mondays and use them to do family activities more than any other day of the week!

A few Mondays ago, we had breakfast at Jack and Benny’s Barnstormer Diner, the diner at the OSU Airport.  This is a really fun outing for kids – and adults!  The diner is attached to the terminal of the OSU Airport and is filled with airport and airplane memorabilia.  The walls are covered with pictures and awards.


A door in the diner opens to a garage full of small planes:


And the TV was playing Daniel Tiger.  🙂 All of these factors add up to children who were entertained for most of the meal!  All kinds of breakfast (and lunch) options are available and reasonably priced.  Our meals were excellent!  The kids meals came with drinks with free refills (endless chocolate milk anyone?!) and they gave us adults coffees to go!  Needless to say we were all happy!


My husband graciously agreed to be in this picture! My child is staring at the TV.

What kid could resist pancakes cut out like airplanes?!  That was a fun surprise:





After breakfast, we went to the terminal.  The restaurant and terminal are some of the first buildings you will get to when you enter from Case Rd.  The restaurant is in Building 1 and you will need to exit the restaurant in order to get into the terminal.



Great mural inside the terminal!


Once inside the terminal, look for the door and sign for the steps to the observation tower.  There is no elevator, so do not plan to take a stroller!

Once you  make it to the top of the steps, you will enter the observation tower.  The tower has a 360 degree view and is open from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM (which might also make for a fun date night – but that’s a tip for another post!).  This is what it looks like:


This was our second time to the airport and both times I have been pleasantly surprised with the number of landings and take offs we have been able to see.  The OSU airport website reports that there are an average of 75,000 operations per year.  (As a side note, from the website I also learned that the Columbus Zoo has used the airport when transporting the manatees!  Now there’s a fun fact to tell the kids!)

With the glare and distance, it might be hard to appreciate what you can see with my pictures, but here’s a few planes taking off and landing:











Both of my kids were mesmerized by watching the planes!












In the observation tower were some free coloring books featuring the airport and Brutus and Betty Buckeye (There’s a Betty Buckeye?!).

Most of the planes landing and taking off carry 2-4 passengers, but this larger jet was parked fairly close to the terminal:


You can also listen to the control tower over the radio!


You could easily make this a free outing by packing a lunch or snack and eating it at the table in the observation tower, or just stopping by for a short period of time, no snack needed!  The hours the tower is open make it pretty convenient to fit this into any part of your day if you happen to be in the area!  I think it will be a hit with the kids!  And if your kids like airplanes, check out this post for another airplane activity we did this past spring!

Know Before You Go:

Jack and Benny’s Barnstormer Diner
2160 West Case Rd, Columbus, OH 43235
Monday-Friday 7:00 AM-3:00 PM
Saturday-Sunday 8:00 AM-3:00 PM

OSU Airport
2160 West Case Road, Columbus, Ohio 43235
Observation Tower Hours: 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM


  • There are no restrooms in the restaurant, they are on the first floor of the the airport terminal.
  • If you’ve still got room in your belly after breakfast, there’s free popcorn in the waiting area of the terminal!
  • There is ample parking right in front of the restaurant and terminal.


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ICYMI: Watching Planes!

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