Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum: Hands On Fun For Everyone

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Want all the vibes of a big city museum without heading far? The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum in Wildwood is a fascinating peak into the world of military aviation and transportation (think National Air and Space Museum in D.C. without the long car trip). And with a chance to enter an authentic World War II Hangar, it’s a family-friendly spot that will captivate both kids and adults. Kids will have a ball exploring hands-on exhibits and fun activities and get excited to climb into real planes, copters, and jeeps. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to discover the exciting history of Cape May during WWII. It’s no wonder NAS Wildwood is listed as one of our favorite museums in NJ. (featured photo taken at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum)

naval air station museum seats

Take a seat in actual airplane seats to watch a short film. Photo taken at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

Stepping back in time

Before you start to explore, you are encouraged to sit in actual airplane seats and watch a short film about the museum, where they reveal little-known facts like how the aircraft hangar was assembled from a kit delivered via railroad. Once built, it was commissioned as a training facility for dive bomber squadrons in Delaware Bay. Following World War II, United States Overseas Airlines operated out of Hangar #1. Recently, the Salvatore family restored the hangar and turned it into a museum for everyone to enjoy. 

naval air station museum sign

There are so many places to explore at the museum. Photo taken at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

Exploring the collection 

Once you enter Hangar #1, expect to be there for some time since the entire museum is in front of you on one floor. Military buffs will be in awe of the vehicles, boats, and planes that have been in service for the U.S. military at one time. What’s even more exciting is that kids and adults can climb into many of them, encouraging imaginative play and showing them through STEM interactive displays how they are operated. Kids can practice driving skills in the Jeep and explore and sit in big and small fighter planes, including the prized TBM-3E Avenger Torpedo Bomber Warplane and an F6F-3 Hellcat. NAS Wildwood has a vast collection of helicopters on display, like the Bell UH-1 Iroquois (AKA “Huey”) and a retired HH-52A from the U.S. Coast Guard, most of which you can explore inside and out (ones that can’t be climbed on are marked off with a sign). 

naval air station museum tower

Climb right into an actual communication control tower. Photo taken at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

See rare artifacts

Sneak in a bit of history in exhibits that show life in NJ during World War II and view the Photography and Radio Exhibit. Kids will want to climb up to the top of the communication control tower, where they can survey the entire museum from above and make a radio call. Before you leave, don’t miss looking at the jet engines taken from planes, like the GE90 turbofan jet engine from a Boeing 777 (spoiler alert: it’s massive). The exhibits often rotate and receive new artifacts, so expect to find something different during each visit to the museum. 

naval air station museum kidSit in real airplanes and naval vehicles. Photo taken at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

What to know before you go

From March to December, the museum is open daily from 10 AM to 4 PM; in January and February, they are only open Monday to Friday from 10 AM to 4 PM. Parking is free, and the museum is set up for self-guided tours, but group tours can be booked beforehand. Make sure to dress for the weather because Historic Hangar #1 does not have climate control. Museum tickets can be purchased at the gift shop. Admission is $16 for adults, $12 for ages 3-12, and active US military members and children under 3 are free. The facility is pet-friendly (dogs must be on a leash), wheelchair accessible, and can hold weddings and private events for up to 300+ people in the hangar. There is a gift shop with toys, novelties, souvenirs, and branded merchandise. Check their calendar for special events, including AirFest, a festival featuring food, meet and greets, music, and more. 

Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum
500 Forrestal Road
Cape May, NJ 08204

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.

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