While I love living in an area with so many big museums, it’s sometimes nice to take my kids on a lower-key outing.
That’s exactly what has drawn me back to the College Park Aviation Museum a half dozen times since having kids.
What to Expect
I managed to get in and out without spending a lot of money. And the museum is small enough that we can spend just an hour or two, then head out without worrying about missing out on anything.
The friendly staff and volunteers who greet you can give you the rundown of the museum, but there’s no need for a map since you can’t really get lost here.
If it’s a nice day, exit through the gift shop to get to an outdoor area with ride-on and rocking toy planes. (If you’re not going to play on the mini planes and want to avoid gift shop meltdown, exit back the way you came in.)
The gift shop is small but does have a good range of inexpensive items as well as model planes.
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Don’t forget to ask for your goodie bags to be filled up on the way out – this is always a good lure to get the kids out the door of the museum.
You’re not going to find huge jets here, but the propeller planes certainly impressed my 20 month old son. It’s worth a trip up to the balcony to see the aircraft from above.
There is one designated plane (circa 1939) to climb in and an enormous amount of hands-on activities to capture kids’ attention.
The main play area isn’t huge but packs a lot in. A well-stocked dress up area features flight goggles, helmets, scarves and jackets next to a mirror.
One computer station runs a basic (free) flight simulator game, while another has an (also free) game to drop bombs from an airplane.
There are books, puzzles, pattern blocks, and a few crafts to do in this area.
Computer kiosks and printed signs throughout the museum educate those who are interested in more than playing.
Throughout the year, the museum also offers a good range of special events – from a holiday train display and Santa fly-in, to movies and an egg drop contest (most events are free with admission).
Older kids can learn quite a bit about the history of flight here. College Park Airport is the world’s oldest continuously operating airport.
The collection focuses on early World War I-era flight. The airport has been around since 1909, when Wilbur Wright trained military pilots here.
This part will be undergoing a long term renovation over the next decade to improve interpretation, accessibility, wayfinding, and interactives as well as the stewardship of artifacts
The Plane of Tomorrow, Today! Exhibit
This exhibit focuses on the museum’s vast Engineering and Research Corporation collection to illuminate the design, marketing and worldwide success of the Ercoup.
Over Here & Over There: Aviation & Prince George’s County During World War I Exhibit
This exhibit features how engineers developed fragile aircraft able to fly only a few hundred feet to the fighting machines of World War I and the many ways the first military pilots trained for the war and what Prince George County’s resident’s role during that time.
Another Field of Firsts: African American Aviators of Prince George’s County
This exhibit educates about the evolution of the airport as a haven for African-Americans interested in flying to hosting the first black Civil Air Patrol squadron in the region.
The museum also features a changing exhibit that can vary from time to time depending on the current theme. This is located on the smaller side galleries off of the Main Gallery.
This gives a more in-depth exploration of a story line represented in the Main Gallery or depict an aviation theme in a completely different genre such as art, photography, nature and more
The museum is right next to College Park Airport, which is still in operation. If you’re lucky you might catch a small propeller plane taking off or landing on the runway just outside the museum’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
But flights don’t seem to be frequent so there’s no guarantee of seeing a plane in action.
Family Programs at the Museum
Programs are available for the whole family to enjoy and encourage learning especially for the little ones.
From Cub Corner, Afternoon Aviators, Discovery Carts, and Engineering 101, you can pick the best fit for your family on the dates you are available.
Hours & When to Go
The College Park Aviation Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm (closed major holidays).
Pricing & Tickets
Admissions are $5/adults, $4/senior, and $2 children ages 2 to 18; free for children under 2.
Good to Know
- There’s no cafeteria (but there is dried astronaut ice cream in the gift shop). There are umbrella tables on an outdoor balcony, which overlooks the airport runway.
- Paint Branch Community Park, The Herbert W. Wells Ice Rink, and the Ellen E. Linson Swimming Pool are nearby.
- Restaurants that are a short drive include Jungle Grille (1.5 miles), Food Factory 2 (1.5 miles), Tommy Marcos Ledo Restaurant (2 miles), Potbelly (2 miles), Mamma Lucia (6 miles), and Hard Times Cafe (6 miles). And there’s also IKEA’s cafe (6 miles).
- There’s a Metro stop at College Park – U of MD (green line) that is a quick walk from the museum.
- Strollers (if you really need to bring one) can be parked outside the main exhibit area, and there’s a rack for hanging coats.
The College Park Aviation Museum is located at 1985 Corporal Frank Scott Dr, College Park, MD 20740
There’s no parking hassle, with a large lot just steps from the museum’s door.