On Monday, March 12th, our friends from the Seattle area, Jim and Joan, had arrived in Gulf Shores to visit us so we picked them up at their hotel and went to the Crossroads Cafe for breakfast. As we left Bella Terra, the clouds were pretty ominous looking so we knew we were in for some rain and t-storms. By the time we picked them up and arrived at the cafe, it was pouring. Over breakfast, we decided that it would be a good day to go to the Pensacola Naval Air Museum since it was on our to-do list and on theirs as well.
Before leaving for Pensacola, we headed to downtown Foley to show them the location of the Railroad Museum which they planned to go to on Tuesday when the model train exhibit was open, the Holmes Medical Museum and Stacey’s Rexall Drug Store. Then we headed towards Pensacola which was about 40 minutes away. It was still raining when we arrived so Rob, our most wonderful chauffeur, dropped us off at the door. Walking in the door was overwhelming! I’ve never seen so many planes in one place in my life!
There were hundreds of full size airplanes of all makes, models and vintages on the first floor (main deck) with many more hanging from the ceiling. There was also a huge atrium with a display of the Blue Angels. Next to each plane was a sign with the details of when the plane was made, what it was used for with the specifications about the engine(s), props, wing span, etc. In many cases there also was a separate display of the aircraft engine, often complete with cutaways to make the internal workings visible.
In addition to all the planes and engines, there were numerous display cases with good sized replicas of sea vessels such as the USS Coral Sea and the USS Enterprise aircraft carriers. More displays were on the second floor (upper deck) along with an IMAX theater which shows 3 different IMAX movies, each for $8.50, a motion based flight simulator ($5) and cockpit trainers (free). There are “dioramas that transport visitors to the World War I Western Front, Main Street U.S.A. in 1943, and the depths of Lake Michigan. ”
One of the unexpected aspects of the museum is that you can examine most of the displays close up and even touch them – for example to see what parts of the aircraft skin are metal or fabric. In a few cases like the Catalina flying boat there is a cutaway fuselage/hull so you can see the aircraft interior.
Totally impossible for me to describe what you can see there – to get a real sense of the museum, go to their website. Highly recommended and definitely worth a visit! And best of all – it’s free! (except for the iMAX and simulators).
After we left the museum and headed back towards Orange Beach, Jim and Joan wanted to treat their tour guides to lunch at the Shrimp Basket. On Mondays, they have an all you can eat fried catfish and/or whitefish special so Jim, Joan and Rob had that. I had a Combo basket with fried oysters and fried scallops. Good lunch! Thanks, Joan and Jim!