North Carolina may be known as the nation’s aviation capital (even the state’s license plates boast “First in Flight”), but the history of aviation extends far beyond the Wright Brothers’ first airplane flight in that state.
Though likely more famous for Disney World than its aviation history, the state of Florida boasts a number of noteworthy attractions in its own right. Did you know, for example, the first commercial flight took place in the sunshine state? The flight, from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Tampa, Florida, took place in January 1914. It was 23-minutes in length and tickets for the flight averaged $400.
Whether you live in Florida and have a special interest in aviation or you are visiting for the first time, we have compiled our list of aviation attractions you won’t want to miss in the Sunshine State!
Famous for fly-ins and air shows, Sun ‘n Fun serves to “preserve and enhance the future of flight through world-class events, inspiring and educating people of all ages.” Its annual fly-in in Lakeland attracts hundreds of thousands of pilots and aviation enthusiasts on an annual basis.
Sun ‘N’ Fun is also home to the Florida Air Museum:
The Florida Air Museum is designated as Florida’s Official Aviation Museum and Education Center. Its mission is “to be the premier showcase for Florida’s aviation history through exhibits, restoration and preservation, education, and outreach, and to share the passion of flight with all ages.” The museum features a diverse display of aircraft, including one-of-a-kind designs, classics, ultra-lights, antiques and warbirds.
Fantasy of Flight’s website invites guests to experience “elegant, vintage, modern fun”. Fantasy of Flight houses the world’s largest private collection of vintage aircraft. With more than 100 of aviation’s greatest accomplishments on display, it always plays a gracious host to event planners looking for a truly unique and customized experience for their guests. Visit and be transported back to the early days of flight, including World War I and World War II.
Note: Fantasy of Flight now has a scale-down operation and is only operating seasonally, and may only be open Friday-Sunday or closed for low traffic months. Check the calendar for operating schedule.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the world’s most authentic space attraction. The center, named after President Kennedy, was built for the Saturn V of the Apollo Moon landing program. Today, individuals and families from across the globe visit the center to learn about space missions. Explore a day of unique experience including viewing real rockets, space shuttles, and capsules, checking out amazing exhibits, and even getting the chance (for a fee) to have lunch with an astronaut! If you time your visit right, you might even be able to catch a rocket launch. Read more about Kennedy Space Center >>
The Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum is located at the Space Coast Regional Airport in Brevard County, just south of Titusville. The museum houses a 30,000 square foot hangar, as well as a memorabilia hall that features weapons, artifacts, flight uniforms, and other collections from World War I.
The Tavares Seaplane Base & Marina (FA1) is an FAA certified airport and marina located on Lake Dora, part of Wooton Park. Its headquarters is located by the ramps at The Prop Shop. During your visit, take a seaplane ride (Check out Jones Brothers Seaplane Adventures) and see for yourself what makes Tavares the seaplane capital of the world.
The National Naval Aviation Museum is the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida. Located in Pensacola, Florida, visitors can share the excitement of Naval Aviation’s rich history and see more than 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation. The best part? Admission to the Museum’s nearly 350,000 square feet of exhibit space is FREE.
Wings Over Miami Air Museum serves as a tribute to the veterans and aviators who pioneered civilian and military aviation. The museum is home to a variety of military and classic aircraft, and provides insight to the stories of the pilots who flew them. Community members and tourists alike are invited to visit the museum for education and enjoyment.
Are you an aviation enthusiast or curious about the different aviation attractions in the Sunshine State? We would love to hear from you! We invite you to share your favorite Florida aviation attractions and experiences in the comment section below.