Pacific Aviation Museum - Pearl Harbor on historic Ford Island occupies World War II-era hangars that still bear the scars of our nation's first aviation battlefield. It's the newest attraction among the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites and a must visit for aviation and history enthusiasts.
The Pacific Aviation Museum on historic Ford Island at Pearl Harbor is one of the top aviation museums in the country and a terrific way to spend a few hours discovering with your family. Occupying two hangars that survived the Japanese attack on Oahu, this museum chronicles aviation events and aircraft in the Pacific from World War II to the present. Additionally, the museum now includes the adjacent control tower that dominates the landscape over the island which is in the process of being fully restored.
There are two options for exploring the museum, self-guided and docent-guided. Docent-guided tours are given by pilots and aircrewman, many of whom flew aircraft just like those in the museum. The docents offer unique stories and insights and get you access to the restoration shop which is not accessible on the self-guided tour.
The museum tour begins with a short 10 minutes video describing the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the events that immediately followed. Exiting the theater, the museum, through a series of murals, transports you back to early 1940’s, giving you a glimpse of what pre-war life was like for Oahu residents. Eerily echoing actual events, this colorful and carefree peek into the past ends abruptly at the sight of a Japanese aircraft preparing to launch from the flight deck of a Japanese aircraft carrier towards the island. Exhibits describe the aircraft, methods, and attack planning used by the Japanese for the attack on Pearl Harbor. As you move through the museum, the other exhibits follow the U.S. path through the Pacific Theater and describe events and aircraft used throughout the war. The number of aircraft is relatively small compared to other museums but the amount of information is incredible and leaves an indelible impression.
The second hangar that the museum occupies houses aircraft from the Korean War era to the present and is just as well done as the exhibits in the first hangar. There is a gift shop that has a lot of neat items available for children and aviation history buffs! There is a tropical themed aviation inspired café that serves lunchtime fares. If your child likes airplanes like ours does, this museum will be fascinating to them.
The highlight of the museum for most children is the flight simulators which we highly recommend trying. The simulators cost an additional $10 for a flight which puts you in the cockpit in the skies over battle scarred Guadalcanal. However, coupons for a free simulator flight are in most tourist brochures and publications (even some found at the museum) throughout the island, so be sure to find one and save the money! The museum's wide open spaces are very stroller friendly, and there are restroom facilities in the main hangar next to the gift shop and café.
Admission prices and hours of operation can be found at www.pacificaviationmuseum.org. There are military and kama’aina discounts available with valid I.D. and children under 4 are free. If you plan on going back more than once consider a one year family membership as it may save you money in the long run.
What kid doesn't love airplanes? The Pacific Aviation Museum is a great place to take kids of all ages (including the two year old). The Museum is located in an old WWII hangar on Ford Island. If you don't have a military decal on your vehicle, head to the Arizona memorial for tickets and a shuttle onto the military base. If you do have base stickers, you can drive yourself over, but the kids will find the shuttle to be part of the experience.
The trip to the Museum begins with a twelve minute video with footage from WWII. I am assuming the content is similar to what is displayed at the Arizona Memorial, but I am not really sure since an emergency potty run sent us running out of the video before it started. Once the little guy got a glimpse of what was waiting, there was no getting him back into that movie. My kids absolutely loved looking at all of the airplanes and helicopters, all of which were beautifully restored. There were also several engine displays and mannequins dressed in period military uniforms. Although many of the displays focused on the events of December 7, 1941 and World War II, my kids were so intrigued with the airplanes and the "soldiers", war questions never came up.
Since the Museum is in a Hangar, if the munchkins are loud or jumping up and down (and they will be when they discover the airplanes hanging above their heads), no one cares. While the price is a little steep, my kids were so into looking around that we ended up being at the museum for almost 4 hours. I would say the cost is worth the occasional trip. If you are visiting the Arizona Memorial and debating about whether to see the Bowfin (WWII Submarine), the Missouri, or the Pacific Air Museum - I would have to say it is a really tough call between the last two, if you ask my kids - they will choose the airplanes every time.
The Museum also hosts a small cafe and an area with WWII flight simulators. The Cafe actually is reasonably priced for Hawaii ($7-$9 for entrees, $5.50 for kids meals) and the food was pretty good. The kids loved eating in the cafe since it was all done up in airplane decor. If you are thinking about trying your hand in the flight simulator area, go to the website ahead of time and print off a coupon for a free combat simulator orientation flight. For the grown-up and older kid crowd, the guided tour also offers a unique look into the restoration area - the tour is on the expensive side but does include admission. Reservations are recommended and can be done on the website.