The National Museum of Naval Aviation (1-800-327-5002) is located in Pensacola, Florida, on the military base known as the Naval Air Station Pensacola. Although there is no fee to visit the museum, all visitors must pass through the highly regulated gates of the base, and show their driver's license to the armed guards at the entrance. If your identification credentials are satisfactory, you will be given a Visitor's Pass to display on your car dashboard.
One reason I was interested in visiting the museum is because my husband had been in the U.S. Navy, as well as some of my male cousins. I thought of them when I saw this bronze statue at the entrance, representing the "Sailor" genre.
Once inside the museum, you can tour it at your own pace, or join an organized (free) tour, led by a volunteer who is a Navy veteran. I was thankful that I had enough time to do both! By taking the group tour early in the day, you are able to return to parts of the museum that are of special interest to you.
For those not prone to motion sickness ( and the money to pay for the extra fee ) , there are flight simulators. This seemed to be popular with many visitors, but my tendency toward motion sickness ( as well as a healthy dose of frugality! ) made me decide to pass on this opportunity!
In the Blue Angels Atrium, there are four A-4 Skyhawks suspended from the ceiling. To give you a size comparison, notice the human figures adjacent to the American flag in the center of the photo. Depending on the time of year that you visit, you may also have an opportunity to see the Blue Angels fly their practice formations.
Several planes have been "chopped", to allow visitors to climb up into the cockpit, and get an idea of what it is like to be at the controls of one of these flying machines. It is a great photo opportunity, and I found a friendly-looking person to snap a picture of me giving the "thumbs up" gesture for this blog.
As you can imagine, getting the opportunity to sit in a Blue Angels jet simulator is very popular with youngsters --- who can then envision a career in naval aviation!
There is a special section in the museum devoted to the history of women in the U.S. Navy. Large screens run continuous video loops of female navy pilots who have achieved the pinnacle of success in their careers.
The reason I knew about this special women's section of the Naval Museum is because I had the WONDERFUL opportunity of viewing a video of a delightful 90+ year old former Navy WAVES veteran, that was filmed in front of the museum exhibit that showed how the uniform of female Navy personnel has changed over the decades. The best part was that I was sitting next to this lady in her living room, while viewing the video of her being interviewed! The video talked about her time in Hawaii, and how she learned the traditional Hula dance of the islands, which she proceeded to teach me! What an incredible experience! ( As a reminder, WAVES is an acronym for "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service", as well as an illusion to ocean waves. It was started in 1942 during World War II, as an all-women division of the U.S. Navy. )
The person I have to thank for this most unique opportunity is the WAVES veteran's daughter, Pam, that I met at a recent Road Scholar ( www.roadscholar.org, ) week in Georgia. On the first night of the Georgia event, the Ice Breaker for us participants, was to each tell our name, and where we would take a fellow Road Scholar participant, if they came to our area for a visit. Pam said her choice for visitors to Pensacola would be the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Little did she know, I would take her up on her offer! In this picture, Pam is holding a photo of her mom (taken in the 1940's) that shows the WAVES uniform of that period.
Another wonderful experience that Pam facilitated, was a seafood dinner of fresh Gulf shrimp, with her mom and brother. It was so moving to join hands with this Catholic family, as they all recited out loud together, a Blessing over the meal we were about to eat. I thought of the hundreds of times their mom had no doubt led that blessing, over the table full of children that she had raised. It was a wonderful audio and visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse that says, "Give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20).
(Note: Pam had made a special trip to the famous landmark in Pensacola, known as the Joe Pattie Seafood Market ( www.JoePattis.com ) to purchase those shrimp. Hearing Pam's family tell stories about visiting the market---plus, a recommendation from my tour guide at the naval museum---made me seek out a visit to the famous landmark on my way out of town. It was DEFINITELY worth the effort, and I had a great time there, observing the boats unloading the fresh catch, as well as seeing the efficient way they handled the hundreds of customers who come through their doors! Did I mention, they also have free samples of some of their products!!?? )
Meanwhile, getting back to the subject of the Pensacola Naval Base, it should be noted that you can also visit their picturesque lighthouse. Since I was there just two days after Christmas, they still had the Christmas lights strung from the top to make it even more festive for the holidays.
Once you have driven past the outside of the Naval Museum (shown in photo above) from the light house, you can drive in the opposite direction to visit Fort Barrancas. It is one of several forts built by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in the 19th century along northwestern Florida's coastline. A dry mosat surrounds the inner walls, and makes access to the fort possible only by way of a drawbridge. Fort Barrancas is run by the U.S. Park Service, since it is a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It is free to visit, and gives visitors time to stretch their legs and enjoy the Florida outdoors. There is a Visitor's Center, with explanatory video, as well as a small gift shop and clean restrooms.
Can you tell I enjoyed my time in Pensacola??!! If you would like to explore this scenic location, just log onto www.visitpensacola.com for additional ideas. A trip here will give you "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia