Visiting the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum in Cape May is a great option for families interested in exploring aviation history in an exciting and hands-on way. Our family loves the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in D.C., and we were so happy to find a local aviation museum.
There are plenty of helicopters, jeeps, aircraft, and even a Coast Guard boat to see right here on the Shore. And unlike the National Air and Space Museum, at the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum kids are welcome to climb aboard almost every vehicle in the hanger. Read on for tips on how to visit the museum like a local, and check out our rundown on other off-the-beaten path attractions to check out in New Jersey. Be sure to bookmark our Weekend Trips Guide for things to do with the fam all season long.
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Kids will love exploring the scale of the jet engines.
A Brief History of the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum
The all-wooden hangar where the museum is located was constructed by the U.S. Navy in 1942 after the outbreak of WWII. The hangar was used as a training facility for dive bomber squadrons that would go on to fly over the Pacific Ocean. The training exercises, including target practice, happened over the nearby Delaware Bay.
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The little ones will enjoy practicing their driving skills at the museum.
Highlights of the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum
The museum is located at the Cape May Airport. You can watch planes taking off and landing right from the parking lot of the museum. When you first walk through the door there is a WWII-era Jeep that was difficult to drag the kids away from. Then you will walk by a small theater playing a movie on the history of the museum. The movie was a little too slow–and not colorful enough–to keep the attention of our 6-year-old and 3-year-old. After entering the actual museum portion of the hanger, the kids immediately ran off and started exploring and climbing on everything in sight. And the best part was, they could! I didn’t have to follow them around telling them to get off everything. Keep in mind a few exhibits are marked off with a sign clearly stating they are not to be climbed on.
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The aircraft on display spark imaginative play.
The highlights of the museum include a historic naval helicopter. The children were immediately drawn to this helicopter and waited impatiently for 15 minutes to be able to sit in its cockpit. The only other exhibit with a line was for an F-16 jet. Again, my kids were willing to wait in line and were super excited to climb up the wooden stairs and into the cockpit. There was a dummy pilot in the backseat, and my daughter babbled on for 15 minutes to her “co-pilot.” We also saw an F-14 jet, similar to the one that is featured in the movie Top Gun. My son was impressed to see a Blue Angel up close after having seen them do a fly over in South Jersey in 2020 to salute frontline workers during the pandemic.
Another exhibit the children loved was a model of a space shuttle. While coercing them out of the space shuttle I realized that part of the allure was that there was a television inside. We also spent a lot of time in the Coast Guard Exhibit. In this exhibit they could sit in the pilot seats of a large aircraft and press all the buttons, turn the dials, and flip the switches. Also in the Coast Guard exhibit was the HH-2A Seaguard, a rescue helicopter, and a Coast Guard patrol boat. Both vehicles enthralled them as they diligently practiced ocean rescues.
Be sure you don’t leave the museum before climbing to the top of the aircraft control tower.
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Kids will have a blast manning cockpits.
Practicalities for a Visit to the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum
You can probably see and climb on everything in the entire museum in 1.5-2 hours. Admission for adults is $14, admission for children 3-12 is $10, and children under 3 are FREE. You can buy your tickets at the museum or in advance online. The museum was not crowded at all when we visited, but it was the beginning of June. From the beginning of March through November the museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm. In the off-season the hours remain the same, but the museum is closed on weekends. There were bathrooms in the museum. The museum is located at the Cape May Airport, and parking is free and plentiful. You might want to pack a lunch and then find a picnic spot to watch the planes land and take off because the museum doesn’t have a café or sell food. I didn’t notice any benches, but if someone needed to rest, they could always sit in an aircraft to take a load off.
More Things to Do in Cape May
There is a lot to do in the Cape May area, including enjoying the beaches in Wildwood (FREE) or Cape May, where you can see dolphins frolicking close to the shore. The town of Cape May has a charming downtown you can walk around and find a nice restaurant, café, or ice cream shop. Perhaps your family would prefer the thrilling Morey’s Pier, with its carnival games and roller coasters located on the boardwalk in Wildwood. Other adventures to consider are biking along an abandoned railroad in Cape May with the Revolution Rail Company, experiencing wildlife at the FREE Cape May Zoo, or take a journey back in time with a trip to the Historic Cold Spring Village. Our family always tries to squeeze in a stop at the Cape May Brewery, which is also located at the Cape May Airport and has a family friendly tented outdoor area and a beer garden. Also located at the airport and right across the street from the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum is the Forgotten Warriors Vietnam Museum. There are even some exhibits to see outside on the front lawn of this museum.
Know Before You Go to NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum
- The museum is open daily form 10am to 4pm from March 5-November 30. The hours are the same in the off season and the museum is closed on weekends.
- Admission: Adults $14, Children (3-12) $10, (under 2) free. You can purchase your tickets in person or in advance online.
- The museum is located within the Cape May Airport. Parking is FREE and plentiful.
- There are bathrooms located within the museum.
- There is a gift shop at the museum, but they do not serve food.
Photos by the author