Fantasy of Flight Air Museum
Fantasy of Flight houses the world’s largest private aircraft collection from the Golden Era of flying, many restored to flying condition.
It is the brainchild of Kermit Weeks, the renowned US aerobatic pilot who has won medals in both the United States National Aerobatics Championships and World Aerobatics Championships.
Fantasy of Flight is a good example of how theme park entertainment can be brought to a museum
The Fantasy of Flight museum is located midway between Tampa and Orlando in Polk City, just of the I–4 interstate at Exit 44 (see map for actual location). As you approach the exit on I–4, just look out for the Douglas DC–3 “taking off” by the side of the road and then the distinctive red and white checkerboard water tower by the airfield.
It was originally open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However from May 6, 2013 it will only be open from Thursday through to Sunday each week. It is best to check the website as they do occasionally alter the opening hours if they are hosting a special event.
The museum is suitable for the whole family and makes a great day out but if members of your party are not interested in aviation, they can always visit the restaurant and gift shop as no admission fee is required to enter either. Car parking is also free.
The aviation themed Gift Shop is open the same hours as the museum and sells novelty gifts, souvenirs and clothing including T-shirts, hats and a new line of Kermit’s kids clothing and books. The Compass Rose Diner is decorated in the style of the airport diners from the 1930s and 1940s and is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. serving lunch and snacks.
Sight and Sound Immersion Exhibits
You start your tour in a sight and sound immersion by walking down the fuselage of a paratroop plane and stepping out as if about to make a parachute jump. You are immediately immersed in a series of tableau exhibits taking you from man’s earliest attempts to fly and then through the trenches of the Western Front in the First World War.
Lastly you are at the atmospheric dispersal point of a B–17 Flying Fortress bomber “Piccadilly Princess” undergoing maintenance ready for its next mission. You can climb inside through the aft hatch and walk right through the bomber. When you pass the waist gunner positions and hear the sounds of machine gun fire, you can imagine what it must have been like flying in the Second World War on a bombing mission.
The main museum consists of two large hangars jamb-packed with around 40 beautifully restored aircraft , some extremely rare; from the dawn of flight to the 1950s. The museum is currently being expanded with the addition of a further two display hangars to house the ever growing collection.
Click here to read more about the museum’s aircraft, other exhibits and guided tours.
Hot air balloon and open cockpit biplane joy rides also operate from the airfield (separate charge).
From the late 1970s Kermit Weeks began collecting and restoring vintage aircraft and originally opened the Weeks Air Museum in Miami in 1985 to showcase his collection. The collection was badly damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1991 and though the museum re-opened in 1994 it subsequently closed in 2001 and the Kermit Weeks collection is now displayed at Fantasy of Flight. The old site is now the home of the Wings Over Miami Museum.
Kermit acquired the 300 acre site near Polk City in the mid 1980s and Fantasy of Flight opened in 1995. The airfield is unusual in that as well as a grass runway, it also has a stretch of water to allow flying boats to take off and land.
The museum hangars and buildings have a wonderful art deco style and everything is absolutely spotless. This is very different to the almost amateur feel of some other museums.
General admission is $26.95 for adults ($24.95 for seniors aged 55 and over) and $13.95 for children (aged 6–15).
Children aged 5 and under are admitted free.