F1 Engine for Saturn V rocket

F1 Engine for Saturn V rocket developed in early 1960s. Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

Museums have been around for centuries–in fact, the word museum was first used in ancient Greece and Rome. Back then it referred more to a place for philosophical debate and discussion, than a collection of interesting artifacts.

While many museums feature smaller artifacts of day-to-day life, we’ve always been most interested in machine museums.

It doesn’t matter to us how old or new the technology, we’re always fascinated by what man has been able to accomplish through the use of machines.

Join us as we travel across America and explore transportation, from air to sea to land.

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

TKS Manned Spacecraft

TKS Manned Spacecraft from 1960s. Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, is one of the world’s most visited museums. All of the 19 Smithsonians and its zoo in Washington are free to the public, which certainly adds to their appeal.

However, after spending a full morning in the Air & Space museum, I can simply say it’s one of the most amazing collections of artifacts and information I’ve ever seen!

If you plan to visit, aim for as early in the day as possible, as we found it was arm-to-arm people by one in the afternoon when we left. Keep in mind that it’s a government building and has security, so leave anything that won’t pass a security scan check at home–David was carrying his pocket knife on the first day we were in Washington, so we had to reschedule the museum for day two.

Photos are allowed inside, so if your time is limited, make sure you take lots of pictures to explore later at your leisure.

Snowmobile Barn

Vintage snowmobiles and signs

Vintage snowmobiles and signs at the Snowmobile Barn.

We’ve been snowmobiling pretty much since snowmobile dealerships opened up on the Canadian prairies. That made the Snowmobile Barn in Newton, New Jersey, a priority on our east coast itinerary.

While we expected to see some brands and models that had never made it from factories and distributors down east to our region, we were stunned to find virtually dozens of new sleds. We spent a whole morning snapping photos and reading info sheets on each machine–all of the sleds are restored and most have been shown in vintage snowmobile shows, so all of the data about their history is displayed.

Even if you’re not a snowmobile lover, this walk down the history lane of this relatively modern invention, is fascinating. As well as machines, the museum includes thousands of memorabilia and souvenirs, such as toys, decals, sleighs, and just about anything else snowmobile related that you can imagine.

Military Aviation Museum

WWII Airplane

WWII Airplane at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is a must-see for anyone visiting the east coast. Situated in a part of Virginia Beach that feels like a rural area, this museum is anything but back-woodsy!

One of the high points of this museum is that the docents are retired or active members of the military. We could have listened all day to the stories we heard about each of these vintage airplanes–and of course there’s also great signage if you want to wander around by yourself taking photos.

If you’re interested in truly unique and rare museum collections, the Cottbus hangar, which was relocated piece by piece from Cottbus, Germany, is a must see. The hangar, along with the German planes it holds, were used as a German pilot training school during WWII. Each plane displays information sheets–even newspaper clippings–that detail its history.

Mystic Seaport–the Museum of America & the Sea

Work being done to the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship.

Work being done to the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship.

We happened on the Mystic Seaport Museum of America & the Sea, in Mystic, Connecticut, almost by accident–luckily! Once again, this was another whole morning of exploration, and that was without sailing on one of the historic ships.

Mystic’s museum is a working museum, so we, along with a school bus load of students, watched craftsmen working on the Charles W. Morgan, a whaling ship that had set sail from New Bedford, MA, on July 21, 1841.

Classed as a 351 ton whaling ship, the Morgan had five owners and 21 captains during her years sailing the oceans in search of whales. Over 1000 sailors from more than 50 countries worked on board from 1841 until 1921, during which time she could have brought home 90,000 gallons of whale oil if each load was full.

The information we learned on this ship alone made this one of our favorite stops, never mind the other ships, historic village, nautical instruments, figureheads and other relics of a bygone era.

Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum

Snowmobiles at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum

Snowmobiles at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Germaine, Wisconsin.

This wasn’t the first–or the last–of our stops at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Germaine, Wisconsin! It had been, though, we decided, nearly a decade since we’d visited, so there were lots of new sleds on display in a whole building.

Nestled in the heart of snowmobile country, the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum collects and preserves the history of the sport from both the competitive and recreational sides. Established back in 1983 by a group of dedicated snowmobile enthusiasts, the museum is continuously growing and expanding.

Visitors get a 360 degree overview of the sport and its many facets, from the traditional forms of competition of oval and drag racing, to later additions like watercross and snocross.

A new group of inductees into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame is honored each year by the museum–see the list at: http://www.snowmobilehalloffame.com/inductees.htm

Virginia Air and Space Center

Aircraft at the Virginia Air and Space Center.

Aircraft at the Virginia Air and Space Center.

Hampton, Virginia, birthplace of America’s space program, is home to the Virginia Air and Space Center museum. The Center is also the visitor center for the NASA Langley Research Center and Langley Airforce Base.

Once again, we were pleased to have a local retired airforce docent as a guide–he generously shared his wealth of knowledge about the 30+ historic aircraft and the space program.

This museum is an amazing place for families, as there are a number of interactive displays and exhibits. You can travel across time by climbing on a WWII bomber then launching a rocket or piloting a space shuttle. Once you’ve done that you’re ready to try your skills as an air traffic controller, fly an airplane, or program a Mars rover.

There’s always something happening on the Center’s Riverside IMAX Theater’s 3D IMAX screen too! Going just once won’t be an option, that’s for sure–this one’s on our list as a must-do-again, both to view whatever new traveling exhibit is on display and to have some more fun on those hands-on space gallery exhibits.

USS New Jersey Battleship

The USS New Jersey battleship is harbored on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Most of this 1942 ship is open to visitors (the engine area is closed), including the communications and battleship technology.

Linda Aksomitis in a control area on the USS New Jersey battleship.

Linda Aksomitis in a control area on the USS New Jersey battleship. Photo by David Aksomitis.

For a photo tour of the ship, see: http://guide2travel.ca/2013/10/visit-philadelphia-and-the-battleship-new-jersey/

The ship is located next to the Adventure Aquarium–there’s lots of parking available for both attractions.

Our Thanks

We’d like to thank those who hosted us at various points along our travels in 2013.

Plan your visit to Hampton, Virginia, with the official website of the Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau — http://visithampton.com/

Our thanks to the Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau for hosting us during our trip to Hampton, Virginia.

Our thanks to the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau for hosting our visit to Virginia Beach.

Visit Virginia Beach at: http://www.visitvirginiabeach.com/

We’d like to thank the Washington Court Hotel for hosting us during our visit to Washington, DC. The Washington Court was our first choice and we chose wisely!

The Washington Court Hotel is located at 525 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington DC. – http://washingtoncourthotel.com/