If the recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing (and 63rd birthday of NASA) has you more interested in space you are not alone! Did you know there is a way to experience the entire history of flight and space exploration without leaving Ohio?
Ohio is both the birthplace of aviation and home to 24 astronauts including John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. To celebrate Ohio’s heritage of air and space Ohio Find It Here has created the To the Moon and Back road trip. The road trip spans nine stops over 546 miles filled with fun and engaging activities for the entire family!
Birthplace of Aviation
Orville and Wilbur Wright put Ohio on the map as the birthplace of Aviation with the development of their first factory built airplane (the Wright B Flyer) in Dayton. You can ride in a replica of that plane, see many other artifacts of their work, and explore Dayton’s roll as a hub of innovation in manufacturing when you visit the National Aviation Heritage Area. It is made up of 15 sites that focus on conserving, interpreting, and promoting the role of Dayton and the surrounding area in everything from the birth of aviation to modern space travel. Must visit sites include: The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center and Wright Brothers Memorial, and the Carillon Historical Park.
Dayton is also home to the National Museum of the Air Force, which, in addition to having more than 360 aerospace vehicles, is home to a full-size representation of a NASA space shuttle payload bay (you can also get a look into the flight deck)!
Landing on the Moon and One Heck of a Party
Just an hour north of Dayton is the birthplace of Neil Armstrong and home to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta. The museum is home to spacesuits, moon rocks, lunar lander simulators, and several air/spacecraft flown by Neil Armstrong himself (including Gemini 8, the first spacecraft to dock with another craft in orbit).
After you visit the museum, you can find out of this world food and drink around Wapakoneta (our favorite were the Cinnamoon pancakes at the Lucky Steer restaurant) as part of their Moon Menu Trail. Historic downtown Wapakoneta is also home to the Summer Moon Festival, a multi-day festival that takes place every July to celebrate the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
A Visit to NASA
While it’s pretty tough to visit most NASA facilities, getting into the NASA Glenn Visitor’s Center at the Great Lakes Science Center is a piece of cake! It is home to the 1973 Skylab Apollo Command Module, space suits, as well as other pieces of NASA history and several hand-on experiment stations.
Just down the street is the International Women Air & Space Museum at Burke-Lakefront Airport which celebrates the achievements of women pilots and astronauts and some of very interesting experiments that NASA astronauts have taken part in (including the first zero-G soft drink dispenser).
MUST SEE Stops Along the Way
Ohio’s 1st First Man:
While many of the stops of the road trip are in Ohio cities, there are a few places you have to plan to see along the way. The John & Annie Glenn Museum in New Concord makes for a great detour between Cleveland and Columbus where you can explore the house that John and Annie Glenn lived in before and after his historic Mercury flight as the first American astronaut to orbit the earth. Filled with items from their personal history as well as rooms filled with memorabilia shared from others that captures the spirit of the country around the time of Glenn’s historic flight.
A Tour of Our Solar System:
If you are heading to Cleveland after your stop in New Concord, take a right at Lake Erie and head to Observatory Park in Geauga County and explore their Solar System hiking trail. It has information stations for each planet proportionate to their distance from the Sun, as well as henge stones, life-sized cornerstones of the pyramid of Giza, two large telescope observatories and an “Astro” naturalist eager to lead you on your journey.
See History, Then Make History:
The best thing about the To the Moon and Back road trip? Every destination offers a variety of hands on activities to engage and inspire the whole family.
COSI lets you explore the stars in their planetarium as well as experiment with orbital physics and inertia, land lunar landers and space shuttles, and experience the Apollo 11 Moon landing in their giant screen theater.
The Ohio History Center brings history to life where you can view their Apollo 11/Neil Armstrong collection, a giant mastodon (not space related but still super cool) and experience what it was like to live in the age of the space race.
The Cincinnati Museum Center is home to the Neil Armstrong Space Exploration Gallery where you can experience the Moon landing from actual NASA footage in a 360 degree theater as well as see unique artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission and this fall is will welcome the Apollo 11 Command Module on it’s final stop as part of the Smithsonian’s Destination Moon exhibit.
With destinations all over the state, chart your course and prepare for lift off today!
Aaron is the photographer/blogger behind Small Steps Are Giant Leaps and Documentary Dads. He loves to capture life from a dad’s eye view whether it’s his adventures with his son “Astronaut Harrison” or collaborating with other bloggers and brands around Ohio.
You can usually find him out exploring Columbus neighborhoods with his camera or out with his son exploring more of their everyday world.