Family Day Out Review: Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon
Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon
Value For Money10.0/10
Variety Of Activities7.0/10
Things We Like
- Free entry
- Space for kids to explore freely
- Aeronauts Interactive Centre provides hands-on activities
- Very informative and educational for older kids
Things We Dislike
- Bit dull if planes aren't your thing
- A few exhibitions were closed
What’s It All About?
Home to around 100 historic aircrafts and other RAF-related memorabilia, the Royal Air Force Museum provides hours of family-friendly, indoor entertainment. With free entry, five packed exhibition halls and an interactive centre with hands-on exhibits, those with an interest in planes and history will be in their element – those who aren’t (like me!), may find it a little dull.
What Do We Think?
Let me start by saying that I don’t really enjoy museums like this. I’m not into history, mechanics, vehicles or other ‘boring’ stuff along similar lines. However, although the Royal Air Force Museum does nothing for me personally, both my 3.5-year old daughter and 60-year old dad had a great time! As such, I can appreciate it as a cheap family day out and a decent place to pass a few hours – having an interest in the topic is an added bonus.
As the name suggests, the Royal Air Force Museum proudly displays and celebrates the RAF and the history of aviation. You can expect plenty of aircrafts, vehicles, engines, uniforms and exhibits which provide information on anything and everything RAF. The museum usually consists of five exhibition halls, however we found a few closed when we visited (December 2017).
Due to an upgrade programme finishing in 2018, The Battle of Britain Hall, Sunderland Hall and Milestones of Flight Hall were closed. Despite this, we still spent three hours there and could have easily done longer had it not been for our car park ticket expiring – I’d suggest going for the 3-6 hours ticket rather than 0-3 hours for an extra quid.
We spent the majority of our visit in Historic Hangars, Bomber Hall and Aeronauts Interactive Centre – there’s also the Grahame-White Factory in a separate building, however we didn’t go there. Even though it’s not my bag, the sheer scale and size was impressive with close to one hundred real planes and helicopters distributed around huge hangars.
As the name suggests the Bomber Hall is home to the collection of 20 or so bomber aircrafts dating from WW1. This includes the massive dam busting Lancaster as you first walk in, the wood constructed Mosquito and the impressive Vulcan where you can walk into the bomb bay. Other aircrafts include the Halifax, Buccaneer and Liberator.
Historic Hangars contain a number of different exhibitions which each tell a different story about the RAF. For instance, you can walk through a Chinook helicopter within Whirling Rotors, see the Southampton flying boat in Wings Over Water and the snarling Kittyhawk in the Fighter Aircraft Collection. Again, plenty of different things to look at and learn about.
The Royal Air Force Museum isn’t just about walking around old planes though – take the Aeronauts Interactive Centre. Here, there are a number of hands-on exhibits which allow kids (and adults!) to learn more about planes. This includes experiments such as drag and reaction times, along with hang-gliding and getting in the cockpit of a Robinson R22 helicopter. This area was unexpected and turned out to be a real bonus for our daughter.
Not that we did them, but it’s also worth mentioning there’s a couple of paid for things. You can pay £10 each for the Spitfire Experience where you get to sit in a Spitfire MK16 and £5 each for the 4D Theatre where you get to try out the immersive aeroplane-based film experience.
The shop is also pretty impressive and well worth a visit. With clothes, models, jigsaws, books, toys, souvenirs and plenty of other stuff, kids – and geeky grown-ups like my dad – will have a blast having a gander. You might just need to take a bit of pocket money!
In terms of facilities, there’s a number of toilets and a separate baby-change area in a disabled toilet. Corridors and gangways are spacious, so there’s no issue with a buggy. There’s also the Wessex Cafe situated in Historic Hangars which serve a selection of drinks, snacks, sandwiches and kid’s meal deals – we ate here and it was perfectly adequate.
I was really impressed with the Royal Air Force Museum and was surprised to find out that it was free entry. It’s not really my thing to be honest, but it proved to be a fun, family-friendly way to pass a few hours on a cold, wet December weekday. The main thing was that our daughter had a good time looking at the aircrafts and playing in Aeronauts, so we’ll definitely be heading back again – probably when my dad next visits!
What Does It Look Like?
What Do I Need To Know?
Address: Grahame Park Way, London, NW9 5LL (Sat Nav NW9 5QW).
Opening Times: 10.00-17.00 (Nov-Feb), 10.00-18.00 (Mar-Oct).
Toilets: Yes. Male and female toilets. Also a unisex accessible toilet. Baby changing facilities also available.
Cafe / Restaurant: Yes. Wessex Cafe offering sandwiches, snacks and drinks with seating for 60. There’s also an indoor picnic spot by the Aeronauts Interactive Centre.
Parking: Yes. One large car park costing £3 for 0-3 hours and £4 for 3-6 hours.
Public Transport: Colindale Tube Station (Northern Line) 0.6 miles away.
Duration: 2 to 4 hours.
Age Range: Babies and Toddlers (0-3), Young Children (4-8), Older Children (9-12), Teenagers (13+).
Have you visited before? What do you and the kids think? Let us know in the comments!
Check out our interactive Days Out Map for other reviews of our family visits to UK attractions.