Part of the Imperial War Museum, Duxford is a stones throw away from the Essex border. You can be sure that it is full of quality exhibits with plenty of activities, to keep all family members entertained. Duxford aviation museum is a full day out of fun for all the family and fitting for children of all ages. For this reason, it must be added to your list of places to go with the kids.
I have been to Duxford a few times for both their exhibitions and their airshows which are held on occasions throughout the year. I have a keen interest in military history and find all that the museum has to offer fascinating.
The airspace hanger is the first attraction that you come across when you arrive at Duxford. It’s a massive space, really impressive! There are so many planes in there, I have no idea how they managed to get them all in there.
The first exhibit you see as you walk in is stunning. You are able to get up close and personal with a Eurofighter Typhoon. Seeing these aircraft in the sky is one thing, but being up close you really appreciate how amazing this machine truly is.
There is an entire section of the hanger dedicated to fun interactive learning activities. These range from testing your skills to be a fighter pilot, to simplified explanations and demonstrations on how aircraft work.
One of the interactive activities is to test your reaction speed. You start by pressing a button, then randomly the light will turn on, you have to press the button again as quick as possible. The display then shows you your reaction time. This instantly turned into a contest between Becky and I. We spent much longer than was needed on that! Most importantly I won although, this is strongly contested by Becky.
There is an abundance of informative movies on constant repeat around the airspace hanger. They range from showing how aircraft play a role in intelligence, to the history of aerial bombing and how this has changed with technology. Even if you’re not interested in watching the film, they provide a good opportunity to rest your feet for five minutes.
See Concorde at Duxford
The jewel in the crown of the airspace hanger is a real-world Concorde. Seeing a Concorde is amazing, but learning that you go inside it, well that is just awesome! Concorde is a really popular activity in the hanger, so expect a queue. The queue is not very long, but expect to wait about 10 minutes. As they can only allow a few people on the aircraft at a time. You’ll be surprised how tiny and tight it is inside.
So seeing and getting to go on board a Concorde is one thing. But then learning that this particular Concorde was the one that got the speed record, well, that’s even cooler! Concorde had a cruising speed of 1,350 mph, more than twice the speed of sound. That’s faster than the rate at which the Earth rotates and faster than a speeding bullet.
Duxford museum is also a working airfield, which is open to the public. So aircraft are always coming and going, not airliners, but smaller aeroplanes. The runway is not obscured from the public so you can easily get up close and lean against the waist-high fence and watch planes all day.
This is also a great way to spend lunch. All the eateries at Duxford offer takeaway so you can take these sit on the grass and watch planes while enjoying your meal.
As well as the public who own aircraft coming and going from the airfield, along with the odd flying lesson. You will be able to see Supermarine Spitfires active on the runway and in the air. These Spitfires are part of experience packages offering a chance to go up in the air and live the dream of being inside one of these amazing machines.
These flights are not cheap (obviously I had to enquire) at £2750, so not to be done on a day out, but for a once in a lifetime experience that would be awesome. You can book one via Classic Wings.
Eating at Duxford
We decided that morning to go to Duxford for the day. Therefore did not have a chance to pack a lunch to take with us. Meaning that we had to have lunch from one of the eateries while visiting the museum. I would recommend eating at the Workshop. Located halfway down the airfield, hence is a natural stopping point for lunch. The Workshop is the larger of the eateries. It offers a sizeable menu, compared to either the American Diner or Armoury Cafe.
If planning to eat at the Workshop, I would encourage you to get there either just before or after lunch, as it can get very busy. We arrived before the lunch rush, during our meal the restaurant got very busy. I would recommend that you go for the “Hawker Burger”, it was really good. It’s a chicken burger with cheese and lime mayo. The only issue was the basket of fries- a rather small portion!
While at the Workshop restaurant, there didn’t seem to be any high chairs. There were a few families with young children, all who were either in a pushchair or on a parents knee. This might have just been a coincidence. So ask a member of staff if you need one, they might be stored away when not needed.
There are no Toilets located in the restaurant itself, they are outside next door. It’s got both disabled and baby change facilities, which are neat and well equipped.
Family Friendly Facilities
Duxford Museum is a large site. This could be an issue with young children who want to walk, yet can’t walk long distances. From one end of the airfield, where the land exhibits reside to the main entrance is around 15-20 minutes.
There are many places to stop while walking around the site. Along the entire airfield, there are many buildings, each with exhibits inside. So this breaks up the amount of walking involved. The walk back from the land exhibit was difficult in the heat when we left at the end of the day though.
In each of the main areas of the museum, there are toilets, baby change and lifts. Duxford surprised us with how accessible and family friendly all the buildings were. When we visited all the facilities were functional, and very well maintained. There were no issues getting around with Ben and the pushchair.
The baby change areas within each of the museum areas where very clean. They are large enough to get a pushchair in there and still easily change a baby. We also checked out the disabled toilets. Again these were very neat and with loads of room like you would expect.
Location and Parking
Due to the remote location of this venue, the best way to get to Duxford is by car. The museum has plenty of parking, with overflow locations if the main car park is full. There is a good amount of disabled parking close to the main entrance. Parent-child bays seem to be lacking. Although the size of the parking spaces is rather generous.
The route to Duxford airfield is simple. The museum is well signposted and directions are very clear. The postcode for the main entrance provided by the website is also accurate. So you should have no problem finding this great place.
If the Duxford Imperial War Museum is too far for you to travel, you could check out some other museums in Essex. Or if you are looking for transport-related activities click here. You can see where else we went in August with our first monthly round up
Get Duxford Tickets
Duxford Imperial War Museum is not a cheap day out. Saying that for the ticket price you get great value for money as there is so much to do and see.
You can buy tickets on arrival. I would recommend that if you are planning a visit, get your tickets in advance online. Tickets purchased online are much cheaper. There are two ticket prices quoted, being the normal price or an optional donation added.
There are other options for group tickets, which can save considerable money. These work out much cheaper. Two adults and two children can get in for around the same price as two adults and a single child. So bring along a friend of your child as they pretty much get in for free.
Duxford is an amazing museum, which is to be expected as it is part of the Imperial War Museum. We could go many times a year and still learn new things. It’s impossible to get around the entire museum in a single day and still take it all in (the single or family membership option is worth it if you plan on going at least twice in the year!). There are so many aeroplanes and interesting exhibits to enjoy. Furthermore, there always seems to be planes on the runway, making eating lunch while watching them great. This place is really fun for all the family.