Duxford Imperial War Museum is a working airfield and museum situated off Junction 10 of the M11, where it meets the A505. We arrived via the A505 and the museum is clearly signposted from the main road. Parking is available. On arrival there are a number of till access points, offering quick and easy entry into the museum via the gift shop. Toilets and a cash point are also in this area. A family ticket is available from £29. You can save 10% by booking online in advance.
Review of the Imperial War Museum Duxford – Family Visit
We received a map of the museum, and very quickly realised how vast the area was. With exhibits housed in hangers, both original and new, alongside the airstrip. Be prepared to walk a long way on your visit.
What Planes Can you Expect to see at the IWM
We decided to go to the exhibits in number order. So we began in Airspace, which houses the iconic Concorde, A Spitfire, Lancaster Bomber and The Vulcan Bomber among others. My son was in awe at how close he could get to the planes. He was able to stand in front of a 777 engine, which was huge in comparison to him.
Concorde is open to walk through and is included in the cost of the ticket – it’s best to check the opening times for this. Once inside, you realise how narrow this plane was, my husband had to duck all the way along. This Concorde is the real deal, and carried out test flights in the 70s.
When we stepped out of Concorde, I noticed the Vulcan which is one of my all-time favourite planes, and you could stand underneath her and look up at the vast wingspan. For an additional fee (£10 per adult), you could also have a tour of the Lancaster Bomber.
We went for a coffee after this in the Armoury Café and Kitchen. There are a number of food choices from breakfast baps to pastries and cookies. Prices were reasonable with an offer on a hot drink and bacon/sausage bap for £6. The café was very clean, with highchairs provided throughout the space. There is a restaurant serving American diner style food which looked lovely although a bit pricey or the Cafes at either end of the airstrip were available if you were looking for something smaller.
What else is there to see and do at Duxford
My son then played in the plane themed outdoor play area. He had a fun 10 minutes in the wooden plane and control tower. Whilst he was playing a Spitfire took off. The roar of the engine is magical. As Duxford is a working airfield, there were plenty of planes taking off and landing, and experience flights available.
Our next stop was Flying Aircraft where engineers work on planes. In this area was a Flying Fortress, possibly her most famous plane being the Memphis Belle. Her engine was started whilst we were in there and the landing gear raised and lowered. We felt very lucky to witness this and lovely to see the work that goes on to keep these iconic planes in the air.
Our next stop was Historic Duxford, where you can read about the real-life stories of the airmen and women who were based at Duxford during the war. This area had a lot of interactive exhibits for children to play and listen to. Pilot dressing up was a favourite of my Son.
Air and Sea were next, displaying smaller planes with fold up wings to allow boat landings and takeoffs, along with the giant Sea King Helicopter. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time in here, as we still had a lot to see. We decided to have lunch at this point and sat on the picnic benches outside as we had bought our own. There are a number of planes by the airstrip to walk around, but sadly the interiors were all closed when we were there.
We went into the Battle of Britain Hanger next, which is an original hanger. This was my favourite exhibit of our visit.
We were able to sit in the same room where flight missions were presented and see what information they were provided before they took to the skies. This area housed lots of information on the Battle of Britain with footage and sound clips. The exhibits included an air raid shelter which you could look into to see and hear what it would be like during the blitz. This hanger had lots of information and stats about both UK and Germany, providing a true account of the horror of war.
The conservation hanger we only poked our heads in. It was another hanger where staff and volunteers were working on conserving aircraft to get them to fly again. We next visited the 1940s control room. Although a mock-up of the original, it was fascinating to see how the aircrews would have been controlled from this small room. A real glimpse into the past.
Our next stop was the American Air Museum. This building was built into the landscape and looked very modern. You enter at ceiling height and have a spectacular view of the planes suspended from the ceiling.
There is a lot to see in this area. My husband was very excited to see the Blackbird plane, a stealth bomber which he could almost touch. This hanger displays information from the First World War, up to today, including a large part of the Berlin Wall and a sizeable chunk of metal from the twin towers. This area also focused on individual heroes and what they did for the war effort. Both men and women were celebrated here, past and present. There were lots of listening points which my son enjoyed in here. This area also has a coffee shop which although small, had a good selection of food and drink.
Our final area was Land Warfare. For some children, this area could have been a bit scary. You can walk across a boat that landed at Normandy and hear the horrific sounds the brave men would have experienced. The harsh reality of war. There were mock-ups of war zones, from infantrymen relaxing and wounded soldiers. The exhibit on Monty was very interesting with letters sent to his Mother and the bedroom caravans (trucks) he worked and slept on. Charlie enjoyed the area where you could put helmets on to feel the weight and try and lift the backpacks. There were also lots of tanks here where you could get up close to.
On the way back to the car, we popped into the Radio society area where Charlie was able to see how his voice looked in sound waves and try and tune an old-fashioned Radio. He was also taught how to write his name in Morse code and received a certificate for this which he was very proud of.
We stayed until closing (4 pm) and spent six hours here, which I felt was only just enough. As mentioned before, the area is vast so expect to walk lots, and pick a day when it’s not raining as you would get very wet walking from hanger to hanger. Everything is very well signed, with both distances and time to get to locations helping to plan the day. There were plenty of toilets which were all very well maintained and three coffee shops onsite. The shop on the way out is a great place to buy memorabilia from a wonderful day out. Our son Charlie loved it from start to finish. Although we like planes, we are not enthusiasts, and still had a wonderful family day out. Thank you for having us.
Disclaimer: Katie and her family received a complimentary family pass for the purpose of this review. All words, photos and opinions are entirely her own.