Fantasy of Flight (Original Attraction)
By James | Last updated August 23, 2023
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Fantasy of Flight houses the world’s largest private aircraft collection from the Golden Era of flying, many restored to flying condition. Fantasy of Flight is a good example of how theme park entertainment can be brought to a museum.
Note that the main Fantasy of Flight attraction closed in April 2014 and is currently operating a limited exhibit both in terms of hours and days. You should check their schedule before making a visit.
As the original Fantasy of Flight is currently closed, this article describes the attraction before the closure. Click here to read about the current incarnation of Fantasy of Flight.
It is the brainchild of Kermit Weeks, the renowned US aerobatic pilot who has won medals in both the United States National Aerobatics Championships and World Aerobatics Championships.
Fantasy of Flight closed on April 6, 2014 but re-opened on January 30, 2015 with a revised format
The Fantasy of Flight museum is located midway between Tampa and Orlando in Polk City, just of the I–4 interstate at Exit 44 (see map for actual location). As you approach the exit on I–4, just look out for the Douglas DC–3 “taking off” by the side of the road and then the distinctive red and white checkerboard water tower by the airfield.
It was originally open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However from May 6, 2013 it only opened from Thursday through to Sunday each week.
The museum is suitable for the whole family and makes a great day out but if members of your party are not interested in aviation, they can always visit the restaurant and gift shop as no admission fee is required to enter either. Car parking is also free.
Other attractions include the Wing WalkAir Ropes Course and Zipline as well as vintage biplane joy rides.
The aviation themed Gift Shop is open the same hours as the museum and sells novelty gifts, souvenirs and clothing including T-shirts, hats and a new line of Kermit’s kids clothing and books. The Compass Rose Diner is decorated in the style of the airport diners from the 1930s and 1940s and is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. serving lunch and snacks.
Sight and Sound Immersion Exhibits
You start your tour in a sight and sound immersion by walking down the fuselage of a paratroop plane and stepping out as if about to make a parachute jump. You are immediately immersed in a series of tableau exhibits taking you from man’s earliest attempts to fly and then through the trenches of the Western Front in the First World War.
Lastly you are at the atmospheric dispersal point of a B–17 Flying Fortress bomber “Piccadilly Princess” undergoing maintenance ready for its next mission. You can climb inside through the aft hatch and walk right through the bomber. When you pass the waist gunner positions and hear the sounds of machine gun fire, you can imagine what it must have been like flying in the Second World War on a bombing mission.
The main museum consists of two large hangars jamb-packed with around 40 beautifully restored aircraft , some extremely rare; from the dawn of flight to the 1950s. The museum is currently being expanded with the addition of a further two display hangars to house the ever growing collection.
Click here to read more about the museum’s aircraft, other exhibits and guided tours.
Hot air balloon and open cockpit biplane joy rides also operate from the airfield (separate charge).
General admission is $29.95 for adults and $15.95 for children (aged 6–15).
Children aged 5 and under are admitted free.
Closure in 2014
Kermit Weeks, owner of Fantasy of Flight, announced that the attraction would close to the public on April 6, 2014 due to poor attendance figures. He stated that this is not the end of Fantasy of Flight and at some point in the future a new and bigger venture will open. He also stated that there were plans to re-open access to part of the collection later in the year with a lower price admission.
In August he gave a further statement where he said the new long term plan for the future of Fantasy of Flight is some 3 to 5 years away but there was a hope that a “cut-down” version of the attraction would open in November 2014 in the maintenance hanger with fewer exhibits. The plan is to exhibit some of the old favourites alongside some of the planes that have rarely been seen.
Likely opening date is now January 30, 2015.
The interim attraction will not include the restaurant or the immersive exhibit that you encountered at the start of the original museum tour but might include a couple of the simulators if there is room. Also the daily flying demonstrations will not return at this time.
Being located off I–4 near Lakeland, outside of the main Orlando theme park area means fewer people venture out to the museum. A while back, Fantasy of Flight reduced their opening days from every day of the week to just Thursdays through Sundays.
In the interim, Fantasy of Flight will still be open for special events like the Sun ’n Fun Splash-In and Mustangs and Mustangs and for private groups like weddings, birthday parties, meetings, corporate events and team building.
Aircraft restoration will continue at the facility which opened 18 years ago after the aircraft collection was moved from Miami following the devastating Hurricane Andrew.