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Visiting the Incredible Golden Age Air Museum in Berks County, PA

For reasons I’ve never quite understood, pre-World War 2 aviation has fascinated me since at least middle school when I did an entire diorama about it. So, while I’ve enjoyed every antique airplane museum I’ve visited in Pennsylvania, visiting the Golden Age Air Museum was extra exciting for me.

The Golden Age Air Museum is located outside of Bethel in Berks County, PA. It is just off of I-78 about halfway between Harrisburg and Allentown, making it an easy stop when traveling through eastern PA.

The visitor center at the Golden Age Air Museum in Bethel, PA
The visitor center at the Golden Age Air Museum.

The museum was founded in 1997 at Grimes Field and showcases airplanes primarily from the Golden Age of Aviation, which is considered roughly the time between World War 1 and World War 2. There are, however, planes from other eras, including some from World War 1, as well as other planes that have been built in recent years, but designed to resemble planes from the first half of the 20th century.

There are a total of five buildings at the museum, four hangars filled with airplanes and a house that serves as a small gift shop and where you pay your admission fee for the Golden Age Air Museum. Visits to the museum are typically self-guided (though a guided tour is available for an extra cost), with volunteer docents around the area who are available to answer any questions you might have.

There is no specific path through the museum, though I took the hangars in in clockwise order.

A hangar at the Golden Age Air Museum in Berks County, PA
There are five hangars to visit at the museum.

This brought me first to the workshop where volunteers maintain and even build airplanes. In fact, during my visit, I had a chance to see them putting the finishing touches on a French Spad-13 from World War 1.

It took 13 years to build this plane, using techniques and materials used in the early 20th century. This makes the plane new, but also old at the same time.

The plane took flight only a few months after my visit, and I’m excited to visit again to see it completed.

A vintage airplane on display at the Golden Age Air Museum in Berks County Pennsylvania
There are many great planes to see here.

The next hangar I visited had a collection of not only planes from the 1930s and 1940s, but also antique cars from the same era. I found it interesting to compare these vehicles from the same years to see how they were similar in their designs.

The next hangar was my favorite of them all because it contained several World War 1 replica planes. Like the one I mentioned above, while the Sopwith Camel biplane and a Fokker DR1 triplane aren’t old planes, they are incredibly authentic and offer a great look into the history of these aircraft.

Looking out from the rear of the Fokker DR1 triplane on display at the Golden Age Air Museum in Pennsylvania
The museum’s Fokker DR1 triplane

One plane that is authentic is the 1918 Curtiss JN4D plane, known as the Jenny. This biplane is a fascinating plane to see, but is probably best known today for being the subject of the “Inverted Jenny” stamp from 1918 that has been sold for over $2 million at auction.

Since this plane type was used primarily for training, very few survive today, and this is said to be one of six in existence that can still fly.

In this hangar, like the other display ones, there are a ton of items scattered around the space and on the walls including signs, engines, model planes, and much more. Sadly, most of these pieces lack signage explaining their history and significance, which makes it a bit harder for casual visitors to appreciate them.

Newer airplane on display at the Golden Age Air Museum in Bethel, PA
One of the newer planes on display.

One major aspect of the Golden Age Air Museum that I didn’t get to experience is their biplane rides.

On every Saturday and Sunday of operation, you can climb into a 1929 biplane for a one or two-person ride above the countryside of Berks County. While reservations are recommended, it’s even available to walk-ins, which is very cool.

If you don’t mid crowds, a great time to visit the Golden Age Air Museum is during one of their four annual events. These events offer the chance to see even more airplanes, including some very cool vintage planes.

Pink plane flying in front of a blue sky above the Golden Age Air Museum in Berks County PA
A plane flying during an event at the Golden Age Air Museum.

Just note that these events are quite popular and can be very crowded.

Overall, the Golden Age Air Museum is really a fantastic spot to visit if you love antique aircraft. What’s great is that even if you’ve visited one of the other great antique airplane museums in Pennsylvania, this museum highlights a different era from the others, making it a fresh experience.

Looking for even more to do in the area? Check out the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum, Muhammad Ali’s Fighters Heaven, and the covered bridges of Schuylkill County.


Golden Age Air Museum

Hours: Saturdays: 10am-4pm
Sundays: 11am-4pm
Open May-October

Cost: Adults: $7, Kids: $3

Website: GoldenAgeAir.org

Address: 371 Airport Rd
Bethel, PA 19507

 

See map below for other area attractions.


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