Fantasy of Flight Part 2: A Day in a Wonderland of Imagination in Polk City, Florida

Lisa Fritscher September 16, 2012 No Comments

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Fantasy of Flight Mockup Aircraft Carrier

The mockup of an aircraft carrier was truly impressive.

In Fantasy of Flight: Let Your Imagination Soar, I talked about the intangible qualities that make the attraction a unique playground of wonder for all ages. But how does it all work? What specific activities and exhibits does Kermit Weeks use to draw guests into his vision for transcending our limitations and reaching for our dreams? Dad and I recently spent a day absorbing all that Fantasy of Flight has to offer. Here is an in-depth look at how we structured our time.

Restoration Tour

Although most people begin their day with the immersive exhibit, we decided to do things a bit differently. The restoration tours are only offered on a limited schedule, and rain threatened that afternoon. So after purchasing our tickets, we headed back outside to catch the trolley to the restoration hangar across the street.

Fantasy of Flight Plane Restoration

Seeing the planes in various stages of restoration was fascinating!

Restoration is a fact of life at Fantasy of Flight, where Mr. Weeks continues to grow his collection. On the restoration tour, we had nearly unparalleled access to the planes that are currently awaiting or undergoing restoration. A very friendly yet unobtrusive technician was on hand, ready to share his vast knowledge of aircraft history and restoration procedures. The trolley runs every few minutes, allowing guests to stay as long as they like.

Historic Immersion

Back at the main building, we were ready to begin our adventure, so we headed for the immersive historical exhibit. We expected a cute look at the history of aviation. What we found was the most jaw-dropping recreation we have ever seen.

Fantasy of Flight Historic Immersion

Slow down and absorb the details in Early Flight.

Our experience began with a dark and slightly disorienting walk, although the path was lit for safety. As we passed a highly realistic looking mannequin soldier, we discovered that we were inside an actual cabin section of a late-1940s Douglas DC-6.

From there, we paused to experience the wind in our hair as we took in a panoramic film of various flight footage before emerging on the well-lit boardwalk of the Early Flight area. If you have ever been to Walt Disney World’s Epcot, this room reminded me so much of the now-closed World of Motion attraction. But we didn’t linger long, as the battlefields of World War I beckoned. We stood open-mouthed, taking in the sights, sounds and even smells of the aerial dogfight before us. As we rounded the next corner, we found ourselves in a small trench bunker.

Fantasy of Flight Authentic B-17

Entering an authentic B-17 Flying Fortress took our breath away!

World War I gave way to World War II as we entered a base camp training center, where the military commander gave us our orders on an old film projector. After receiving our mission, we exited the building to a battlefield, the centerpiece of which was an authentic B-17 Flying Fortress. We clambered up the stairs, ducking low as we listened to the conversations of the pilot, co-pilot and navigator, and watched the bombs drop beneath us. After we exited the plane, we took a few minutes to take in the details of the battlefield before emerging into the Fantasy of Flight hangars.

Hangars

Fantasy of Flight Hangar

The hangars are packed with unique vintage aircraft.

There are actually two hangars at Fantasy of Flight, both full but not overflowing with a dazzling array of vintage aircraft. Most of the planes are labeled with highly entertaining and informational signs that not only describe the plane, but also share some of Mr. Weeks’ favorite memories with that craft. An audio tour containing more details is available for $4.95 as of 2012. Each hangar has a balcony running virtually its full length, providing a wonderful bird’s eye view of the aircraft.

Don’t miss the small but fascinating exhibits on the Tuskegee Airmen and the World War II Women Airforce Service Pilots. Tucked into corners of the hangars, the exhibits could be overlooked, but they are both well worth seeking out.

Just off the hangars is the Fun With Flight room. Here, kids and adults alike have the opportunity to try out simulators for activities ranging from hot air balloon piloting to hand gliding. Other features include a paper airplane course and a variety of science exhibits. We were particularly struck by the fact that not only was everything included in the admission fee, but it was immaculately clean and scrupulously well maintained, despite the fact that there was not a single employee in sight.

Compass Rose Diner

Fantasy of Flight Compass Rose Diner

The Compass Rose Diner was highly themed and the food was excellent!

At lunchtime, we headed to the Compass Rose Diner. Themed as an upscale yet comfortable Art Deco eatery, the Compass Rose boasts terrazzo floors, sweeping windows and curved architectural lines. Be sure to look up at the impressive murals! The menu offers a modern twist on classics ranging from burgers to salads. A variety of healthy alternatives are available. The prices were surprisingly reasonable, the service was quick and extremely friendly, the portions were large, and the food was excellent.

Backlot Tram Tour

Fantasy of Flight Backstage Tour

The Backstage Tour presenters were highly engaging and extremely knowledgeable.

The Backlot Tram Tour is offered several times throughout the day. We thought we had missed the last one when we saw a tram depart, but another one quickly queued up to load passengers. At least one more tram loaded after ours, so it appears that Fantasy of Flight runs as many trams as necessary to accommodate all guests, at least for the last tour of the day.

The tram provides access to the backstage areas (except the restoration hangar and woodshop/machine shop, accessible on separate tours) that are normally off-limits to guests. We stepped off the tram at multiple stops for guided presentations that took us inside the work required to keep such a massive collection in top shape. As was true throughout the day, the tram drivers and presenters were energetic and enthusiastic, easily keeping the attention of guests with widely differing levels of knowledge and interest in aviation.

We did not have time to catch the Woodshop and Machine Shop tour, nor to try our hand at the Wing WalkAir ropes course and zip line. But our day was so packed with interesting sights, sounds and adventures that we did not feel like we missed anything. We hope to visit again soon, and perhaps even spring for a flight of our own. The repeatability of the attraction is phenomenal, and we are considering purchasing annual passes.

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Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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