PASO ROBLES, Calif. - American military history takes flight at the Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles.
"We try and bring a little bit of that history to life," said Peter Visel, a past president of the museum board who currently serves as its webmaster. "We want to preserve yesterday's history for tomorrow's generation."
Covering 80,000 square feet over 13 acres, the museum has spread its wings since it first opened in 1992.
"It started about 25 years ago with an idea from two guys with two airplanes and said let's build a museum for Paso Robles," said Visel.
Now, nearly a quarter century later, the museum is home to 32 aircraft and much more.
"The planes are from World War II, the Korean War and even some from modern days, whether it's Army, Navy, Air Force, and not just U.S."
Inside the sprawling complex, there are countless artifacts, some dating as far back as the Civil War.
"We have people that come from all over the world and sometimes with them, they bring a souvenir that was a personal souvenir of their own, and they want to find a place for it," said Visel.
The museum offers visitors a little bit of everything, from uniforms to pictures, missiles to munitions, weapons to vehicles, all of which neatly displayed. Many of planes and vehicles have been meticulously restored by dedicated volunteers.
"They take great detail to record and detail a lot things and some of them are literally like they were when they came off the production line," said Visel.
One of the highlights of the museum is a flight simulator which allows visitors to the opportunity to experience what it's like to fly an aircraft.
"You can actually fly 35 different airplanes, everything from a prop taildragger to some of the current Russian airplanes, F-15's, F-14's, you can fly an A-4, you can fly a F4U, whatever your tastes," said Visel.
Beside a vast collection of military artifacts, the museum also includes the adjacent Woodland Auto Display.
"We have different kinds of cars, motorcycles, vehicles, race cars to domestic cars," said docent Dean Buckley.
The multi-million dollar collection is spectacular and likely to send the pulse of auto fans racing.
"They're in awe because it keeps going," said Buckley. "We just added a new wing and they're just in awe in what the condition the cars are and how many are on display and the value of them."
Back over at the Warbirds Museum, visitors will experience a different era and likely come to better appreciate the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served in the armed forces.
"The mission of the museum is to preserve history, preserve our past, preserve a lot of military history," said Visel. "We try to not to glorify military, but to remember that there a price paid for the freedoms that we have today."
The Estrella Warbirds Museum and Woodland Auto Display is open Thursday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students with ID card, veterans and seniors over 60 years old, $5 for children 6-12 years old, kids under 5 years old are free, as are current active duty military members with ID.
There is also a library the public can utilize and a gift shop with an impressive collection of keepsakes.
For more information visit: www.ewarbirds.org