By Heather Lataille
Imagine a circus that is easy to get to, ample free parking, and everyone has the same ringside view. The Flying Circus Aerodrome and Air Show in Bealton, VA is just such a place. It offers a wonderful day of family fun every Sunday from May through October. It’s a relaxing 90 minute car ride away going west on 66 from the District line (use “5114 Ritchie Road” in the GPS). The show starts at 2:20pm, lasts about 90 minutes, and you won’t want miss any part of it.
On our arrival just after the start of the show, we were greeted by a boy offering to guide us to the appropriate ticket window. Tickets cost $15/adult, $7.00 /child aged 5-12, and children 5 & under are free. As we rolled down the window, the car was filled with the smell of pasture. We were quickly distracted by the first plane to take off. We - mom, dad, big brother (4) and little brother (1 ½) - hurried to gather our things for the short walk to the airfield: the stroller; plenty of water; hats; sunglasses; sunscreen; camera; phones; chairs; and snacks. Bring cash for Fifi’s Cafe if you want to re-live the Hawaiian honeymoon with shave ice.
We moved quickly to the main event. The spectators lined chairs along the wooden cow fence that divided them from the airfield. The experienced ones had umbrellas to shade them from the summer sun. Others occupied the wooden bleachers provided by the Circus. Several biplanes parked on the field about the size of two football fields. Others had their engines on and propellers spinning.
The master of ceremonies fit the part. At times I felt that I was living in the Midwest in the 1950s watching pilots that were my neighbors. This show was authentic, and unlike other circuses I’ve been to, I didn’t feel like I ever needed to cover my children’s eyes or ears. The depth of information made the show feel like a visit to a museum but was as enjoyable as a day at a theme park
With each act, there was something new. A parachutist opened the show as we all sang the national anthem. My children loved watching the biplanes compete to see which of them could pop more balloons with their propellers. Acrobatic flying was my favorite part of the show and Scott Francis is definitely as good or better on the stick than the “Blue Angels.”
On the day we went, it was also the first day of a hot air balloon festival, which was an added bonus. It was completely awesome to watch the individual balloon teams inflate their balloons and take off. The scene was out of the “Wizard of Oz” and made me feel like a kid again. During the show, the M.C. passed off the mic to one of the captains of the teams and we learned the history of hot air ballooning and how it works.
Don’t miss the chance to meet all of the pilots after the show. Ask them questions they have probably heard a million times because you don’t know the answers. It feels so much better than asking Google, and think of the example you are giving your kids.
The miniature plane ride (picture a tractor pulling child-sized bi-planes) only costs $1.00 and is great for younger children. Before you leave, make sure to climb on the gigantic mound of turned earth on the south side of the airfield. We didn’t purchase tickets for the individual plane rides ($50-$140) before or after the show, but we definitely will plan to take the kids to do that when they are older.
Children 5 and up will love this show. If you want to make this trip even more memorable, check out a few aviation-themed books from the library a couple weeks before you plan to go. Both of these books: “Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic” and “To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers” fit the theme. You could also download Little Mammoth Media’s “The Big Air Show” to get a preview of what lies ahead. The Flying Circus in Bealton, Virginia allows you to get closer to the action than many of the larger shows, and is an outing you and your family are not going to forget.
The Flying Circus Aerodrome and Air Show
Every Sunday from May- October
About the Author: Heather Lataille is training to be a Montessori Guide for children from birth to 3. She runs Planes Child Care from her home in Falls Church
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