You may be wondering what on earth is special about Oshkosh, Wisconsin... I mean, it doesn't quite have the same appeal as New York or San Francisco... or maybe it does. Depends on your interests.
Sounds pretty rural and out of the way for international travelers.
That’s what you’re thinking.
I can tell.
I'm going to say just one word....
Americans may recognize the name from children's clothes and farmer's overalls.
The town is on a pretty little lake, Lake Winnebago, which is a nice place to vacation.
But for one week of the year, the last week of July...
Talk to any pilot, or anyone who likes airplanes, and they will have been to... or want to go to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture in Oshkosh.
It is billed as "The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration". A billing that we think is justified.
There are airshows that feature bigger airplanes...
...and more military displays...
but for shear numbers of airplanes, EAA AirVenture is the biggest.
The little airport here becomes the busiest airport in the world on the days of the show.
Planes fly in from all over the country.
Most are small planes.... both new and old. See those Piper J-3 Cubs up there... a whole see of yellow? If you love airplanes, I gotta tell you it was a hoot to see them all fly in at once.
People who have restored vintage aircraft bring their planes to share and show them off.
Getting some of these old aircraft to Oshkosh can be quite an adventure all by itself. We know this first hand as we have just provided "ground support" for a newly restored 1939 Piper J-3 Cub. (Not one of those above... that was a later year. But you can read our Cub to Oshkosh story.)
The older planes like this don't get you there fast. The Cub flies at about 70 miles per hour, so it can take days to get planes like this to the AirVenture...
It took us six days to get the Cub from California to Wisconsin.... and we had good weather.
The gathering features all kinds of aircraft.
There are rare planes,
old military planes,
experimental planes and
all kinds of homebuilt planes.
Just inside the main gates, there is a central plaza called AeroShell Square where new and exciting planes are displayed. This is where you will see bigger aircraft.
There is a "fly market" (not a flea market!) that sells all kinds of things related to aircraft... from parts to t-shirts and hats.
If you want to visit Oshkosh during the AirVenture, it takes some planning. It happens the last week of July every year.
Hotels fill up nearly a year in advance.
The EAA maintains a website that can help find hotels at the last minute, but they will usually be up to an hour drive from the airfield.
There is camping at the AirVenture site. Campgrounds are available for RVs and tents. At Camp Scholler, maintained by the EAA, it's first come, first served.
There are a few private campgrounds near the airfield, but these tend to be reserved far in advance just like the hotels.
Don't give up though, we have managed to find reservations just before the airshow on a couple of occasions.
There is plenty of parking. The entire town gears up for this one week. Traffic patterns are changed, and people rent out their homes.
The crowds are huge, but never overwhelming. Everyone is friendly and loves to talk about planes and flying, so it's fun to be a part of it.
Bring plenty of sun screen.... it can be hot and humid.
But bring rain gear too, just in case there is one of those mid-western summer thunderstorms.
If you don't like airplanes, there is no reason to visit Oshkosh the last week of July, but if you DO like airplanes... there is no better place to be.