When I was a kid, we loved driving by Orlando Executive Airport near downtown. My sister and I “claimed” planes as we saw them flying in – “That’s my plane!” “No! I saw it first! It’s my plane!” The area caught my attention again a few years back when a fighter jet (an F-4 Phantom, to be exact) was installed just off the 408 at Crystal Lake in Col. Joe Kittinger Park. What a sight! With the installation of the plane and having a toddler, I knew I needed to take Graham. Of course he loved it! This park is featured on our Orlando Park Crawl, so check that out if you haven’t already downloaded your free copy!
About Colonel Kittinger
In case you’re not familiar with the name, Colonel Kittinger was a pilot in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. According to his website, he used to bike to the current site of the park when he was in elementary school and dream of being a pilot. The plane that was installed at the park is not a replica – it’s the actual plane that he flew during the Vietnam War. I love the mark that it makes on the city as you drive west on the 408. It’s a wonderful memorial to all Vietnam Veterans, including the many who fought and died from Orlando.
We love seeing the jet, as well as the small playground, but the thing I think is the coolest about this park is that there’s a pavilion with picnic tables and speakers that play the actual air traffic control transmissions to and from the aircraft that are arriving or departing while you’re at the park. If you’ve got a future aviator on your hands (or if you’re just a huge fan yourself!) you definitely need to pack a lunch and listen to the transmissions for a while.
Kittinger Park is located at 305 S. Crystal Lake Drive Orlando, FL 32803. If you just add the name of the park to your GPS you’ll likely be taken to the wrong place because of where the airport offices are. So make sure you enter the actual address.
- There is very little shade at the park, so make sure you pack sunscreen.
- Lake Underhill is on one side of the park and there is no fence. Graham came very close to going swimming when we visited, so keep that in mind.
- If you’re having a great time but the park gets too sunny, check out nearby Langford and Dickson Azalea parks. They’re nice and shady!