We’re very pleased to have Lora Shinn of the Washington-based Cascadia Kids travel blog introduce us to the Seattle Museum of Flight.
With more than 150 aircraft, The Seattle Museum of Flight is one of the largest air and space museums in the world. Located on Boeing Field, not far from where real planes are built in Renton, Washington, the Museum takes transportation-obsessed kids and their grown-ups over the moon and back again.
Even if you’re not particularly enchanted by transportation or planes (like me), the museum’s exhibits are so well presented that it’s hard not to crush over candy-red fighters and a quirky car-plane hybrid.
In the six-story-tall, glass-roofed Great Gallery, dozens of full-size biplanes, jet fighters and prop planes hang from the ceiling and seem to be flying indoors. More aircraft are scattered across the bottom floor. The “Gossamer Albatross” is a personal favorite. This is a human-powered plane that once crossed the English Channel.
Play Frustrated Passenger and Grouchy Stewardess (well, it’s more dramatic that way) in the interior of the passenger airliner, conduct landings and takeoffs from the replica flight tower and battle fierce enemies (like bedtime) in the sound-equipped fighter plane.
The Kids’ Flight Zone offers a kid-operated hot-air balloon basket and several cockpits to sit in; there are also hands-on models to explain how engines work. The Red Barn offers historical photos, replica manufacturing scenes and vintage tools used to create aircraft. I’m not sure whether or not it will impress your children; my son (who loves history) thinks it’s pretty neat. The “Personal Courage” wing focuses on WWI and WWII aircraft and stories.
In the “Space: The New Frontier” exhibit, check out the moon buggy and board a spaceship, where you’ll find out how astronauts eat, sleep… and use the bathroom. Kids in particular love that info, no surprise there.
If you still have energy to spare, go on a tour of the retired Concorde and Air Force One, on the Airpark Field. The museum itself has been around since 1965, but they’re always adding exhibits and planes, so when you return, you’ll find new ways to soar.
Eating: Wings Café is on-site. It’s OK. Outside of the café, it’s sort of a no-man’s land as far as dining goes; this is an industrial area of town. But there’s a very funky drive-through Starbucks housed in a shipping container (you read that right). If you like retro-era eats, check out Randy’s Restaurant. It’s sort of like Denny’s meets Boeing, with vintage plane paraphernalia on the walls, grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu, and retired Boeing engineers in the seats. I love this place, but don’t go expecting gourmet.
Photo Credits: L. Shinn
Lora Shinn is a professional freelance writer, mom and collector of old dusty things. She was a fourth grade spelling champion but now needs to double-check words in online dictionaries. In her free time (which she never has enough of), she runs the site Cascadia Kids, focusing on the best of family travel in Washington, Oregon and BC.
Have you been to a great aviation or transportation museum? Share your comments below.