It’s no secret that the older of my two boys loves airplanes and all things aviation. Ever since our first trip by air back to the U.S. from Costa Rica, he has been very much in love with flying. Whether it has been heading to Europe aboard a wide-body for the first time, or a simple hop on a CRJ, I hope his love for aviation never wanes.
Currently, he wants to be a pilot when he grows up. It is a career I hope he pursues. Pilots have always been in high demand (well…at least before the COVID-19 pandemic, that is). I’d love to see him get his wings and be able to fly with him someday. But that’s still a dream for both me and my 9-year-old.
Given his love for airplanes, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve visited a few different flight museums around the country over the past couple years. We both enjoyed the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, as well as the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, which was the first air museum we visited together. Later, we paid a visit to the Museum of Flight Seattle, which was by far his favorite. Here are three reasons why you cannot miss this premier museum experience with your aviation-obsessed kids:
It’s The Largest Private Air & Space Museum in the World
While Boeing has a nice little collection of aircraft at their own museums up in Everett, the Museum of Flight Seattle contains one of the most impressive aircraft collections in the world. I remember visiting during a family trip to Seattle back when I was thirteen, and I was enthralled then. That was even without being especially intrigued by aviation! My love for airplanes and flying was born a few years later after I had several flights under my belt.
The Museum of Flight contains many historic aircraft that you and your kids will certainly enjoy. From the restored Electra (mimicking as closely as possible Amelia Earhart’s plane) to the very first Boeing 747, and the unique WWI Caproni fighter to a preserved Concorde supersonic jet, the variety is amazing. Walking into the main gallery, you will be completely immersed in aircraft.
We arrived with two hours to spend at the museum, which isn’t nearly enough to fully enjoy the Museum of Flight Seattle. Our visit could have easily lasted all day, and we wouldn’t have seen it all.
The main museum floor contains an impressive number of aircraft, but we really enjoyed the outdoor area which contains the larger commercial aircraft. This is where you can find the City of Everett and the Concorde. One of the early 787 Dreamliners is also parked here as well. If your kids enjoy walking through aircraft, you’ll surely spend quite a while out at the airpark.
The number of aircraft to see and things to do at the Museum of Flight Seattle are truly overwhelming. It’s an awesome collection of planes.
Explore the Very First Boeing 747 and a Concorde
Parked out in the exterior section of the museum amid a bunch of other iconic aircraft is an incredible piece of history. You will not want to miss Boeing’s very first 747 aircraft, the City of Everett. She is parked here in all her glory. The 747-100 has the iconic hump, but isn’t nearly as long as the later models you may still see flying commercially. The City of Everett just turned 50 last year. Quite the milestone for the original jumbo jet!
Alongside the City of Everett are a number of other aircraft that you can walk through. I highly recommend you take a peek at all of them. Unfortunately, we were pressed for time by the time we made it outside. Our visit was hurried through the exterior section, and we didn’t get to enjoy these aircraft nearly as much as we should have.
We did prioritize the Concorde, though. It was my first time on the supersonic aircraft, as I don’t recall touring it during my previous visit to the Museum of Flight Seattle. I was struck by how small it is. I guess I should not have been surprised. Given the speed at which it flew and the premium the tickets commanded, it wasn’t for the masses. However, considering the size of the typical long-haul airliner, the Concorde is tiny! I’m sad that it was retired before I ever flew internationally.
A Riveting Exhibit on the Columbia Disaster
It was hard to pick an adjective to describe our experience at the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight Seattle. What stood out to me most was the space shuttle exhibit, including a video of the Columbia disaster. I vividly remember this incident. It happened just months after my previous visit to Seattle, when I was thirteen. The loss of the crew and shuttle was devastating, and a gut punch to the space shuttle program.
The shuttle video and exhibit are excellent. The Museum of Flight contains a full-size shuttle mock-up that was used for training, and you can walk through it. There are plenty of other great exhibits in this section of the museum. I took the opportunity during our visit to explain that we’re getting closer to commercial space flight. Obviously, given what we’d just watched, he was more aware of the inherent dangers of space flight. Hopefully this will be overcome, just like we conquered the skies over the past century, making air travel one of the safest modes of transportation.
Other Things You Shouldn’t Miss
The museum floor even includes a tower overlooking Boeing Field. This exhibit details how air traffic controllers take care of incoming and departing flights, and you can even listen to live air traffic control at the King Count Airport (Boeing Field). We caught a couple planes landing during the time we were in the tower. Boeing Field doesn’t have commercial passenger service, but it does stay fairly busy with private aircraft takeoffs and landings.
The World War II gallery is fantastic as well. We didn’t spend a long time here, and there is a lot to see. Again, you either need to plan to be here all day or really prioritize what you’d like to see during your visit. I preferred the Red Barn over the WWII gallery, though. The Boeing Company was birthed in the Red Barn, and the exhibits detail the early years of aviation.
Final Thoughts of the Museum of Flight Seattle
If you or your kids are into aviation, you cannot miss the Museum of Flight. It is a truly wonderful collection of aircraft, and easily worth an entire day during a visit to the area. I don’t recommend trying to pack in as much as we did in just a couple days. But even if you can only visit for a couple hours, it’s still worth stopping by as well. If time is limited, I would focus on the following:
- Outdoor Aviation Pavilion
- Great (Main) Galley – brief walkthrough
- Space Gallery
- Red Barn – a personal favorite
Others may disagree. There is a lot to see. Make sure you add it to your itinerary for your next trip to the Seattle area, if you haven’t already been.
Have you been to the Museum of Flight Seattle? What are your favorite parts of this amazing collection?