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Seattle Museum of Flight with Kids

*This blog is not affiliated with Boeing or the Museum of Flight*

For the second time in our life as a family, we spend Valentine's Day weekend at the Museum of Flight in the Seattle area.  The first time we did we went, our kids were 3, 2, and 1.  They're now 8 (Dragonfly), 7 (Skimmer), and 6 (Tadpole).  The boys, Skimmer, Tadpole, and my husband, love all sorts of aircraft, so the Museum of Flight is perfect for them.  We visited the museum on a Saturday, which was understandably busy, but it also had a lot of happy energy.


The museum has two sections on the American space program.  The first section is within the main hanger and talks about the early days of space exploration, the Space Race, and Apollo 11.  The kids were very excited to see Katherine Johnson's picture (Hidden Figures) and the astronaut suits.  There's also a room with a big moon (pictured) and all the Apollo 11 pieces and equipment.  There are lots of interactive exhibits, touch screens, and things to explore.


One of the interactive exhibits in the Apollo 11 is a command module, where you can pretend to land the space craft on the moon.  It give kids a chance to see how hard it would have been to pilot the Apollo 11.  I think the size of the windshield surprises most adults- it's tiny!

The second space section is called "The Space Gallery."  It's focused on the Space Shuttle and NASA in general.  Dragonfly (age 8) had lots of good things to say about the section.  There are interactive exhibits related to launching rockets, exploring the Space Shuttle, life in space, and more.  This hanger is away from the main museum, but it's worth seeking it out when you visit.


The first time my kids saw the Hidden Figures movie, it captured their imaginations.  There's so much to learn from it related to the Space Race, Apollo 11, NASA, women's rights, and Jim Crow.  If you enjoy learning more about these topics and amazing women, click on the colored text for more information on these products.

The main gallery has a great children's area with more ways to learn about flight.  There's a helicopter to sit in, a real airplane with working pedals to move the flaps and elevator, a miniature commercial plane for pretend play, and other interactive exhibits.  This area was VERY busy, so it was hard to spend a lot of time in it.  Still, I would recommend it for kids under 8 or so.

Skimmer's (age 7) favorite part this trip was the control tower.  There are so many interactive exhibits teaching about radio communication, landing a plane, satellite images, and more.  He loved sitting in the pretend tower and "talking" to the real tower at SEA/TAC airport.  There's also a screen with real time satellite images of airplanes taking off and landing at the airport.  The tower overlooks the backside of SEA/TAC, so it's also possible to see airplanes landing and taking off through the windows.  It's also fun to look down on the museum parking lots and see what everyone else is doing in their comings and goings.

Learning about flight is fun and easy with these engaging toys!  Click on the colored text to learn more about them.  Can you guess which one is my boys' favorite?  They love the Green Toys planes!

My favorite part of the Great Gallery (main hanger) is how visually beautiful it is!  This picture doesn't even begin to show how amazing it is with the windows everywhere, the steel beams, and the airplanes literally hanging from the sky!  The website lists it as 3 million square feet and six stories high with 40 full sized aircraft.  There are cockpits and commercial airliners to sit in, multiple levels of attractions, simulators (for a fee), and so much more!  Even as a non-airplane person, I enjoyed the aesthetic of the museum.  We also got to see an airplane that my husband helped restore in his college days.

One building on the campus is the "Red Barn," which tells the story of the early days of Boeing and their history.  Walking from the industrial, glass walled giant hanger into the warm colors of the Red Barn is a visual treat.  It's also not as popular as the larger building, so it's a break from the crowds as well.  I think it might be a good place to quietly feed a baby; although, I didn't look around the entire space to see if there was any comfortable seating.  Another good option might be the second level of the "Personal Courage Wing" by the elevators.  Throughout the museum, there are airport style seats scattered around for taking rests.

If you have airplane crazy boys like my kids, these books would be a great addition to your library.  For this list, I specifically focused on the mechanics of flight, aircraft history, and fun non-fiction books for kids.

The "Personal Courage Wing" is full of airplanes from WW2 and WW1 (second level).  There are buttons to push to hear engines start up, models to show scale, mini movie theaters all over the building, radios with real recordings from the eras, and so much more.  The kids enjoyed this section, but it wasn't as special as it would have been if we hadn't already visited another WW2 museum a day previous.  We were also feeling a bit burned out on airplanes by then.

The Museum of Flight is the largest independent air and space museum in the world, which means that it's easy to spend quite a bit of time there.  I recommend airplane fans get the museum pass, so you can visit the campus twice in one weekend or several times over the year.  We spent 3.5 hours at the museum, which was quite a lot for one day (especially for us country mice- the crowds were exhausting), and we still didn't see everything.  If you love airplanes, you WILL want to come back to the museum, so just pay the extra dollars for the year membership.  Plus, members get discounts on all the extra theaters and simulators throughout the museum.  I'm sure we'll be back again in the next few years.

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