Flying is so much a part of Alaska folklore that one can hardly visit and not be caught up in the legends and individuals who blazed a trail across the skies in the name of Last Frontier transportation and industry. While flying in a commercial sense today means merely boarding a glorified bus and jetting across the country or across an ocean in a matter of hours, Alaska’s heartfelt connection to flying was much less glamerous. And more dangerous. For more than 100 years, Alaska has been abuzz with small plane pilots, more than any other state in the nation, providing a valuable service to residents and guests, and we love to show our stuff. Making a trip to Alaska? Connect the kids to a few 49th state museums and attractions that celebrate flying in the Last Frontier; you can’t make up some of the stories they’ll hear.
A great place to begin is right near the flightline of Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport and adjacent Lake Hood, the busiest seaplane port in the world. Two worthwhile attractions sit next to each other, and both feature unique versions of Alaska aviation, past and present.
The Alaska Aviation Musuem is located at 4721 Aircraft Drive, and is easy to find for its big Alaska Airlines Combi (passenger/cargo) jet sitting out front. Featuring three hangars of aircraft (including a restored Japanese Zero), photographs, movies, and a series of flight simulators great of older kids, the museum works closely with other aviation-related entities in the state, and many folks come here simply to swap yarns with other pilots. While many visitors stay indoors, the savvy museum visitor will venture outside to see the latest static displays up close, and take a swing through the restoration hangar, where guys in greasy flight suits or military ball caps welcome the opportunity to teach kids a thing or two about flying in the old days. Open year-round, but 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily during the summer. Take advantage of the lobby area to bring a picnic lunch and take a break underneath an authentic Alaska “Bush” plane. It’s pretty cool. 907-248-5325. Admission is $10/adults, $8/seniors/active duty military, and $6/kids 5-12. Under five is free!
Right next door is longtime Alaska flightseeing company Rust’s Flying Service. A truly Alaskan-owned and operated outfit, Rust’s and their sister company, K2 Aviation, have been ferrying visitors, fishermen, and supplies to all corners of southcentral and Interior Alaska for 50 years. AK Kid and I recently took advantage of Rust’s Anchorage Safari tour, a 30-minute spin around the Anchorage Bowl, Cook Inlet, and parts of Turnagain Arm, and an excellent introduction to flightseeing for children. With the advantage of floatplane take-off and landing, combined with lower-elevation flying to spot moose, bears, and the occasional RV along the Seward Highway, Rust’s has figured out how to provide a flightseeing experience at an affordable cost (around $100/pp). Short on time? This is a perfect beginning or end-adventure for your Alaska family vacation. Call Rust’s toll-free at 800-544-2299, or reach them locally at 907-243-1595.
Check out this video of a floatplane take-off during our trip – it’s pretty cool, and a lot smoother than a gravel airstrip!
A definite dynamic-duo of flying wild Alaska, the flight and museum trip can be completed in an easy afternoon of sightseeing, perfect for the family who has a bit of time to kill before a flight home, or as a way to begin the vacation with a definite bang. And why not? Hitting the tarmac running is definitely the Alaska way!
For more interesting flight-related museums and attractions, visit our previous posts:
AKontheGO intern Bella visits Arctic Flight at the Anchorage Museum
K2 Aviation for Father’s Day with Good Morning Alaska
Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks