Soar High at Seattle’s Museum of Flight

Funny, isn’t it, how we grow up someplace and only rarely visit the major attractions? Seattle’s Museum of Flight is a perfect example. The site of many a school field trip during my younger years (mostly because the majority of my schoolmates’ fathers worked at next-door Boeing), the Museum somehow managed to fade from my radar as I grew up, got married, had one son, then became immersed in this business of Life.

Two children and a relocation to Alaska later, I’ve made it a priority to show off my hometown environment to kids and husband, with a dash of nostalgia thrown in the mix.

I’ve written previously about AK Grandma’s former profession as a stewardess for Northwest Airlines, and ever since the Alaska Travelgram Show hosted author Renee Foss about a month ago, Grandma’s interest in visiting the Muse of Flight has piqued, especially when she learned the facility had on display a collection of memorabilia from the early days of “flight hostesses”. Coupled with the timing of our Spring Break visit, it seemed a natural thing to pack up AK Fam and the Grandparents into the Volvo and head toward Marginal Way in the industrial cafe of Seattle.

Revisiting the history of flight attendants in the U.S., AK Grandma takes a trip down memory lane.

Our chosen Thursday was an excellent choice for attending; few crowds, save for the usual field trip contingents, and a wealth of attention from Museum Docents, mostly retired air force, Boeing, and/or private pilots who, when informed of AK Grandma’s work history, practically stumbled over themselves to show her the exhibit.

My son and nephew walked, staring open-mouthed at  planes, big and small, hanging from the ceiling representing every era of aviation. Grandma and I zeroed in to the flight attendant exhibit, taking particular note of the uniforms worn way back then and the silly tag lines by such airlines as Braniff and National…”Fly me”??? It was a trip back, way back, for AK Grandma and we laughed a lot while browsing the displays.

For the kids and males among us, however, it was all about the planes and spacecraft, and the Museum doesn’t disappoint. Propellers, engines, rockets, it’s all here in pristine condition for the visitor, and we were glad we allowed at least three hours to see it all. My personal fav was the WWII exhibits at the north end of the Museum; especially the WAC and WASP displays. AK Dad and Grandpa enjoyed the Space Program exhibits, especially since the Museum is aiming high to have a retired Space Shuttle make a permanent landing at the facility.

Museum of Flight's Kid Zone has lots of hands-on fun for youngsters.

Kids do have their own personal space in the Kids’ Zone, a little area of hands-on stuff like a hang glider, hot air balloon, and some interactive speakers who primarily serve the field trip set. Just upstairs from the Kid Zone is a replica of a control tower, AK Kid’s favorite spot of all, where we could listen to air traffic and see how the tangled radar screen of airplanes is smoothed out to become a safe and sane method of traveling. So very cool.

Once a family has checked out the inside, more still awaits outdoors and across Marginal Way via a beautiful covered walkway. There, on the other side of the street, sit at least five airplanes for closer inspection. The first is a Concord jet and an older Air Force One. AK Kid’s eyes were like saucers as he climbed aboard these two beautiful airplanes, stating loudly to his Grandma, “I think I’ll be President for sure to ride in this.”  For an Alaskan kid whose life does indeed revolve around airplanes and flying, the Museum was an excellent expansion of the information he already knew, and a stop here would tantalize any kid’s fantasy, not to mention we adults, of soaring into the heavens.

AK Kid's preferred mode of transportation when he is President.

We visited the Museum with the help of our Seattle TourSaver book, a nifty companion to the already popular Alaska TourSaver, and boasting 80 2-for-1 deals for attractions, events, and destinations around Seattle and Victoria, B.C. We’ll be talking more about the TourSaver tomorrow on the Travelgram Show, but rest assured, if you’re thinking about visiting the greater Seattle area in 2011, this book can help you explore the best of the best in family entertainment.

For those who possess an Anchorage Museum membership, admission to the Museum of Flight is at a deeply discounted rate thanks to a cooperative agreement between both museums, and other  museums around the U.S. and Europe. Check out the Anchorage Museum’s website (above) for details and descriptions.

Oh, the best part about our visit? The very end, when our family was straggling towards the exit, still looking up and out at the nearby Boeing Field runway and at the colorful flags streaming in the wind. Two older gentleman were walking behind us, talking about some plane of another, and AK Dad happened to glance back. Clad in flight jackets and caps with the words “Tuskegee Airmen” across the front, these two were there to visit the WWII exhibit. We shook their hands, they shook AK Dad’s (he works for the VA), and we watched them proceed down the long sidewalk, walking tall.

Amazing. But that’s what happens here. Heroes and ordinary people and youngsters coming together, learning about the history of our greatest adventures and most painful moments. Beautiful.

WWI flying aces are welcome at this beautiful representation of the Great War.

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