If you ask your kids who the first person was to walk on the moon, and they say Gru, well, we’ve got just the historical exhibit to set them straight. Shove aside, Gru and Vector, Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission exhibit is making its only orbit to the West Coast this summer at The Museum of Flight. Scroll down for the moon-tastic deets!
What You’ll Encounter
This stellar, kid-friendly, Smithsonian exhibit, commemorating the 50th anniversary (on July 20th) of the first ever moon walk, gives your space-savvy littles a glimpse into what it took to hit this massive milestone. It may sound like something for the history buffs out there, but Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission is chock-full of fascinating things for your little dwarf planets to peruse. Get an up close and personal look at 20 one-of-a-kind artifacts from the Apollo moon landing program that are sure to wow your inquisitive shooting stars. From the actual Apollo 11 command module that traveled to the moon, to jet engines and even Buzz Aldrin’s gloves and space helmet, you and your little dippers will get a first-hand look at what it was like to land on the moon in 1969.
Start Your Engines
As you navigate your way through the exhibit, be sure to check out the Lunar Roving Vehicle, the collection of space suits, and the authentic jet engines, one of which was recovered from the ocean after the Apollo 12 and 16 moon missions! Have your celestial cuties get to know their heroes, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin as you walk through the intricacies of the astronauts’ journey into space and their extraordinary plop down on the moon.
One (More) Small Step
Then, finish it off with a bang by seeing the piece de resistance, the real-life Apollo 11 command Module, Columbia, that brought the astronauts into lunar orbit and enabled the first humans to walk on the moon. It is really something for your diminutive deep-space devotees to behold! And, don’t forget to let your little lunar lovers take the virtual tour of the inside of this famous spacecraft. Use the nearby computers to navigate the interior and the exterior of the module to see what it must have felt like to be a part of this giant leap for mankind!
Space to Play
After you have oohed and aahed your way through your walk in Destination Moon, if the kiddos have become little red planets and are on the verge of imploding, don’t miss out on the newly revamped kid’s zone, Tranquility Base. It still has a few of the tried and true favorites from the previous kiddo play area, but has also been completely revamped to mirror the new exhibit. Play around in the space module replica, construct a moon map, create your own mission patch, and make calls from mission control (Houston, there are no problems here!). The perfect place for your pint-sized cosmic cadets to get the ants out of their space pants!
But Don’t Stop There…
Explore the whole Museum of Flight while you are at it. There’s so much to see and do, you can spend hours there surrounded by all things aviation. Keep reading for your guide on how best to spend the day touring the rest of the Museum with your minuscule co-pilots!
Where to Takeoff
A great starting point to the rest of this behemoth museum would be the Great Gallery, right outside of the Destination Moon exhibit. It’s filled to the brim with full size aircraft, everything from the first archaic stabs at air flight to jets, prop jobs, and ‘copters. Pretty much a dream for itty bitty Earharts and Lindberghs. There is plenty of room for the kiddos to wander (and strollers to stroll) and a few airplanes (including a fighter jet) are open to climb inside! So, if you have an aspiring Maverick or Goose on your hands, you’ll want to hit it up. For an additional fee, there is a 360 degree air combat flight simulator ride and a 4D-X simulator ride. Both of these attractions are geared toward older kids and more seasoned pilots in training who want to give flight sensation a whirl!
Cleared for Takeoff
After a go-around in the Gallery or the new Tranquility Base kids’ zone, head up to the observation level Tower for a history on flight and wing anatomy. And, of more interest to the young guns, check out the hands-on stations where you can pretend to be an air traffic controller (Standby, over!). The Tower also gives you an exciting view of the Boeing runway where you and your enthusiastic wee gliders can watch planes takeoff and land. (Psst…Mom and Dad, on a clear day, you get a huge view of Mt. Rainier from here, too!)
I Need My Space
What would a trip to The Museum of Flight be without some space ships, right?! It might be safe to assume there is at least one Star Wars fan in the fam, so high tail your little stormtroopers over the Skybridge (you might even catch some Star Wars music as you cross!) to the West Campus’ Space Gallery where you’ll find a full-scale mockup of a NASA space shuttle that has even been used for actual astronaut training! In this area you will also find all sorts of educational sections to answer all the questions your small-scale rocketeers throw at you. How long does it take to get to Mars? Well, you can find out here (spoiler alert, it’s 6.6 months). How do astronauts go to the bathroom? This, too, you will discover in (quite astonishingly) great detail. What do they eat in space? Yep, this exhibit has you covered. Your little ones will come home with answers to some of the most pertinent questions universe-minded minions have come up with to date.
You May Now Move About the Cabin
Connected to the Space Gallery, you won’t want to miss the Aviation Pavilion, a fave among the small set. This massive area houses 19 commercial and military planes for the shorties to marvel at, with a handful that they can go inside! This includes the first jet Air Force One (used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon), as well as a couple of huge commercial planes and the super fast Concorde. Check out the cockpits to show your bedazzled bambinos the impressive amount of buttons and controls the pilots have to know!
Good to know: Under the big commercial planes there is another children’s play area. Set up like an airport gate and airplane, the minis can pretend to check you in, load your luggage, and take you to your seat, in First Class, of course! Bon voyage!
Fill Your Tray Tables
Planning a visit around lunchtime? Hit up the Wings Café, in the main building, where you can refuel the troops if they seem to be approaching meltdown speed. There is a kid’s menu as well as lots of goodies for adults to nosh on as well. And loads better than airplane food! Also, there are a few other galleries to explore (World War II Gallery and the Boeing Red Barn) around the Café if you want to wander a bit more. These galleries have a few hands-on activities for your speed demons, but are more adult-focused. However, if you are looking for a saunter to wind down your co-pilots after lunch, this might be the ticket.
The Skybridge and the Aviation Pavilion are both covered, but open air. Bring along your jackets on a cold day if you want to spend a bit of time in there. It can get chilly!
What’s on the Horizon
The Museum Of Flight has enough activities every month to fill a cargo plane! They host Weekend Family Workshops on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., as well as numerous other programs and events. Click here for their full activities calendar.
Psst..If you want to save a buck or two…on the first Thursday of each month, the Museum stays open late and admission is free from 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
The Museum of Flight
9404 E. Marginal Way
Seattle, WA 98108
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 exhibit runs now through Sept. 2, 2019
Admission: $25/Adults; $21/Seniors; $16/Youth (5-17); 4 & under Free. $10 extra per person to visit the Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 exhibit. Click here to reserve your time.
—Alaina Weimer (all photos courtesy of the author)