The Seattle area has a rich aviation history, captured and commemorated by a variety of local flight museums just waiting for you to explore. If you’ve got a little aviation aficionado, it’s time to stow your carry-ons in the overhead compartment, fasten your seat belt, and prepare to take-off on a fun-filled adventure. Read on to find out how to get your high-flying action started.

Museum of Flight

photo: Kelley U. via Yelp

The Museum of Flight
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, The Museum of Flight is home to an extensive collection of more than 160 airplanes and spacecraft, from the first fighter plane to Boeing’s newest plane, the 787 Dreamliner. You can easily spend an entire day exploring one of the world’s largest air and space museums and the grandeur of its Great Gallery and many displays.

Must-See Exhibits
Kids Flight Zone
The Kids Flight Zone is a space exclusively designed for amateur aviators. Pairing fun with education, kids learn flight concepts and principles through hands-on experiences and activities. From sitting in the cockpit of model airplanes to practicing their piloting skills in a hang-glider simulator, kids can let their imaginations soar. Preschool-aged pilots can taxi by a mini-air traffic control tower with plush airplane toys.

Spaceflight Academy
Enter the Spaceflight Academy and explore the first 50 years of spaceflight through interactive displays detailing the history of the shuttle program. The museum’s newest permanent exhibit (opened in Nov. 2014) teaches what it takes to leave our planet and set out into the solar system; an out-of-this-world exhibit for adventurers who dream of exploring beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Girl in plane

photo: Museum of Flight

Airpark
Your chances of being a passenger on Air Force One or the retired Concorde, are probably pretty slim, but at the Airpark, you can climb aboard these one-of-a-kind aircraft and explore. The Airpark re-opens this month in its new location with the 787 Dreamliner joining perennial favorites. The 787 on display was one of the first planes off the production line and traveled around the world as part of the Boeing’s Dream tour. The Airpark is the only place in the world with a 787 on exhibit.

Air Force One

photo: Paul E. via Yelp

Mark Your Calendars
The Museum’s events calendar is full of presentations, speakers, and events from model airplane shows to presentations celebrating women in aviation. The museum also sponsors themed family workshops on Saturdays and Sundays that align with special events.

DadAndBoySW

photo: Museum of Flight

9404 E. Marginal Way South
Seattle, Wa 98108
206-764-5700
Online: museumofflight.org

Hours: Sun.-Sat., 10 a.m.–5 p.m; first Thursday nights of the month Free, 5 p.m.–9 p.m.
Cost: $20/adults, $17/seniors and active Military, $12/youth (5-17), 4 & under Free

Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour
The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is dedicated to aviation education and home to Boeing’s Everett factory tour. Its main gallery is filled with interactive zones to educate and engage young learners in all things flight-related.

Future of Flight

photo: Neal E. via Yelp

Must-See Exhibits
Airplane Design
Start at the airplane design station where you can learn about basic flight concepts and then put your knowledge into action and design your own airplane. Stop by the gift shop and have them print a free copy for you to take home or have the design printed on a t-shirt for a personalized souvenir.

The Family Zone: How Planes Are Made
Young aviators can soar to new heights in the Family Zone, a kid-friendly exhibit teaching about aircraft manufacturing and assembly. Kids can build a simple aircraft model or use LEGO building pieces to create their own flying machines. A mini-sized airport and airplanes allow future pilots to practice their flight skills. Coloring and reading activities are available for younger visitors.

Boeing Chris Hadfield

photo: Future of Flight

The Boeing Factory Tour
A highlight of the Future of Flight experience is the Boeing Tour, but children must be at least four feet tall to take the 90-minute tour. This informative tour, interspersed with fascinating aviation facts, provides an inside look at the production lines of 747, 777, and 787 jets assembled at the Everett plant before they take to the skies. Good to know: Boeing tours leave on the hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tickets are in high demand during summer months, so reserve your tickets ahead of time.

Mark Your Calendars
Come on a Saturday or Sunday and enjoy a Weekend Family Workshop. The drop-in workshops combine creativity and artistic expression with the science of aviation. Every visitor leaves with something they made (like a personally designed paper airplane). Workshops are free with admission. The 90-minute workshops are scheduled for every Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Weekend Family Workshop 2

photo: Future of Flight

8415 Paine Field Blvd
Mukilteo, Wa 98275
425-438-8100
Online: futureofflight.org

Hours: Daily, 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day & New Year’s Day
Peak Season Cost: $18-$20/adults, $12-$15/youth (15 & under), $10/Gallery only
Value Season Cost: $16-18/adults, $9-10/youth (15 & under), $10/Gallery only

Flying Heritage Collection
The Flying Heritage Collection is not your average museum, but a collection of vintage aircraft and artifacts with an emphasis on combat planes from WWII. The collection grew from Paul G. Allen’s passion for aviation and history and a desire to authentically preserve and restore these aircraft and artifacts and share with the public.

Flying Heritage Collection

photo: Flying Heritage Collection

Must-See Exhibit
Unique to other museums, the aircraft are not intended to spend their days sitting in a museum display, but destined to return to the skies. The Flying Heritage Collection consists of 20 aircraft and over a dozen military vehicles and artifacts, most of which operate on a regular basis for aviation enthusiasts to enjoy. The museum focuses on technological history and advancement, expressed by the stories of the historic airplanes, educational activities, and special events.

FHC

Photo: Flying Heritage Collection

Mark Your Calendars
Plan your visit when the aircraft are in the air for all to enjoy. The Flying Heritage Collection’s tank arena will be roaring and rumbling on May 25, 2015 for Tankfest Northwest, featuring their tanks in action. On July 25, 2015, the Collection’s signature event, SkyFair, will fill the skies with its distinctive fleet of zooming planes. Both celebrations include plenty of family-friendly activities and on-site food vendors. On scheduled Saturdays throughout the summer months, check out Free Fly Days where various aircraft take to the skies for flight demonstrations.

SKYFAIR FLY OVER

photo: Flying Heritage Collection

3407 108th St. S.W.
Everett, Wa 98204
425-438-8100
Online: flyingheritage.com

Hours: Mon.-Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (Memorial Day to Labor Day); Tues.-Sun. the rest of the year
Cost: $14/adults, $12/seniors (65 & older and Active Military), $10/youth (6-17), 5 & under Free

Do you have a little aviation enthusiast? Which aviation museum is your favorite? Tell us in the Comments.

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— Abbey McGee