Kids have a hard time keeping their feet on the ground. If it were up to them, everyone would be flying around just like their favorite superhero. It’s no wonder that airplanes and just about everything that flies amazes our kiddos. If you’ve got a plane crazy kid, then they’re sure to love a trip to any of these great viewing platforms and aerospace museums where they can let their imaginations soar like the planes, jets, and gliders above their heads.
If it’s jumbo jets you seek, you have at least three great choices around LAX. For landings, you can’t do much better than the triangular park across from the In ‘n’ Out Burger in Westchester (9149 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Westchester, Ca). Grab a Double Double and a milkshake and then have a picnic beneath the planes—expect a thrilling roar overhead as often as every 10 minutes.
Rather watch takeoffs? Make your way to the oceanfront views of Vista Del Mar Park (across from Dockweiler State Beach) and sit back to watch the planes zoom out over the bright blue Pacific.
And if you’re willing to brave terminal traffic (and parking fees!) on the weekend, you can even hit the LAX Observation Deck at the landmark Theme Building (201 World Way, Los Angeles, Ca), which reopened in 2010 after being closed to the public following 9/11. The Observation Deck, which is equipped with benches and free telescopes, offers a 360-degree view of the airport. The Observation Deck is open Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
Prefer smaller aircraft, or just want to get really close to the tarmac? Don’t miss the Santa Monica Airport Viewing Platform (3223 Donald Douglas Loop South, Santa Monica, Ca). Complete with bleacher seats and a PA system that broadcasts radio traffic from the control tower, the Viewing Platform is a great contained little patio with a expansive view of the Santa Monica Airport runways. There’s also a public “sky-deck” on the other side of the airport administration building. And while you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out the immaculate, uncrowded and well-equipped playground at Airport Park (3201 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, Ca).
AEROSPACE MUSEUMS & EXHIBITS
LAX Flight Path Learning Center
Learn about the history of the Los Angeles airport and the history of aviation in general from the educational displays at this casual, straightforward historical museum. See model airplanes, crew uniforms and insignia, and discover how LAX grew from a minor regional airport to be one of the busiest and most important international airports in the world. Best of all, the picture window at the back of the museum offers a view of the tarmac and you can listen to air-traffic control transmissions over the loudspeaker as the planes come and go!
6661 West Imperial Highway
Los Angeles, Ca 90045
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00am – 3:00pm
Santa Monica Museum of Flying
Home to a significant collection of old planes and Douglas Aircraft memorabilia, this museum makes itself kid-friendly with such climbable, playable delights as a K-3 mini flight simulator, a interactive T-33 cockpit trainer and a Convair 240 nose.
3100 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, Ca 90405
Hours: Friday through Sunday, 10:00am – 5:00pm
Cost: $10 for adults, $6 for children, Free for kids two and under.
Western Museum of Flight
Located near Zamperini Field in Torrance, the Western Museum of Flight hosts a great collection of historic planes, drones, fighter jets and astronaut re-entry vehicles, as well as more than 300 model airplanes.
3315 Airport Drive, Red Baron #3
Torrance, Ca 90505
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00am – 3:00pm
Cost: $5, Free for kids under 12
OTHER “FLYING” ATTRACTIONS
The Air and Space Gallery at the California Science Center features such thrills as an LAPD police helicopter (retired) and a glider piloted by Orville and Wilbur Wright.
If your kid really just wants to sit in a cockpit, pull on a yoke and fiddle with some gauges and levers, don’t miss the sweet old Piper Cub on the lobby level of the Zimmer Children’s Museum. (Then go downstairs to play on a real ambulance!)
— Jennifer Arrow