Calling all future pilots, astronauts, math wizards and daredevils: The San Diego Air and Space Museum has awesome exhibits that will make your heart race and your spirit soar. And, parents, you’re going to like the new 2TheExtreme Math Alive exhibit that answers the age old homework question, “Why do I need to know this math anyway?” Here’s your insider’s guide to the museum and all it has to offer.

02_MA-BoardercrossPhoto credit: Math Alive

Just Opened: Math Alive 2theExtreme
Get ready to get excited about math. This high energy, hands on math-driven exhibit takes math far from sitting in a desk memorizing equations. Kids are encouraged by their bilingual robot computer animated guides to play with all the computer simulated exhibits.

As kids enter, adventure sports take them on a ride. They can hop on a real snowboard and enter into a virtual snowboard race. By playing with angles, kids try to successfully increase their accuracy and speed as they race down a video game mountain. Kids will also thrill at Ramp It Up, playing with variables that help them build the ultimate skateboard for ramp skating. No patience to wait in line for the next exhibit? Why not climb the rock wall, test your strength, and see how your arm span affects your climbing success?

Gamers will enjoy playing video games and hearing testimonials from their peers who designed the two games in Game Plan and who serve as successful models of using math in a cool way. The Curiosity Rover exhibit is an impressive display where kids test their programming and graphing skills to “drive” a model rover through a flat tabletop screen depicting Mars while they collect rock samples, searching for water on the red planet.

2theExtreme includes more than 20 engaging and interactive computerized modules that also explore math’s intriguing uses in the areas of style and design, the environment, and the entertainment industry and let kids feel the thrill of using math in its real life applications. The math concepts in the exhibit vary, but Math Alive is best suited to kiddos in grades 3-8.

Insider’s Tip: Math Alive 2theExtreme is an additional $5 to your admission ticket. But our estimation is its well-worth it for school-aged kids.

airSpaceFacebookPhoto Credit: Air and Space Museum’s Facebook page

Permanent Exhibits
There is much to see and explore in the museum’s regular collection. Upon entering the museum, you’ll discover a terrific space find: the Apollo 9 Command Module from the third manned Apollo flight in 1969. Future astronauts will want their picture taken with the module as well as a space rock, and astronaut’s space suits from this area.

Aviation fans will love seeing the huge Navy planes and helicopter that fill the sunny, central Pavilion of Flight. The museum also boasts a nice replica Spirit of St. Louis, a terrific collection of WWI and WWII planes with models in period gear “working” on the planes, and a more modern find: a Blue Angels jet.

As you walk through the exhibits, some favorite spots for kids are the planes and helicopters with steps up where kiddos can take a peak into the cockpit, and also miniature model planes just like the real thing they sit next to that serve as a cute photo op.

The Kids’ Aviation Action Hangar is a small space designed with toddlers and preschoolers in mind and has a few features that your littlest ones will enjoy. Sit in the cockpit of a mini plane, grab the controller, and feel the wind in your face. Pose for a picture on the “moon,” play with gears, space and aviation toys, or just sit and color a picture of a favorite plane.This is a good place to wind down if little ones are getting antsy.

Insider’s Tip: There are plenty of benches to take a seat and take it all in as your little one stretches his arms and runs free, pretending to be a plane in this open area.

kidshangarPhoto Credit: Chrissie O. via Yelp 

More Adventures to Have
Admission to the museum also includes entrance to the 3D/4D theatre which features interactive seats and special effects as part of their animated films, the only one of its kind in Balboa Park. For an extra fee of $8, older kids will feel the thrill as they climb into a simulator that surrounds them on all sides with realistic graphics as they roll,dive and loop through the sky. The newest simulator with six seats allows the whole family to ride the adventure together. Keep in mind, however, that riders must be at least 44-inches tall.

Don’t Miss
The annual Paper Airplane Festival takes place Sun., March 17 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Come make easy or challenging paper airplanes with volunteer Air Force personnel who get down on the kids’ level and  make you proud of your military and their leadership. Launch your favorite plane with hundreds of others outside the museum at 2 p.m. Kids admitted free with adult admission this day.

Insider’s Tips
You can score a super spot in the parking lot directly in front of the museum on most days, if you arrive before 11 a.m.

The Flight Path Grill offers family favorites on weekends and Resident Free Tuesdays and the sunny patio offers great views of planes flying into Lindberg Field.

Membership for a family of four is $96 per year and includes unlimited entrance to the museum, and discounts to the simulators, gift shop, parties,and camps.

Admission: $18/adult; $9/Kids ages 3 – 11; Free/Kids 2 and under

San Diego Air and Space Museum
2001 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, Ca 92101

Have you been to the San Diego Air and Space Museum? What’s your favorite adventure?

— Cherie Gough