Most amazing aviation themed play space in North America?
May 22, 2016 8:48 AM   Subscribe

I have a nearly four year old who is mesmerized by all things aviation, plus I have a mass of airline miles and hotel points. Where to go?

My nearly four year old has been through a number of challenges this year, and absolutely loves all things aviation related (he can tell you the difference from an Emirates and British Airways plane from a mile away!) I've been traveling a lot and have more than enough air and hotel points for travel anywhere. Where would be amazing to take him for a long weekend? Thinking an age appropriate play space or air and space museum. I know there are lots of those - but needs to be somewhere he can play - not just a collection of static planes. One of his all time favorite places is the Chicago O'Hare airport kids aviation play area with the big toy plane - he can literally play there for hours.....pretending to pilot the plane as he looks out over real planes taking off.

We are San Francisco based, but anywhere in North America is fine, and the flight itself is part of the fun (he travels well so a 6 hour flight each way is ok)

It could also be a children's discovery center type place with an aviation area - the Honolulu Childrens Museum being an example.
posted by inflatablekiwi to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Kennedy Space Center has a lot of kid-friendly exhibits and a playground.
posted by chrchr at 8:57 AM on May 22, 2016

Take him to Oshkosh!
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:14 AM on May 22, 2016

I assume from your location that you've already been to the Hiller Aviation Museum locally. I haven't been in over ten years and my kid found the lectures boring, but at the end of the visit there was sitting inside the plane action.
posted by puddledork at 9:30 AM on May 22, 2016

The National Air and Space Museum is an obvious suggestion. We took a trip to DC centered around the museum and it was so much fun. I was with a 12 year old and her dad, who both loved it (the museum was her idea.) I don't recall what specific activities they have for little kids, but of course the museum has things to appeal to all age groups. They also have some family programs that might be of interest.

They have a sister museum, the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. but we didn't go to that location.

There should be a weekend's worth of hands-on activities for him in the area, plus he'll get to see so many historic planes that he's probably heard of! And now that I think about it, I think we took more than one day to cover the museum.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:33 AM on May 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

(OP, by obvious I mean uninspired, not that you should have thought of it.)
posted by Room 641-A at 9:51 AM on May 22, 2016

All good suggestions - keep them coming! Puddle dork - yip very familiar with Hiller Aviation museum - we're 15 minutes drive from it so use (possibly abuse) it regularly! I'm surprised he hasn't broken the knobs in their 747 cockpit yet.....
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:57 AM on May 22, 2016

If he's into space stuff too you can now walk through a space shuttle at Johnson Space Center in Houston. It's also stacked on top of an airplane, so he might find that cool. Ellington Air Force Base is also nearby and we get a lot of flyovers from them in our neighborhood.
posted by MsMolly at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2016

If you go to the National Air and Space Museum in DC, then DEFINITELY find a way to get to the Udvar-Hazy as mentioned by Room 641-A. It's much cooler even than the main museum on the mall!

Your local GA airport can also be fun. Many EAA chapters run Young Eagle programs, which are free flights in small planes for kids.
posted by JMOZ at 10:07 AM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you do Johnson Space Center you might want to do it the same weekend as the air show at Ellington AFB.
posted by MsMolly at 10:15 AM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome north of New York City does regular air shows during the summer, focusing on WW1 and WW2 aircraft. They have mock battles and aerobatics demonstrations.

If you use NYC as a base of operations, you could also go to the Intrepid and the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:39 AM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

The USAF Museum in Dayton. You can then take him to the Wright Brothers national monument.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:56 AM on May 22, 2016

make sure the nap happens before the flight and make sure he gets a window seat a few rows behind the back of the wing (so he can see both the ground and the wing apparatus)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:57 AM on May 22, 2016

The Museum of Flight in Seattle is awesome with deep roots in the history of the Boeing company.
posted by Sublimity at 11:42 AM on May 22, 2016

I was coming to suggest Museum of Flight. I worked there during college and it's pretty amazing.
posted by guster4lovers at 12:08 PM on May 22, 2016

While not solely devoted to aviation, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has a real Boeing 727 he can explore, flight simulators, and the Henry Crown Space Center, among other things.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Evergreen Museum in McMinnville, OR is pretty cool and has both air and space sections to their museum. It also has an indoor waterpark next door if he's into that too.
posted by Aleyn at 2:59 PM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

In Riverside, California, is March Field Air Museum and you would not believe how many planes it has.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:02 PM on May 22, 2016

Never been there, but for completeness sake the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT.

The Franklin Institute in Philly has some aircraft exhibits, though I''m not sure quite what.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:32 AM on May 23, 2016

Thanks all - lots of great suggestions and places I'd never heard of! I'm sure he'll be enjoying one of these places soon enough!
posted by inflatablekiwi at 1:35 PM on May 23, 2016

Just to emphasize the Museum of Flight in Seattle, they supposedly just opened what sounds like a very cool interactive exhibit presented by Boeing where you can experience simulated bird flight, design your own jet, etc. I haven't been, but it sounds awesome (and I'll probably try to get there this summer myself.)

If you do get to Seattle, Boeing also offers factory tours (just north of the city; the Museum of Flight is just south) and your child might enjoy seeing basically a gigantic warehouse full of planes in various stages of manufacture.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 6:57 PM on May 29, 2016

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