“I was sold on flying as soon as I had a taste for it.” – John Glenn
Many young STEMists are curious about flight – whether they are watching how a bird flies or making a paper airplane that floats around the room. As you think about your summer vacation plans, consider visiting one of the many aviation museums around the U.S. Not only will your kids learn more about aviation, you and the entire family will have fun doing it. And, museums are much cheaper than theme park tickets!
Here are six U.S. aviation museums to investigate for your next STEM Family vacation:
The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is the largest of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums. Its collection includes Saturn V rockets, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 Command Module, Columbia. Be sure to check out the Albert Einstein planetarium, where you will feel like you are zooming across the skis. The Smithsonian offers daily tours and educational activities for every member of the family.
The Udvar-Hazy Center is a companion center to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Located at Dulles International Airport, the center features two large hangars that contain thousands of aviation and space artifacts. Visitors to the Udvar-Hazy Center can see a Concorde jet, the space shuttle Discovery and panoramic views of Dulles International airport. Like at the Smithsonian, you can enjoy daily tours, lectures, events and educational activities.
The Virginia Air and Space Center serves as the visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center and Langley Air Force Base. The center celebrates more than 100 years of flight with fun and interactive exhibits, including launching a rocket, piloting a space shuttle and flying an airplane. The Virginia Air and Space Center also has an Apollo 12 Command Module, Mars meteorite and a moon rock. Also check out a movie in the center’s 3D IMAX theater and take a spin on the Hampton Carousel, a restored carousel that is near the air and space center.
Located in Balboa Park in San Diego, the Air and Space Museum is a “must-stop” destination if you are traveling to Southern California. The museum emphasizes San Diego’s contribution to the field of aviation, so many of the exhibits focus on war aircraft, and modern jet and space travel. Some of the galleries include the World War I Gallery, Golden Age of Flight Gallery, World War II Gallery and Modern Jet & Space Age Gallery. Be sure to check out the flight simulators if you have a strong stomach! Lectures, student programs and other events are available.
The Museum of Flight has more than 150 air and space craft on display, including the world’s first fighter plane, the first Air Force one and the Blackbird spy plane (the world’s fastest aircraft).
The museum also has several flight simulators, including the Voyager simulator, which is perfect for kids ages 4-11. If you are feeling especially adventurous, you can board a real vintage bi-plane and take an aerial tour of Seattle. Be sure to check out the museum’s special events, including their annual Women Fly! event for young women interested in aviation and aerospace careers.
The Southern Museum of Flight is a 75,000-square-foot facility that contains more than 90 types of aircraft, as well as engines, models and other aviation artifacts. Museum visitors can check out the Korean War Jets Exhibit, Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit, Vietnam War Helicopters Exhibit and more. Kids may enjoy the flight simulator and climbing the many displays. Additionally, the museum is adjacent to the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame, whose members include Wilbur & Orville Wright and NASA astronaut Jan Davis.
Aviation is one of the many great careers available to STEMists, so be sure to foster their natural curiosity with a trip to an aviation museum. Please check each museum’s event calendar, admission price and hours of operation before your trip to ensure you get the most out of your visit. Most importantly, have fun and make wonderful memories with your groovy STEM Family!
If your child loves aviation, be sure to subscribe to our subscription service. Each month through our Groovy Lab in a Box subscription service, young STEMists (your children!) will receive fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge – all focused on that month’s STEM topic. Order your box today!