Originally published June 17, 2016 and updated May 20, 2018
My family has now been members of the Museum of Flight in Seattle for the past 2 years. My husband and I love this aviation museum. We actually had a Museum of Flight wedding there 7 years ago and we’ve taken our kids since they were babies. It’s a great place for Seattle toddler play dates. We usually go on Friday mornings and can easily spend 2-3 hours. Here’s what you need to know about the Seattle Museum of Flight with kids:
Museum of Flight Play Areas
One of the reasons we love doing play dates at the Museum of Flight is because they have several designated play areas throughout the Museum. Not only that, but kids can sit down in real planes, help out in a control tower, and push lots of buttons.
KID’S FLIGHT ZONE
This is the original Museum of Flight play area. It’s located adjacent to the Side Gallery on the main level. It gets updated from time to time, but it’s always a hit with the kids. There are a couple of smaller scale airplanes that kids can climb into. There’s also a cool helicopter that can seat 2 kids and is great for imaginative play. And there’s an airplane set where kids can pretend to be pilots and passengers. Plus there are many other hands-on exhibits for kids located here.
EDUCATION CENTER IN THE GRAND GALLERY
So, a lot of people don’t realize there’s a small play area located in the Education Center on the 1st level. It’s a great place to go if your family needs a quieter space. There’s usually a table with Duplos, a rack of airplane-themed children’s books, coloring sheets and more. Insider tip: It’s a great spot to nurse a baby while your toddler plays.
On the other side of the street is the fairly new Aviation Pavilion. It’s an undercover area that has massive airplanes available for guests to walk through. It’s a HUGE hit with kids. And, there’s also a super cool play area tucked away in the back. They have set up a mini airport. Kids can pretend to be airline employees as they check in guests at the Departures desk, then load luggage and send to the flight crew. There’s another airplane set, where kids can pretend to pilot the plane with passengers. Insider tip: This area gets a bit chilly in colder months, so make sure to bundle up!
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Museum of Flight Food Options
If you get hungry, there’s the Wings Cafe located next to the gift shop in the main building. They serve sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, hamburgers, cookies, etc. They have a lot of indoor and outdoor seating. Insider tip: Head to the back and get a table inside the separate room because it’s much quieter for kids.
If you are across the street at the Aviation Pavilion during the spring/summer months, you are in luck! The Pavilion Cafe has a full menu of snacks, beverages, and entrees including hot sandwiches, grilled to order. There are usually tables and chairs set up to enjoy your food in the designated area.
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
While you can’t eat inside the Museum of Flight, you can definitely bring a sack lunch and eat it in one of their many food-friendly areas. We like to swing by Starbucks on the way to the Museum and enjoy our lunch on the front lawn next to the airplanes on display.
Museum of Flight Store
I have to mention the Museum of Flight gift shop because your kids will beg to go inside. It’s located near the entrance/exit of the Museum. This is the spot to find Space Ice Cream, inflatable Blue Angels, airport play sets, children’s flight suits and more! They have items of all price points and Museum of Flight members get an extra discount.
Museum of Flight Events for Kids
One of the awesome things about the Museum of Flight is they offer so many kid-friendly events throughout the year. We’re over there a lot when notable airplanes are taking off or when then Blue Angels are in town. They also hold holiday events where Santa lands at the Museum of Flight! Oftentimes, we just happen upon an event during a regular visit to the Museum.
These are a few events that stand out:
FREE FIRST THURSDAYS
Thanks to Wells Fargo, families can enjoy free admission to the Museum of Flight from 5pm-9pm on the first Thursday of each month. This is a popular time to visit, so I’d recommend eating before you go to make the most of your museum visit.
WEEKEND FAMILY WORKSHOPS
So, we always forget about these Weekend Family Workshops until our preschooler spots a fun activity! These workshops are usually held every Saturday and Sunday from 11am-11:45am and 1pm-1:45pm. It’s included with your admission and it’s open to kids of all ages, but kids ages 6 and under should have an adult to help them.
From our experiences, it’s usually building something or creating a craft. They have ample Museum helpers who are great with kids. Definitely set a reminder in your phone because it’s easy to forget the small time window and it’s always hard when your kids arrive right as the workshop has ended.
ANNUAL KIDS SAFETY DAY
One of our favorite Museum of Flight events is the annual Kids Safety Day. It’s a free event that takes place in the Museum of Flight parking lot. It’s kind of like a Touch a Truck event, where kids can climb aboard fire engines, chat with firefighters and see some of the cool gear rescuers wear. And they can learn safety skills through games and activities.
How to Get a Free Museum of Flight Membership
If you have kids ages 5-18, they are eligible to join Connections, the Museum’s membership program designed to make it easier for students throughout the region and state to learn about and take advantage of STEM opportunities.
Why the Seattle Museum of Flight is the Perfect Museum for Toddlers
My friends and I started in the Kid’s Flight Zone because we had heard it was recently renovated. We were slightly disappointed that some of our favorite items were removed. But the kids were more than excited to sit down in the airplanes and helicopter. They also got a kick out of fastening each others’ seat belts on the wooden airplane. I thought it was odd that only one of the steering wheels had a seat and kids had to stand for the other steering wheel. This caused a lot of frustration for the kids as they all wanted to sit down in a pilot’s seat and no one wanted to stand. But, that was short-lived and they had lots of areas to explore.
After that, we walked around the Great Gallery to look at the big airplanes. In the past, Owen has wanted to sit in the two planes available for kids to sit in, but not this time. He was pretty content just looking around and spotting fun things, like a stuffed dog in one of the planes!
Then, all the kids headed toward the Education Center at the Museum of Flight where they gathered around the activity table to play with the toys. Two of the toddlers were done playing after 10 minutes and headed back to look at airplanes. Owen and his friend continued to play for 30 minutes or so. They had the room to themselves for most of that time.
At this point, it was lunch time and we all decided to meet at the cafeteria to grab food. I liked the variety of options they had. I was able to get Owen a Greek yogurt parfait with mango, a hotdog and milk and he shared a soft pretzel with his friends. Their packaging is compostable. We loved sitting in the cafeteria because the large picture windows let us all watch airplanes and helicopters take off and land. It was quite exciting and kept the toddlers entertained.
Finally, we hit the Museum of Flight gift shop on our way out. It’s really a fantastic gift shop with a plethora of options for anyone who likes airplanes. They have a small display near the entrance that is filled with toys aimed at younger kiddos. Owen scored an inflatable Blue Angels airplane that he treasures.
I took him outside to blow up his Blue Angels airplane. We sat on the benches watching large airplanes and Owen was really enthralled with the whole experience. From our bench we were also able to see firetrucks on the tarmac, construction vehicles in the parking lot and a train in the background. It was a transportation-lover’s dream!
5 Things to Know about The Museum of Flight:
- There is no food or drink allowed in the Museum of Flight. They have a cafeteria with a lot of food/drink options for the whole family and they have tons of outdoor picnic tables and grass to eat lunch or snacks.
- The Kid’s Flight Zone is a great place to burn off energy and stretch legs. There is a lot of space to move around and several spots for parents to rest their legs while watching their kiddos explore.
- There is also a small space in the Grand Gallery where there is a shelf of airplane-themed books for kids, toy airplanes, Duplos, coloring and more!
- You probably won’t be able to see the entire Museum in one trip, if you are with a toddler and they are walking. But, you could probably cruise through the indoor exhibits fairly rapidly with kids in strollers or baby carriers.
- The Wings of Courage exhibit areas are personal favorites of mine. There are lots of buttons for toddlers to press and hear songs and radio clips. It’s also nice and dark so it’s a good place to head if you need some calm-down time or a change of pace.
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