What: The Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way South, Seattle, WA, 98108-4097. (206) 764-5700. General admission: $25. Senior discounts available.
How to Get There: Take I-5 south out of Seattle for 13 miles, grab Exit 158, and follow the signs. Better yet, approach Seattle from the south on I-5, and visit the Museum of Flight without entering the downtown Seattle area.
Best Kept Secrets: If you are in Seattle and you want to see something different, don’t miss the Chuhily blown glass gallery just below the Seattle Space Needle. And as mentioned above, the riding in Washington is amazing.
Avoid: Don’t leave home without checking the weather first (it can get cold, wet, and icy up there in the Pacific Northwest). I’d avoid downtown Seattle (it’s densely trafficked, and while there are many fine restaurants and more than 150 microbreweries, things are expensive and the city has lost a lot of its glamour).
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More Info:The Museum of Flight
Seattle’s Museum of Flight, located at the southern end of Boeing Field, is a short 15-minute ride from downtown Seattle. In my opinion it’s the best thing to see in Seattle and you don’t have to enter the downtown area to do so. The Museum of Flight came about as the result of the Pacific Northwest Aviation Historical Foundation’s 1965 recovery and restoration of a 1929 Boeing 80A-1 discovered in Alaska. One thing led to another, and today, the Museum of Flight is the largest private air and space museum in the world.
The name is understated, as the place is a museum, a restoration center, an educational center and one of the world’s premier repositories of aviation history. It consists of several halls and displays. The large T.A. Wilson Great Gallery (arguably the Museum’s nucleus) is, by itself, a stunning aeronautical display standing three stories tall and windowed on three sides to admit natural light. It showcases 39 magnificent civilian and military aircraft spanning a century of flight, including several suspended from the ceiling, an SR-71 spy plane, fighters, helicopters and more. The Red Barn is the original Boeing aircraft factory, moved upriver by barge from its original 1909 location and restored to better than original splendor. There’s the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing, with 28 World War I and II aircraft. The Restoration Center and Reserve Collection is a working aircraft restoration facility, with three to five aircraft undergoing restoration at any time. The Charles Simonyi Space Gallery highlights the space shuttle program, including seat time in a full-fuselage shuttle trainer. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park has a pristine B-52G with a pedigree that includes Operation Linebacker II. The T. Evans Wyckoff Memorial Bridge is an overhead walkway from the main complex to 19 aircraft in the Aviation Pavilion (including the Concorde and the first jet-powered Air Force One). There’s an air traffic control tower exhibit overlooking Boeing Field that offers a glimpse into air traffic control activities. The Harl V. Brackin Museum of Flight Library and Archives holds 66,000 books, approximately 100 aerospace periodicals, and one of the world’s largest collections of aviation photographs and other materials (including the original Wright Airplane Company collection). The Museum of Flight also has special exhibits on a regular basis. During our visit, we saw the actual Apollo 11 capsule, along with other lunar exploration artifacts and displays. More good news is that you won’t have to leave the facility to eat; there’s a good restaurant in the Museum.
There’s obviously more to the State of Washington and Seattle than the Museum of Flight. I’ve ridden Washington extensively and I can tell you that Washington is one of the world’s best kept riding secrets. One of my favorite routes is along the Columbia River Gorge. The canyons along the Columbia River coming down from Canada after crossing into Washington (along either SR 21 or SR 25) are amazing and offer great riding. Then there’s the Mt. Rainier National Park loop (Forest Road 52, SR 706, SR 123 and US 12). The riding is seasonal, and when the weather cooperates, Washington is a bucket list destination. Allow at least a full day for exploring the Museum of Flight and its many exhibits. We spent the day there and felt we could have spent another; it’s that extensive. — Joe Berk