Take Flight With A Visit To The San Diego Air and Space Museum

No trip to Balboa Park is complete without visiting the San Diego Air and Space Museum, one of only ten aerospace museums in the country affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute. It’s an action-packed, interactive museum experience for visitors of all ages. See a reproduction of the first aircraft ever to break the sound barrier, the Apollo 9 Command Module, and a flyable replica of the original Spirit of St. Louis. Plan on spending the better part of a day here visiting the exhibits, riding the simulators, experiencing the 4D theater presentations, and lunching at the Flight Path Grill and Observation Deck. Take a sneak peek at what you’ll discover.

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There are six permanent galleries in the museum. In the World War I gallery, visitors can observe how the synchronization gear of a fighter aircraft coordinated the propeller with the trigger, so the pilot didn’t shoot off his own propeller during battle. The Golden Age of Flight gallery hosts a number of planes, engines, and even a display of flight attendant uniforms from the 1950s to the 1980s – including those modeled after the hot pants craze of the 1970s. The World War II gallery features the only Horton wing ever publicly displayed, the Horton 229 flying wing, which was featured on the National Geographic Channel’s documentary, “Hitler’s Stealth Fighter.”

If you love the Blue Angels, you can see an F/A-18 A Hornet, better known as Blue Angel 1 in the Modern Jet and Space Age gallery. A flight ready Boeing GPS-12 satellite, and an X-15 supersonic rocket plane are also featured in this gallery. Eight X-15 pilots flew the supersonic rockets into space; their test flights formed the groundwork for the Space Shuttle program. Get a look at the F-4J/S Phantom II with its heat seeking missiles in the Edwin McKeller Pavillion of Flight gallery.

One of the biggest draws to the museum is the simulators and interactive areas. Visitors can get their thrills doing 360-degree spins and spirals in the FS2000 2-seat flight simulator. The whole family can share the excitement of a 1920s barnstorming adventure on the Doron Transport 6 simulator. Four F-35 simulators allow visitors to sit on disarmed F-18 ejection seats while thrilling to this realistic simulator experience complete with a flat panel display of the flight implementation.

The 3D/4D Zable theater lets visitors enjoy interactive seating synchronized to the featured production along with other theater special effects for a complete immersion experience. Younger museum adventurers will love the Kid’s Aviation Action Hangar, where they can experience a real wind tunnel on the U Fly It machine or take a walk on the moon in a space suit. Families can capture the day’s memories with a photo in an F-104 Starfighter cockpit display. Add another level to your aviation experience by visiting the museum’s Gillespie Field Annex where aircraft are restored for museum display.

Check the museum website for current exciting and fun-filled special exhibitions. Featured exhibitions have included the popular Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the Atlas Rocket Exhibition. If you’re lucky enough to catch the Centennial Naval Aviation Exhibit in 2014, try pairing it with a trip to the Midway Museum at the San Diego Harbor for another layer of fascinating military history.