This top-flight museum located at Boeing Field (and sponsored by them) is a paean to every form of flight, flying, and aircraft. The historic Red Barn (Boeing’s first manufacturing building), houses exhibits on early aviation, including the mail bag carried by William E. Boeing and Eddie Hubbard on the first international U.S. Air Mail flight from Vancouver, BC to Seattle in 1919. The exhibit ends with the Boeing 707, which ushered in the jet age. The cavernous Great Gallery features dozens of historic aircraft, many of them hanging from the ceiling as though in flight. Visitors can climb into the cockpit of a real Blackbird, the fastest jet ever made. The Personal Courage Wing tells the stories of fighter aviators in World Wars I and II. And at the Airpark, you can walk through legendary aircraft including the Concorde and the first jet Air Force One, used by presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Reagan. The simulator exhibit lets you try virtual flight and hang-gliding. The museum’s Space Gallery displays NASA and Russian spacecraft (and mock-ups) and the rocket engine that launched Apollo to the moon.
For those wondering why this museum is in Seattle: the history of aviation in this city goes back almost as far back as the Wright Brothers. Since it was founded in 1916, Boeing has been the most important player in the United States’ aerospace industry and Seattle’s economic health and vitality has been closely linked to Boeing’s since that time (though high-tech is now just as important).