It was an amazing, sunny day for our first mother-son outing last June, and as we rolled up on the museum, KZ caught site of an airplane parked in the grass out front sparkling in the brilliant morning sun. A tiny voice in the back seat murmured, “airplane,” and I knew my airplane obsessed 20-month-old was in for a treat.
The friendly staff gave us a flyer and explained the layout. There are two hangers, both are filled with antique cars, trucks, and airplanes, but the woman who sold us our tickets recommended we start from the left side of hanger one and make our way to the right. “That way,” she said,” you don’t have to try to tear them away from the play area.” This was great advice.
I highly recommend a stroller for toddlers as the first hanger has the oldest and rarest specimens of both vehicles and airplanes on display, all of which are roped off. I think it would have been very difficult to keep my little guy from touching the planes without the stroller holding him down.
All and all, KZ seemed content to just sit back and take in all of first hanger’s sites. As we strolled along I would read him the makes and models of all the cars and airplanes. Occassionally I’d get a “wow” in response. The cooler the plane, the longer the vowel sound, so when you hear, “woooooow,” you know he’s particularly impressed.
One highlight was female aviation pioneer, Melba Beard’s plane a Brunner-Winkle Bird. Along side the plane is a nice display of information on Beard, her flying suit, and even a seating area where you can watch a documentary about her. My guy is still too little to appreciate displays like this, but adults and older children would certainly enjoy them. July is a great time to bring girls interested in all things airborne as WAAAM celebrates women in aviation during that month, apparently the month Amelia Earhart was born (and also died).
The second hanger is connected to the first by a short hallway, decorated with a random assortment of Hood River artifacts including an amazing collection of fishing lures from the old Luhr Jensen factory.
Inside the second hanger are the later models of planes and cars. Here you’ll find a Volkswagen bug, muscle cars, an army jeep, and an impressive collection of armaments. Hanger two is also home to KZ’s favorite part of the museum: the play area.
While there are several kid-sized vehicles to climb in and play on, for my boy it was all about the mini submarine. Although he needed some help from mommy to get up the stairs and into the sub, everything inside was just his size. We played inside for a long time, despite mom’s creeping claustrophobia. This is a very tight area, so just a warning that some parents might not be able to squish in, and it’s definitely not easy to get your toddler in and out without getting inside.
On the day we visited, a group of 4th graders were also touring the museum, and even the older kids seemed really into all the miniature vehicles in the play area. As the teacher’s aide gathered everyone up to leave, one girl begged, “please just five more minutes? I haven’t been in the plane yet!”
Our Monday visit was great because there wasn’t much of a crowd, except the small group of kids we saw right at the end. I imagine the weekends draw a bigger crowd.
We liked our visit so much, that we went back for the September Fly-in and brought daddy along. Watching the planes take off and land definitely got a “wooooow.”
WAAAM is open every day from 9am to 5pm.
Admission for adults is $12; Seniors and veterans get in for $10, kids 5-18 for $6 and kids under 5 get in for free.
Approprate for all ages.
Things to bring:
- a stroller for toddlers
- extra cash for the gift shop
- camera –taking pictures is encouraged.
- picnic lunch to eat outside on a nice day (although there is a concession area inside).
Special times to visit:
July is women in aviation month
Second Saturdays offer rides in antique cars and viewing of antique planes in flight.
September for the Hood River Fly-In