By Wendy Mihm | Monday February 21, 2011
It’s official: our toddler son’s choo choo obsession has now moved over to make room for an equally powerful obsession with the airplane.
This, of course, encompasses anything that flies and is not a bird. In our neighborhood, the “aiw-pane” in question is much more likely to be a police helicopter. (See our Homebuying 101 Tutorial’s “Location Location Location” rule, which we broke when we bought our house, and you’ll get a quick understanding of why this is the case.)
Anyway, since we are also not far from the Rose Bowl, it also can include blimps and the occasional stealth bomber, which is really quite spectacular.
All of this looking up has lead me to my next idea for free fun with kids: plane spotting! It is actually quite a phenomenon, which we have only recently caught onto, but here’s the thing: there are lots of places to take kids with good view for watching planes take off and land. If you can get really close to the action, where you can see the planes’ landing gear engage, it’s actually pretty fascinating for the adults as well. Though it is quite loud, so if you have a little one who is especially sensitive to sound, this will not be your thing.
One great example of this, is in an area that is near and dear to my heart: Washington, DC. I lived there for ten years before I moved out to LA, and used to go with my friend and her nephews and niece to watch planes take off from Ronald Regan Washington National Airport. There’s a little spot called Gravelly Point Park just north of the airport, off the northbound GW parkway. Since it’s also right off the bike path there, on nice weekends, it can be pretty festive, with people stopping by on their bikes and rollerblades, camping out for picnics, laying on the hoods of their cars and having a great time.
The view is incredible, since both Gravelly Point Park and the airport are really close to the Potomac River and the gorgeous backdrop of Washington DC and the Memorial Bridge. The planes get really close, too, and if you’re lying on the hood of your car, it looks like they will skim right over you! It’s an exhilarating way to have free fun with kids – especially if they love planes.
This is just one example. There are many towns that have embraced their airports as ways to have free fun with kids and families. I just learned from friends this weekend that out here on the west coast, The Palm Springs Air Museum showcases WWII airplanes, and it’s located right at the Palm Springs Airport. Now, the museum itself is not free, but children 5 and under are free – and you can certainly watch the planes take off and land at the airport for free – from a cushy and interesting (and air conditioned location) all you want.
So give it a shot – just Google the name of your town’s airport, plus “viewing park” or “viewing spot” and see what you come up with. You just might find a great new way to have free fun with your kids!
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