With several museums to choose from, Balboa Park is a highlight for any visitor to San Diego. But be sure one of the museums you visit is the San Diego Air and Space Museum, a must-see for airplane lovers.
Currently the museum's headline exhibit is one about Aliens, a special part of the museum that has temporary exhibits set up to take you through a complete examination of why there are likely to be alien life forms existing on other planets and how and because that might be possible based on our own scientific knowledge. The exhibit takes you through the usual stories about unidentified flying objects and how the media has helped create certain images that we have in our minds about what aliens might look like. Then the exhibition explains the reality of life here on earth and how there are many unique creatures that have gradually adapted to harsh environments – miles below the ocean surface, for example.
The conclusion: It seems quite likely that there may be other living creatures, perhaps as small as bacteria, that have adapted to the harsh environments that we know exist on many planets in our own universe. Elsewhere in the exhibit you can see just how big our own galaxy is when you look at a wall-sized photo of the Milky Way galaxy and how it looks from a distance. There are literally billions of stars and planets out there and, again, the conclusion is that it's highly likely there is life out there someplace.
But the Aliens exhibit is just a small part of a museum that has an impressive collection of vintage aircraft on display, all well organized in chronological order taking you through the early days of flight, then through the world wars and post-war period right up to the space program. From jet aircraft to bi-planes, the aircraft at the museum are all in great shape – a few are reproductions – and visitors can imagine just what it must have been like to fly in these old machines.
There are many types of aircraft – so many it does appear they're running out of space in the museum. You'll find World War I and II fighters, a plane like the Lindbergh Spirit of St.. Louis, a whole slew of bi-planes and even some old World War 1 flying craft such as the famous Red Baron. The museum has spacecraft on display as well, including the Apollo 9 space module and several items that were brought back from the moon. The airlines are also highlighted including an exhibit display featuring memorabilia from the PSA, an airline that serviced the west coast several decades ago.
If you want to know what it's like to fly in a jet fighter, try out the motion simulator that, for $ 8 a passenger, allows you to take the controls of your own jet fighter and fly it around San Diego. The elite simulator will turn you and tilt you and re-create the sensations of flying much better than sitting in front of your computer at home. We found the gravitational forces you experience to be amazing.
Another fun part of the museum is the 4-D Zable Theater that features various movies that put you right into the action through 3-D glasses and seats that rumble and tilt and spray you with air and water. It's not exactly on a par with amusement rides at Universal Studios or Disneyland, but it's pretty close – and an unexpected treat.
For more information on the San Diego Air and Space Museum, phone 619-234-8291