Seattle has a reputation for being gray and rainy and while all stereotypes about the city were shattered with blue skies and sun on previous trips, Thomas and I stepped off the plane to steady rain coming from stormy skies that set the stage for our 72 hours in town. We were in Seattle for a dream trip to visit Nintendo America headquarters but with a 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport on loan, our plan was to make the most of our time in this Pacific Northwest city. My goal was to take Thomas to some favorite places and experience new ones as part of our whirlwind mother-son adventure, including the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour. Yes, we were going to see airplanes being built!
The trade off for our early morning cross country flight was arriving in Seattle before Noon. With the whole day free, we stashed our bags in the back and I slid behind the wheel. I fired up the seat warmers to ward off the chill of the day and with the windshield wipers going, we were ready to drive our Hyundai Elantra to the first stop on our agenda: Ivar’s.
We headed north towards downtown Seattle and in 15 minutes, we were on Pier 54 where Ivar’s Fish Bar was founded 80 years ago. The walk-up counter makes quick work of chowders and fresh fish entrees of fresh caught halibut, salmon, oysters, clams, prawns, and more (including chicken fingers and fries for non-seafood fans). Flaky fish, fresh fries, and creamy chowders that don’t skimp on seafood can be enjoyed outdoors in nice weather or in the heated enclosed space in rainy weather like what we were experiencing on this particular day.
A bowl of Alaska Smoked Salmon chowder hit the spot for Thomas while I chose a cup of clam chowder and 3 pieces of buttery halibut. Free entertainment came from watching the hopeful gulls waiting for French fry handouts from the other side of the glass and the many car ferries dock just down the pier from where we sat. We rewarded the patient gulls with leftover French fries before we left. It was the perfect spot to fuel up for post-flight fun. Note: If you have more time or are looking for a more formal venue, I am sure the Ivar’s Acre’s of Clams is a delightful place to eat too but with a limited time in Seattle, we had things to do that didn’t include lingering over our lunch.
With hoods pulled up, we dodged puddles as we made our way back to our Hyundai parked in nearby Pioneer Square. We said goodbye to this charming neighborhood filled with art galleries and hit the road to 25 miles north for the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour. Thomas was equally mesmerized by the Pacific Northwest landscape and watching the raindrops fall on the panoramic sunroof as we made our way to Everett for our tour.
Having just disembarked from an airplane, I thought about the many times I’ve flown without thinking about the science of flight and engineering marvels that airplanes are. A trip to Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour forever changed the way I think about planes.
Whether you’re an AV geek, travel enthusiast, or just rely on planes to take your family from point A to B and back from time to time, the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is awe inspiring. Built in 1967, Boeing’s Everett manufacturing facility is the largest building in the world (by volume). Its campus is big enough to fit California’s Disneyland and still have 12 acres left for parking. It’s not surprising that this massive facility makes the 777, the world’s largest wide body twinjet that has a seating capacity of 314-396 passengers. Along with 777s, Boeing’s Everett facility also assembles 747, 767, and 787s.
Our family has been on numerous factory tours during our travels but Thomas and I think the Boeing Tour is the best we’ve ever been on to date. It’s pretty incredible to stand 11 floors up and gaze at an indoor space big enough to house 75 football fields where five brand new assembled 767s are parked nose to tail in front of you. Walk to the other side of the viewing platform and the massive 777 below you is being worked on by engineers who look miniscule in comparison to the incredible aircraft.
The longer you stand on the platform with your guide, the more the scene unfolds in a Where’s Waldo-type way where there’s more to see everywhere you look. Look overhead and the complicated grid of systems in the ceiling transports plane noses, wings, and other fuselage parts across the massive facility and lowers them in place as the plane is built. Gaze off into the distance at you might see landing gear or wing flaps move as part of the testing phases. Straight below you can see white boards with diagrams, crates containing rows of seats ready to install, and bins containing an array of parts.
Your incredibly knowledgeable tour guide is happy to tell you about anything you see or answer any questions in your 90 minutes together but as you gaze at the production hangar space, you may just find yourself achieving aviation zen and soaking in the scene before your time ends. After all, it was pretty magical to stand inside the very facility that built the 767 that brought me and Thomas to Seattle earlier that day.
Things to Know Before You Go on Your Boeing Tour
- Tickets are available for advance purchase via the Future of Flight website. I’d highly recommend buying in advance to ensure you’re able to secure a date and time for a tour during your time in the Pacific Northwest. They do sell out, especially in the busy summer months!
- There are restrictions for the tour for safety reasons so be sure to read them here before purchasing your ticket. Families should know:
- kids have to be at least 4 feet to go on the tour
- babies can’t be carried during the tour
- Cameras, video cameras, phones, purses, and backpacks are prohibited, meaning you can’t bring them on the tour AT ALL. You can leave them in your car or in the free on-site lockers located just inside the Future of Flight entrance. Yes, this means no photos while on the Boeing Tour but you can take a free photo with a green screen at the Future of Flight and email a copy to yourself as a souvenir.
- The tour ends in the gift shop where pricey plane models and STEM toys will grab your kid’s attention. Fun low budget souvenirs for collectors and true AV geeks are the stickers that bear the numbers of the planes produced at the Boeing Factory in Everett. They can be found by the registers just inside the gift shop closest to the main lobby.
- Get there early so you don’t miss your scheduled tour. While you wait, you can enjoy the Future of Flight Center that features hands-on experiments related to flight in the Family Zone, fun photo opps next to a 777 engine, and a and be sure to head upstairs to gaze at a line of brand new planes ready for their inaugural flight from outdoor The Strato Deck.
- If you get there really early, the Mukilteo Lighthouse is 15 minutes away and is a picturesque place on the water to get out and stretch your legs. Right before you get to the lighthouse, you’ll pass an Ivar’s. There’s a sit down restaurant or the Fish Bar is #17 on this list here and serves the same fare as the one we went to at Pier 54!
Huge thanks to Hyundai loaning us a 2018 Elantra GT where we got to personally experience the vehicle’s tagline, Take on Any Adventure, during our time in Seattle. This comfortable vehicle was a dream to handle on slick freeways and traversing the hills in Downtown Seattle while keeping us warm during our time in the rainy city. Major points for the panoramic sunroof that let Thomas enjoy an incredible view of the Pacific Northwest scenery from the back seat, seat warmers that heated up quickly, and a roomy hatchback that kept our luggage out of view from prying eyes as we drove around the city.
This adventure was done as part of a trip to Seattle as a Nintendo Family Ambassador where our flights to Seattle, accommodations, and some meals were paid for by Nintendo. I received a complimentary press ticket for the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour and the Hyundai loan for the time I was in Seattle but all other experiences (including Thomas’ ticket for Future of Flight) were personally paid for.