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Take Your Grandchildren to an Airport Observation Park

Watch Airplanes Take Off and Land Near Your Local Airport

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Take Your Grandchildren to an Airport Observation Park

US Airways Airplane, Photographed at Thomas A. Dixon, Jr., Aircraft Observation Area, Baltimore / Washington International Airport

Photo © Alex Parode

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, many airports around the United States closed or limited access to observation areas within their terminal buildings and near their runways. Happily, in the intervening years, airport authorities have found ways to allow aviation fans to get close to the airplanes once again, usually by building or reopening airport observation parks.

If you or your grandchildren live near an airport, consider taking them to an airport observation park the next time you spend time together.

Will My Grandchildren Enjoy Visiting an Airport Observation Park?

Children of all ages enjoy watching airplanes take off and land. Children in the elementary grades are old enough to begin learning to identify airframes and airline liveries. Younger children love the noise and excitement that come with takeoffs and landings. Middle schoolers and teens can not only identify aircraft, but also take photos of their favorites.

Where Can I Visit an Airport Observation Park?

The best way to find your nearest airport observation park is to look at airport websites. If your local airport has an observation park or area, airport management will share information about the park's hours and location on the airport's website.

Airports around the United States are creating airport observation parks and parking areas. Some, like Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport's Gravelly Point Park, have been around for decades. Others have been recently opened or refurbished.

What Amenities Will I Find at an Airport Observation Park?

Park facilities vary. At the very least, you will be able to take advantage of free parking and a good view of at least one runway. Some parks, such as Founders' Plaza at Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport, offer telescopes and / or radio broadcasts of Federal Aviation Administration communications. Others, including Thomas A. Dixon, Jr., Aircraft Observation Area near Baltimore / Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, offer playgrounds and picnic areas.

What Is the Best Time to Visit an Airport Observation Park?

The best time to visit your local airport observation park is probably in the early morning or late afternoon on a weekday, when business travel peaks. If you live close enough to the airport to track flight activity, you can easily determine your airport's peak traffic times. If, on the other hand, you are visiting from out of town, you may wish to check the airport's flight schedule or FlightAware.com to find the best time to visit your airport observation park.

Tips for Visiting Your Local Airport Observation Park With Grandchildren

The best way to enjoy a visit to an airport observation park with your grandchildren is to involve them in the aircraft identification process. Young children can learn the difference between jets and propeller planes. Older children can count engines on each plane and learn to look at wings and tails to identify different airframes.

If the plane spotting bug hits your grandchildren, be prepared to spend a lot of time with them at the airport observation park. They may want to photograph airplanes, try to identify them or just play outside and stop once in a while to look at aircraft.

Why Should I Take My Grandchildren to an Airport Observation Park?

Children as young as two years old are fascinated by technology, and airplanes are the fastest, loudest vehicles most of us are likely to see. Taking your grandchildren to an airport observation park not only allows you to spend time together outdoors (a healthy option for any child), but also gives you the opportunity to share your stories about your own air travel experiences and those given to you by older family members.

In addition, as your grandchildren grow older, you can remind them, as you watch airplanes land and take off, that pilots, air traffic controllers and aviation engineers must study diligently and focus on science, mathematics and computer technology to succeed in their chosen careers. It is never too early to foster an interest in science, technology and mathematics in children.

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