Stop 1: Museum of Flying
Overlooked World War II hangers sit in plain view behind the chain-linked fences lining Santa Monica’s Airport Avenue. An area once boasting America’s top-of-the-line plane manufacturing capabilities now houses artist stalls and casting studios. Above the east end of the street is a floating Douglas DC-3 marking the location of your first stop: The Museum of Flying. As you step foot inside the modernized hanger you’re dwarfed by flying machines of old. Pay your dues and wander like a kid under wings and cockpits of Santa Monica’s golden-era of aviation. After soaking in all you can, head out to experience flight of your own.
What to know...
- Admission to the museum is $10, it's well worth it but absolutely look for John, the museum's curator. He will dig into the stories of Douglas, WW-II and all the secret stuff that happened throughout history there.
- Looking for the best photo ops? There's three cockpits to sit in, the FedEx plane on the second floor, the kids "trick" plane underneath it and hidden under the stairs is the actual jet pilot flight simulator from the 60's
- If the words "flight simulator" gets you excited just ask at the front. It's $8 for two people. You have a choice of flying or rollercoaster. With rollercoaster you dont get to steer, just sayin'.
Stop 2: Santa Monica Airport Observation Deck
Walk along the tiny airport to find the hidden miniature sign directing you to the Observation Deck. Circling around the far side, take in the expanse of the field as the mutterings of the air traffic controller are heard over a loudspeaker. With front row seats look off into Century City’s skyline, and find the distant speck, or “PJ,” dropping in line for landing. Within moments the jet careens to a thump, as you cheer the plane’s safe arrival. The exuberance of this scene is something only your inner child knew you’d be excited for. After a few more successful passes, head away from the propeller-excitement and duck into your own “plane” to dine on something much more enticing than airplane food.
What to know...
- This is a little tricky to find. There is a tiny sign on a wall telling you where to go but there are three staircases, they will all lead you to the observation deck. Focus on the staircase on the far right of the building, thats the easiest.
- You'll hear the loud speaker with some chatter on it...this is the actual live conversation from the air traffic controller.
- Look across the runway. To the left is a grouping of palm trees, that is where the Douglas factory was producing thousands airplanes beginning in 1933.
Stop 3: Spitfire Grill
The Spitfire Grill shines in the golden-hour sun like an ancient beacon of aeronautical greatness. Cross over where the runway used to be before making your way through the white-picket fence into an air-fan’s dream. Gawk at the classic photos as you wander through the original WWII-era “bar”. Find a seat among the local crowd who dutifully sip their wine and ponder the miracle of flight. With drink in hand you head out to the patio then place an order of ribs, like any Navy man would’ve back home from a recent tour. As the sun sets down beyond the silver hangers and guiding lights of the runway, focus in on your internal flight pattern: it’s time to make some history of your own.
What to know...
- Admission to the sanctuary is $7. They do take cards but only for the admission.
- Make sure you have some cash on hand. When you arrive to the left is the "tiki bar" this is where you exchange a few bucks for a metal bowl of fruit. Exchange that fruit for some up close parrot action.
- There will be volunteers walking around giving you the rundown for the birds, I highly suggest asking them for a brief tour. They'll know which birds are friendly, playful, or down right mean.