When I first began my stay-at-home time with Little Miss last year, Lindsay recommended that we check out the local library’s selection of museum passes, to which I replied, “huh and the what now?”
As it turns out, many library systems have passes to local attractions like museums, aquariums, and zoos that you can request and check out just like a book! After Lindsay carefully explained it to me as if I did not speak English, I checked out our library catalog.
Lo and behold, they had tons of passes cataloged – and, not just obvious stuff like the zoo or the Franklin Institute, but smaller, local museums too – places that probably benefit from the foot traffic generated from turning up in the library search!
One such place that struck my fancy was “The American Helicopter Museum.” I might not be a guy who digs a lot of heavy machinery and I’m the farthest thing you could meet from a mechanical engineer, but I am certainly not going to turn down the chance to see a few dozen helicopters up close!
I filed the museum away in my head for future use on a rainy day. Luckily, most of our Adventure Days in the past year haven’t been rainy – and, when they were, we hit one of the city museums early before they could be packed with school field trips. I never had to pull the Helicopter museum out of my bag of tricks.
Then, a few weeks ago, EV6 and I were at an impasse in our weekly Adventure planning. We had fallen into a bit of an Adventure rut of hitting the same places repeatedly (please, no more Please Touch Museum, I beg you), and neither of us were too excited for a repeat. Struck by sudden inspiration, I asked her, “Do you like helicopters?” (Noise aside, what kid doesn’t?) When she nodded in assent, I showed her the photos on the museum’s website. She was instantly sold.
As it happens, yesterday was not a rainy day at all. It was a stunning bombshell of gorgeous Spring t-shirt weather when we pulled up to the museum. It’s located at 1220 American Boulevard, West Chester, PA 19380 in an otherwise unassuming office park, but it’s easy to spot due to multiple helicopters parked on its lawn.
(It also backs up to an active airstrip, though you can’t see that from the road.)
We had a positive experience in the museum as soon as we walked through the doors when the woman at the counter greeted EV6 by saying, “Hey, buddy – welcome to the Helicopter Museum!”
My kid is a little girl and she is so adorable she’d probably trigger your cute aggression.I’m sure you can imagine the amount of “princess,” “sweetheart,” “isn’t she pretty,” “you’re so cute” types of comments she gets – especially weirdly lecherous comments from older men.
(That’s a whole other post.)
It’s one thing for me to say she’s cute in the middle of a day of talking to her about how smart she is, how hard she tries, and how strong she’s growing up to be. It’s another for her to only ever hear comments about her appearance from strangers. I’ve got some clapbacks ready – particularly to “princess” comments, which I despise, but I’ve resigned myself to some of them, especially from well-meaning older women with whom I feel bad picking a fight.
Imagine my happiness when we were greeted by a woman who just wanted to talk to my daughter about how cool helicopters are. She did not use a single gendered nickname or comment on appearance throughout the entire conversation with EV6, during which she continued to address her directly.
I would’ve told you that was a random fluke, except we met two other female volunteers, both of whom spoke to EV6 the exact same way. Notably, when they asked EV6 something and she said “no” (to stickers, to watching a video, etc) they immediately respected her choice and didn’t push for her assent.
By the end of the third conversation I was nearly in tears of happiness. These women – many of whom are retired Army vets or volunteer Boeing staff – were respecting EV6’s consent while modeling that it is totally cool to be interested in how big, loud, messy machines work no matter what your age or gender.
And, let me tell you, EV6 was very interested in the helicopters. Predictably, she was mostly keen on the few models you could climb inside.
If the museum was busy that could have been a problem, but we were the only visitors there on this beautiful day! That meant she had unlimited time to explore each model, taking me on lengthy make-believe flights across the Philadelphia region. They even had the hangar door open, flooring the room with beautiful sunlight.
I don’t know the first thing about helicopters beyond what I learned from G.I Joe, but I think I might have had just as good a time as EV6. Getting to stand next to these vehicles was thrilling. Some were barely big enough for two people, while one sat over a dozen people and was staggering in scale.
Almost all of the ‘copters were military in origin. They came with accompanying stories of their use in wartime, including many examples of choppers used for medical evaluation. That made for dry reading to EV6, and she was definitely a little put off by some of the imagery that accompanied them (including one mannequin made up with a very bloody head wound).
On the whole, the museum could use a slight refresh in some of their educational design, and perhaps some more interactive activities for the helicopters you can’t board on your own. Despite that, I had to drag her away from the helicopters and out of the museum, abetted by one of the volunteers who convinced her that it would be a good idea to enjoy some lunch outside in the sun.
I did have the sense that we’ve “seen it all” at the museum, and yet I know EV6 would gladly return for more helicopter piloting. I think it would be fun to go back with another family so she had an accomplice to “oo” and “ah” along with.
(Also, there were only so many times I could squat into those tiny helicopters in a single day.)
The less said about the rest of the day, which included getting locked out of our house after I lost my house keys inside of a mega-pack of Bounty paper towel rolls (how does that even happen), the better.