Well, if by UFOs you mean Unusually Fun Outings, then I definitely do! At least that's how I would define it, after a visit to the Science of... Aliens exhibit at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, in Balboa Park.
Being a long-time aviation enthusiast, I was definitely interested in going to see the planes, and doubly so when I heard about the new exhibit. What do aliens and aviation have in common? I have no idea, but I do know that they are both awesome, and as far as I'm concerned, having both of them in one location is just a bonus. If you are interested in either one, or both, then I certainly recommend you go see it if you get the chance. Normally, whenever I go someplace new, I like to do a quick walk-through, and see how things are laid out, before going around more carefully. But as soon as we got there, the big banner for Aliens got our attention, so we went straight in to check it out, and immediately were in retro, sci-fi bliss.
Images and items from movies and TV classics were there in a gallery dedicated to showing how we all grew up imagining anything that wasn’t from Earth was either out to eat us or destroy us. Hollywood, apparently, didn’t seem to understand the difference between aliens and monsters very well.
Green, three-toed footprints on the floor then led us to the next gallery, which seemed strange and familiar at the same time. There were all kinds of things we recognized, but under glass, as though we were in an alien laboratory, displaying earth specimens that were completely different from humans, showing how things can live in impossible places, and how we are currently searching our own solar system for other forms of life. Getting my bearings, I realized we had gone from the fiction of aliens, to the fact of things that just seemed alien to us, but actually exist here on Earth.
Moving through, the next gallery was another complete departure from the previous one, and was dominated by two very large projection tables with different animated ecosystems displayed on them. They showed two fictional alien worlds, imagining the strange creatures that might exist there, all based on our scientific knowledge of biology.
The projection tables were interactive, and by swiping your hand over a creature or item, an information panel would pop up to explain more about the selected item, and provide additional options. I've never seen anything like that, and was genuinely surprised at how ultra cool both the projection touch system itself was, as well as the idea of what these different worlds might actually be like.
As if all that didn’t give us enough to think about, the fourth and final gallery featured our current efforts to find and communicate with aliens. A replica of Voyager 1’s gold recording disc, and a “create your own alien message” display, made us ponder how remote we really are, and what we might say if we actually did meet someone from “out there”.
After sneaking back one more time to the Alien Worlds gallery for a little more time with the interactive projection tables, we realized it was time for lunch. Since we hadn't yet seen the rest of the Air and Space portions of the museum, we were very glad to discover that they had just added the new Flight Path Café, which allowed us to stay at the museum and relax a bit, while getting a quick bite to eat before touring the rest of the exhibits. Located on the outdoor terrace, it was very comfortable and shaded even though it was a warm, sunny day. The seating was like awesome little individual outdoor cabanas, two of which were even set up like patio lounges. The setting was so comfy, and the day so nice, we actually took an extra half hour or so longer than we needed to for lunch, just to kick back and enjoy it.
Soon enough it was time to get going again, so we went back and worked our way around the permanent displays in the museum some more. The thing I probably liked most was that the museum covers the history of all flight, past and present, and doesn't limit itself with just military history. Planes of all different eras and types are on display, and even a section on the space program. You really could spend an entire day there to really see everything. Thinking we were nearly done, we then accidentally stumbled upon their new 4D full-motion theatre, which had just opened three weeks prior, and were treated to two short but exciting animated movies in 3D. Okay, technically it was 4D, except that their idea of what the fourth dimension is may differ slightly from yours! To keep it fresh, new movies will be added from time to time, but on this round, we were treated to both a quick Jetpack Adventure and a Journey to the Moon, with 3D glasses and state-of-the-art, full-motion seats, which was all an unexpected treat! Needless to say, I was a happy camper... with aliens, airplanes, lunch, and a 4D movie to boot! I wouldn't have thought it was possible to fit all that into one building, but somehow they managed to. Balboa Park should definitely be on your list of things to do in San Diego, and I’d say for sure put the Science of... Aliens exhibit and the Air and Space Museum right at the top! I hope you do, and enjoy it as much as I did!
TheSan Diego Air and Space Museumis located inBalboa Parkat 2001 Pan America Plz., San Diego. For more information, visitsandiegoairandspace.orgor call 619-234-8291. ..