One of the biggest attractions in Seattle is the Boeing Factory Tour. Manufacturer of the majority of airplanes around the world, Boeing is located about 30 minutes north of downtown Seattle.
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What is the Boeing Factory Tour + Future of Flight Aviation Center?
Unless you are extremely pressed for time, the whole experience should take at least 2 hours. You can arrive to the Boeing factory from the highway, at the exit near Paine Field Airport. It’s clearly marked, so you should have no trouble if you follow the signs for “Future of Flight” – not the Boeing offices for employees.
Future of Flight Aviation Center
When you first arrive, you go into the Future of Flight Aviation Center. This is the small museum portion of the tour. It costs $12 for adults and $6 for kids under 15 (or is included in the $25 adult tour ticket, $15 for kids). If you don’t go on the tour, visiting just this museum is not worth it. It has some airplane engine parts and an old cockpit that still has hundreds of switches, but you can easily see it in 10-20 minutes, 30 at the most.
There is a small play area to the left for children to learn a little of the science behind flight. Since children under 4 feet are not allowed on the tour (the viewing platforms have walls about this height and they don’t want children to be carried in case they fall), this could be a nice place for them to stay in the meantime.
Boeing Factory Tour
The factory tour is a 90-minute tour that takes you through the main Boeing assembly facility. Most of the parts of airplanes is brought in from other parts of the world, but they are assembled in Seattle. They ban cameras and cell phones, so I don’t have any pictures, unfortunately!
A single tour guide (for about 30 people, there were two groups at my time when I went) takes you from the introduction movie theater to several parts of their assembly line. The building in which these unfinished planes are held is the largest in the world by volume, so you take a bus!
Note: There is a lot of walking down stairs towards the basement of the factory, through the long halls, and back up. The walk is not suitable for people with mobility restrictions, but Boeing will make accommodations for wheelchairs if you notify them in advance.
Along the way, you can see several airplanes being built and assembled. The building has giant cranes to move parts, and if you’re lucky you might see one or two. My tour was in the afternoon, when little work is done. Instead, you should visit in the morning to see engineers actually working.
Tips for Visiting
- Bring comfortable shoes, as you will be walking a bit.
- You are not allowed to bring bags, phones, cameras, or other devices on the tour. They do have free lockers at the museum and tour entrance, so bringing them is okay.
- To get a perfect tour time, book at least 2-3 days early. This is especially important if you visit on weekends and/or the summer. However, even in the heart of June you can get tickets for the same day.
- See prices and book tickets at the Boeing Factory Tour tickets page.
- Because of the Boeing Factory Tour, there are several hotels in the area. The Hilton Garden Inn is right across the parking lot from the building entrance. If you stay there, you won’t even have to drive to the tour. Other options:
- Don’t forget to sit in the old pilot cockpit that they have in the museum!
- Get your family picture taken in front of a green screen, then pick a background and send the digital file to yourself in the museum.
- Visit the roof of the building, which has a great view of the factory building and the nearby airspace, where most planes are tested.
- Have some coffee, snacks, or food at the cafe if you plan to be there a while.
Is the Boeing Tour Worth It?
In short, it depends.
While the tour is quite interesting, it is not as great as I believe it really could be. Seeing airplanes in the process of assembly is cool – especially when you see the green coating that they put on airplanes that are yet to be painted for protection. You also get to learn fun facts like the paint of the airplane can weigh several tons, or that Boeing has the only privately owned bridge on the highway in the country. But, I would have loved to see more of the following:
- How airplanes have changed, especially in terms of speed and fuel efficiency
- Debunking popular flying rumors or urban myths
- Where all the airplane parts come from
- The science behind flight
- Why and how Boeing became so well-known in air travel
Unfortunately, the closest we got to a plane was several hundred meters away, standing on a dock looking across the factory floor.
People who should go
If this is you, you should throw all my doubts out the window:
- Love planes, aviation, etc.
- Work in the airline industry, such as a pilot, engineer, flight attendant, etc.
- Your children love planes and flying
- Want to learn more about science and engineering
- Love museums and information
People who might enjoy going but should not prioritize the Boeing Factory Tour
- Live in or visiting Seattle for a while, and have time in their schedule
- Have children who don’t love flight but are at least a bit interested
- Like to do the most well-known things in the cities they visit
People who should not go
- Do not have a car, as the facility is a drive away and tours that bring you to the factory can cost triple the price of a ticket per person
- Have young children under the height of 4″, as they are not allowed on tours
- Don’t have enough time to take a tour, and were only planning on the museum
- Don’t like museums, as the tour is like a glorified museum
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