By Jose A. Lopez
The San Diego Air & Space Museum is a little more kid-friendly these days with the addition of a new high-tech movie theater and children play area.
Earlier this month, the Balboa Park museum inaugurated a new "4-D" theater, which combines 3-D movies with moving seats, lasers, wind and splashes of water to give viewers an immersion experience.
"We're trying to be more interactive, and we saw this as a way to engage kids," said museum spokeswoman Jessica Packard.
It took about three months to convert a rear gallery into the 36-seat Zable Theater. Now it is showing two movies in a continuous loop throughout the day. Access to the theater is free with regular museum admission.
The first is a 15-minute portion of "Fly Me to the Moon," an animated 2008 movie about a trio of flies that hitch a ride aboard the Apollo 11. The movie details what it's like for the flies as the rocket achieves lift off.
The other featured movie is a 5-minute piece tiled "Jetpack Adventure," about a kid and his cat who imagine what it would be like to zip off to school in a jet pack.
Packard said the movies, produced by nWave Pictures, are specially designed to work with the theater's 4-D system.
"Gradually, we'll add more as they become available," Packard said. "We'll try to stick within the aviation theme."
The museum also debuted a new play area for kids, dubbed the Kid's Aviation Action Hangar.
It features magnetic toys, coloring books and art equipment and a dress up area that allows children to dress up as astronauts, play with a simulator and take a photo of themselves on the moon. It also features pedal-powered airplanes that children can ride around a kid-sized airport and two flight simulators, as well as a replica of the cockpit of the F-104 Starfighter, which is perfect for photo opportunities.
Packard said the theater and the hangar extend the museum-going experience for visitors, adding about a half-hour to a visit.
Most of the money for the theater came from the Walter J. Zable and Betty C. Zable Foundation. Walter J. Zable is the founder of the Cubic Corp.
In September, the museum is getting four F-35 simulators, which will enable visitors to simulate aerial dogfights.
The museum is also gearing up for its annual golf tournament on Aug. 11, which raises money for its educational programs for children and a related party, dubbed an "Alien Luau" on Aug. 14.
More information on these upcoming events can be obtained through the museum's website, www.sandiegoairandspace.org.
The museum is located at 2001 Pan American Plaza in Balboa Park. Until Labor Day (Sept. 6), the hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with the last admission at 5 p.m. After Labor Day, the museum will close at 4:30 p.m.