When searching for things to do with my kids, I often overlook the simple. I get caught up in events and attractions that are marketed as family fun which frequently include crowds, high admission and over commercialization. Sometimes in the middle of all that tailor-made fun, the fun gets lost in the shuffle.
This week we went off the beaten track and found some good old fashioned FUN. Fun unfettered by crowds, admission or commercialization.
We went to our local regional airport and met some friends for lunch – The Blue Hangar Cafe at Northwest Regional Airport.
As this outing was loosely planned (by Deb), we all kept mentioning to friends where we were going. Each friend responded, “Oh, I want to go!” And when we finally counted, lunch with friends was a table for 30.
A table for 30?
We better call ahead!
The call was placed and picked up by the owner of Northwest Regional Airport. He encouraged us to come on over and enjoy the day. He surprised us by relating that Northwest Regional Airport is the largest privately owned airport in North America. There are over 500 planes on the ground. He mentioned that if he was available while we were there he would show us around.
When my minivan full of children arrived at the airport, I was taken aback by the fact that an airplane was driving on the road toward me! Once inside the airport, the cars and the planes share the roads surrounding the runway. The cars are expected to yield – which I did. We found the Blue Hangar Cafe and sat down on the patio to wait for our friends. The Blue Hangar was buzzing with lunch activity and just outside the runway was buzzing with airplanes taking off and landing. We saw 7 in the first 5 minutes we were there. My boys were thrilled.
While waiting for our friends to arrived we noticed this really cool plane pull out of a nearby hangar. We walked over to see if we could get our picture in front of the plane.
The pilot/owner was so friendly and helpful and suggested that he could show the kids some of the different parts of his 1941 plane – if they wanted to see…
Did they want to see?
They were so excited to be up close.
No touching! Fingerprints will show on this shiny plane.
The kids listened attentively while they were shown how the wings worked. This particular plane has places on the wings where you can look through to the ground near the front. I am sure if I had listened better I would know what that was called, but it was something I had never seen before.
After the plane anatomy lesson and a tour through his hangar which included some really cool old cars in various stages of restoration, the pilot suggested a place where we could safely stand to watch him take off.
The plane passed by the children and took a corner to the end of the runway…
…then up, up and away. It was easy to see the sun reflect off the plane even when it was in the air. The pilot even flew the plane back by the airport so the kids could wave again.
We then descended on The Blue Hangar Cafe and took up their entire back room with tables full of moms and kids. I had a chipotle chicken wrap and the boys all had burgers. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cafe had a children’s menu. Food for myself and my three boys was under $20. Mid-meal the table of older boys I was supervising decided they couldn’t handle eating INSIDE when planes were taking off like crazy OUTSIDE. So, despite 100 degree temps they picked up their plates and went out to the patio. Being a responsible adult…ugh…I went to.
BUT it IS amazing. You sit right next to the gas pumps that are alongside the runway.
Planes come in, fill up with gas, park for awhile, load, unload, taxi, take off and land all within a few feet.
After lunch we caught up with the Northwest Regional Airport owner. He took us down to a hangar where he was restoring this amphibious aircraft that easily seats over 30 people:
Inside we could see the work in progress and how the interior of the plane is under construction. Outside we could see the tail sticking out of the hangar. A perfect place to find some shade.
We then went down to what all the kids agreed was the coolest thing we saw all day…this Marine Helicopter.
They were able to get inside and sit and “fly”…
Overall it was one of the most amazing adventures we have had. Everyone we met at Northwest Regional Airport was friendly, nice and went out of their way to make our visit special.
We also visited the Pilot’s Shop which has some flying collectibles and toys. There were allowance-friendly toys starting at 50 cents.
The Blue Hangar Cafe is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 to 2:00 for lunch. They open on Saturday at 7:00 for breakfast and boasted that they have the best pancakes in town.
Not wanting to let perfectly good pancakes sit uneaten, I returned on Saturday with my husband and boys to test them out.
Pretty amazing pancakes.
Pretty amazing view since the airport is even busier on Saturday morning.
Oh, and we ran into 3 other families from our initial adventure trip…I guess we weren’t the only one who think Northwest Regional Airport is a cool place to visit.
Northwest Regional Airport is located 1/2 mile east of I-35W on 1171 just North of Texas Motor Speedway. The Blue Hangar Cafe can be reached by phone (817) 490-5146.