Helicopter pioneer Stanley Hiller Jr. founded the Hiller Aviation Museum with the future in mind, using history to inspire future generations to explore and create. He had firsthand proof of the innovative abilities of youth—his design for the first successful coaxial helicopter landed at age 19.
In the museum he established in 1998, 53,000 square feet of exhibits let visitors of all ages discover more than 40 aircraft without the dangers of encountering them in the wild. A narrated walking tour leads the way through them, tracing the history of flight from its humble beginnings in village jumping contests to today's supersonic jets. Fixed-wing and rotary aircraft designed by Hiller and others rest throughout the huge, bright space, while weekends beckon would-be pilots into a flight simulator equipped with huge monitors of bay views and realistic yokes, throttles, and pedals.
Underneath the stately stained-glass dome of the 1910 Old County Courthouse, tourists, locals, and history buffs stuff their brains with knowledge from interactive kiosks and thousands of books and primary sources about San Mateo County. Hands-on school programs and a wealth of exhibits educate visitors on particular aspects of the region's heritage, including the natural resources that enrich the shores and forests, and the waves of pioneers who turned local raw materials into ax handles, salted hams, and maple candy. The museum’s curators and archivists pride themselves on their professionalism, nabbing a coveted accreditation by the American Association of Museums, an honor claimed by only a small percentage of the nation’s museums and none of the nation’s dry cleaners.
Traditionally, the zoo provides the comfort of seeing animals that could not make a surprise visit to your backyard; this is a comfort CuriOdyssey dispatches to give weight to its message of science education. The menagerie of nearly 100 mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds primarily showcases local species like the Channel Island fox and the red-shouldered hawk, which have relatively small niches that have been squeezed by environmental degradation and human encroachment. Native species can be glimpsed within a complex of 25 lush habitats, including a 4,000-square-foot walk-through aviary and a replica of the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Sunny, outdoor gardens fill more than 1.3 acres with plots that rotate with the seasons and plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds for live study. Among the science exhibits, Forces explores fundamental forces in nature such as gravity and magnetism. All the exhibits are designed to enable close observation and experimentation characteristic of the scientific method. This aim is supported by shows, such as daily otter feedings—spied from behind the glass of a cross-sectioned riverbank—and a variety of classes.
The Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia celebrates iconic candy packaging with its exhibit of PEZ dispensers, featuring the plastic disembodied heads of animals, cartoon characters, comic-book heroes, and more. With two tickets ($3 each), you and a friend can peruse recent additions to the exhibit, including wistfully philosophical Peanuts PEZ dispensers from 2000 and a Mary Poppins dispenser from the 1960s that has been appraised as practically perfect in every way. Other confection-spouting dispensers feature likenesses of Mickey Mouse, Batman, Santa Claus, and beloved comic-book super-heroine Betsy Ross. In addition to pint-sized PEZ packaging, the museum also houses the world’s largest PEZ-dispensing machine, standing nearly eight feet tall, weighing 85 pounds, and capable of storing numerous PEZ candies or UFO-related secrets.
Silicon Valley. Analog computers. Artificial intelligence. The Computer History Museum chronicles the 2,000-plus year history of computing. The exhibits include a range of displays that introduce guests to ancient devices, the first computers from the 1940s and 50s, and examples of contemporary mobile computing.
During visits, interactive exhibits invite players to compete in a game of pong or relay the stories of the first computer pioneers. The online exhibits detail the history of computer chess, marketing the computer revolution, and reflect back on this day in computer history. The museum also displays a fully-functioning model of Charles Babbage’s first automatic computing machine—the Babbage Engine, which he designed in 1834, though it wasn’t built until more than a century later—giving visitors a rare glimpse into the evolution computing.
In the 1940’s, the Boeing School of Aeronautics hangar at Oakland International Airport’s North Field housed some of the company’s brightest aeronautical engineers. Their work produced several early Boeing planes, including the Thorp T-3 and T-5, both of which are now on display thanks to the hangar’s current resident, the Oakland Aviation Museum.
Most of the museum’s exhibits focus on celebrating local aviation history, such as The American Legion’s involvement in the Bay Area and the history of native Californian and Medal of Honor awardee General James “Jimmy” Doolittle. However, the museum’s collection of aircraft features a broader mix, including a replica of the Wright Brothers’ EX Vin Fiz, a TAV-8A Herrier that can take off and land vertically, and the Short Solent III flying boat that was used in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
More interactive sites include flight simulators, a kid’s area, a research library, and occasional Open Cockpit Days that let visitors climb into the cockpit of a real Korean fighter jet and turn the radio up really loud. The knowledgeable staff operates the museum with the goal of both educating visitors about aviation’s proud history on the West Coast and throughout the U.S., as well as to inspire visitors by linking aviation’s past to the future of aeronautical invention.