The skies and stars have always captivated our minds and awakened our imaginations. To bring that same energy into meetings and conferences, meeting planners should consider air and space museums as venues.
These museums around the country provide exciting, educational backdrops to meetings and allow attendees to learn about some of the most fascinating and mysterious topics in modern science and technology. Whether they focus on the history of air travel or the farthest reaches of outer space, these museums give meeting planners the chance to incorporate a sense of wonder, excitement and innovation inherent to exploring the final frontier.
U.S. Space and Rocket Center
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center opened in 1970 in Huntsville, Alabama. It was in this once unassuming town that some of the first American rockets were developed and history was made in the race to explore space. Now, this museum boasts one of the largest collections of space and rocket memorabilia in the world. The museum includes a range of exhibits centered on America’s efforts to explore space, both past and present. The museum is home to “lots of history here but also lots of work in the future of space exploration,” said Patricia Ammons, senior director of communications at the center.
Meeting attendees can enjoy admission to the museum, where they can see the its impressive Saturn V rocket, a National Historic Landmark, as well as a moon rock and the original Apollo 16 capsule that went to the moon. The museum features interactive exhibits such as the “Science on Orbit” exhibit, which operates as a model for the International Space Station, and a world-class planetarium that lets meeting attendees see the stars in high definition.
Due to the center’s popular Space Camp in the summer, planners will have the best success booking meetings in the spring, fall and winter months. For daytime meetings, an on-site education training facility offers an auditorium that seats 128 and a classroom that seats 70. The museum is available to rent out after hours for everything from team-building exercises to dinners. The museum can rent its National Geographic Theater, which seats 300, and the Saturn V Hall offers standing room for up to 1,000 attendees. The center’s in-house catering can provide plated dinners for up to 800.
Tellus Science Museum
The Tellus Science Museum opened in 2009 as an expansion of the Weinman Mineral Museum. The 120,000-square-foot museum features four permanent exhibits and several rotating exhibits that explore various aspects of the natural sciences, such as fossils and minerals. The museum also offers plenty to those interested in learning about the solar system, such as the planetarium and an observatory with a 20-inch-diameter telescope. Interactive exhibits allow guests of all ages to get their hands dirty, whether they’re mining for gems, panning for fossils or peeking at the stars.
“We want to inspire people and ignite a spark about science,” said Shelly Redd, director of marketing for the museum.
The museum is available to be rented after hours. Planners can choose from a variety of spaces: a great hall, one of the museum’s exhibit galleries, a theater seating 220 and a banquet room. Meeting attendees can explore the museum and enjoy its interactive exhibits or watch a planetarium show. In-house catering and bar service are offered for events with fewer than 100 attendees; the museum also offers an approved catering list for events with as many as 700 attendees.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the world’s largest military aviation museum and is dedicated to educating the public about the role of the U.S. Air Force in the country’s national defense. The museum first opened in 1923, but the facility has changed location and undergone many renovations in its long history. Its current location opened in 2016 and is known for its efficient and environmentally friendly design. The museum’s exhibits teach about the Air Force’s contribution to aviation research and technology, space and national defense. Many artifacts, such as vintage aircrafts and missiles from U.S. military history, are on display, making the museum a gem for history and aviation enthusiasts alike.
The museum offers 10 different spaces to accommodate meetings of various sizes, from a boardroom that seats 30 to a hall that seats up to 1,200. Classrooms, theaters and individual galleries are also available for presentations, team-building exercises and trainings. The museum offers facility rentals during the day and after hours, depending on the meeting space, and can coordinate additional activities for the meeting attendees, such as scavenger hunts, movie screenings, museum tours and simulators. The museum offers an approved list of caterers that can provide a variety of foods and beverages, depending on the style of meeting.
The Cosmosphere opened in 1980 as a space and science center dedicated to displaying and honoring the history of space exploration. Inspiration for the museum came from one of the first public planetariums in the Midwest. Today, the museum has one of the largest collections of Russian space artifacts outside of Moscow. Some of its most famous artifacts include flown capsules from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, as well as some personal effects of astronauts. The lobby boasts a vintage spy plane known as an SR-71 for museum guests to see during their visit. The museum is the only Smithsonian affiliate in Kansas.
“We are a truly unique Midwestern destination,” said Maria Kelson, public relations and volunteer coordinator at the Cosmosphere.
Planners seeking an interactive space for their meeting attendees need look no further than the Cosmosphere. Activities uniquely tailored to group needs, such as space camp for adults and simulated missions, make exciting and educational team-building exercises. Shows and events in the dome theater or planetarium are offered at discounted rates. Meeting spaces in the museum range from a boardroom that seats 18 to larger spaces such as the banquet room, which seats about 150. Planners can reserve individual rooms, or they can rent the whole facility after hours. The Cosmosphere can cater beverages and snacks and will also provide a list of local vendors for meals.
Boeing Future of Flight Museum
Lake Stickney, Washington
The Boeing Future of Flight Museum is one of the largest private aviation museums in the world and is dedicated to educating museum guests about the history of aviation and Boeing, specifically. The museum, which opened in 2005, offers five exhibit galleries for guests to explore and features hundreds of aircrafts and Boeing products. Designed to encourage excitement about the STEM field, the museum educates guests about the history and production of air travel technology and even allows glimpses of the future of this exciting industry.
“All of our rooms have views of our airfield and offer experiences you wouldn’t get in a normal meeting space,” said Cindy Messey, private events manager at the museum. “It’s more about the atmosphere and kind of helping inspire people.”
The museum offers 14 spaces that can be rented out for meetings of varied sizes; these include the exhibit galleries, which can be rented out after hours. Other spaces are conference rooms of assorted sizes for smaller meetings, a theater that seats up to 272, the museum’s sky deck and two large banquet spaces. Free admission to the museum on the day of the meeting is offered to attendees, and the museum’s education department can modify activities for groups of all sizes for team-building exercises and breakouts. The museum has an exclusive on-site caterer for meetings of all types.