This summer, my boys started taking a delighted interest in airplanes. They point out every one that goes overhead and ask constantly about the chance of flying somewhere. I decided this would be a good time to visit Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's Aircraft Viewing Area. This is the official place to watch airplanes in the metro area. Add to the fun by using this handy Flight Tracker website, so you can figure out where each airplane is headed.
Although it is really just a sidewalk with benches, it was a fun place to visit for a family picnic.
We've found that a good time to stop here is after dropping family off at the airport. We can go "watch Grandma's plane take off". It doesn't really matter if we watch her actual flight. We just stop and wave goodbye to the next plane to take off.
Plusses of the Aircraft Viewing Area
- It is free.
- You can spontaneously drop by. There are no special security checks since it is not actually at the airport.
- It has a direct view of runways and easy viewing of planes rolling in after landing.
- There are 25 free parking spaces.
- Two picnic tables are available on a first come basis.
- There are several park benches.
- Garbage and recycling receptacles are handy for cleaning up post-picnic.
- Security cameras and lighting are onsite.
- For those interested, there is a sign with details about the various planes.
Minuses of the Aircraft Viewing Area
- There are no restrooms.
- There is currently no shady area from which to watch. However, trees have been planted so someday there may be more shade.
- If you don't know your way around the area, it may be a bit hard to find the first time.
- It was surprisingly crowded. We had hoped to grab a picnic table, but they were in use.
- It is loud. Sensitive children may not like it. I had to take our toddler back to the van early.
Finding the Aircraft Viewing Area.
Another option for watching planes is nearby Fort Snelling State Park. State parks require the purchase a vehicle permit, but offers restrooms and shade.