Nothing beats the summer doldrums like a new adventure, especially an interstellar one. A big surprise is that one is so close: less than an hour from Oklahoma City in the cozy, yet cool community of Weatherford.
Head west on Interstate 40 and find yourself within inches of lunar landing equipment at the town's Stafford Air & Space Museum , 3000 E. Logan.
Weatherford is truly a place where high-tech and the heartland blend in perfect harmony. Birthplace of former astronaut and retired Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, the town is the lucky recipient of the world-class facility that bears his name, with 35,000 square feet of exhibit space. The museum includes a history room of Stafford's life, complete with his NASA uniform and other memorabilia, and then leads you into the Early Flight Gallery, with replicas of the Wright brothers' flying machines.
A replica of Charles Lindbergh's The Spirit of St. Louis is an impressive bit of nostalgia, but you'll quickly get the itch for the need for speed. No problem. How about an F-86, a MiG 21 and T-38 Talon jets? The black, Batman-like SR-71 Blackbird set the world record for speed at 2,200 mph.
Ever wondered what a bomb looks like? Take a shuddering glance at the 2,000-pound MK-84 bomb " like ones used in Desert Storm " then swiftly move along to the less scary, super-cool space stuff.
The half-scale model of NASA's Apollo spacecraft looks like it inspired the look of "WALL-E," and visitors can literally walk right through a solid rocket booster segment. For those who have ever wanted to touch a complete set of flown space shuttle tires, the Stafford is the only place in the country with such a thing. One tire alone would set you back $5,560.
The Hubble classroom contains 10 flight simulator computers, which can easily eat up an afternoon, but at least it's not in your living room. It was a big hit with both the boys and girls in the classroom.
When you're ready to come back to earth, try a trip back in time at Weatherford's Heartland of America Museum , 1600 S. Frontage, which opened last year. With 32 major historical exhibits with artifacts and memorabilia from the 1880s to the Fifties, the inspired collections group the exhibits by rooms, with full detail to allow guests to imagine what it might have been like to step in to the barbershop, the undertaker's business, the newspaper office and so on. Artifacts include antique cars, home appliances and vintage toys and games.
Kids may wish to hurry through the exhibits, but there's plenty to point out in the differences of yesteryear and today that they will grasp in a heartbeat, causing them to fully appreciate modern amenities in no time flat. For history buffs, the museum is chock full of nostalgic reminders of a slower " and often more uncomfortable " time gone by. "Malena Lott