Have you ever walked up to the Concord? or a space shuttle?
It’s one thing to read about the incredible history flight. It’s quite another to be in the middle of it all!
On our recent trip up the East coast, we were able to spend a few hours at the new Udvar-Hazy Center outside of Washington, DC. The Udvar-Hazy Center is a more recent addition to the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC. Opening in 2003 , it provided a new venue for the Smithsonian to showcase their vast and unparallelled collection of air and space artifacts. Situated on the outskirts of Washington-Dulles airport, it is an immense facility that traces the history of flight over the past 150 years.
There is a uncontrollable “WOW!” as you walk in to the main hanger and see all kinds of planes in their true-to-life size, suspended in time all around you. There is nothing like it. All of the pieces are in pristine condition. Even the Enola Gay looked like it had never even been spit on, let alone flown combat missions or dropped an atomic bomb.
You are not able to go inside the planes, but it is amazing to see them in person, from the outside. In the main section, we especially enjoyed seeing the Enola Gay, the P38 lightning, Concord, and the Stealth. In a separate section, they have the space shuttle Enterprise and other space travel artifacts.
Throughout the museum are displays explaining each craft’s use, history, importance, and technology. Computer touch screens are also scattered so that you can see the cockpit view of various planes.
This museum was a definite hit with the adults, but our younger children are not quite at the age to understand the significance of many of the artifacts. It held their attention for a couple of hours, so I’m glad that it was a shorter stop on our vacation.
A few notes to remember if you visit ….
The only charge for the museum is the parking ($15 per vehicle). Parking is free after 4pm, though.
There were quite a few people there on the Saturday that we visited, so be prepared for crowds and teach your children about staying close in the vast open spaces. Our younger children were fine spending about 2 hours there. Those who are especially in to flight will probably want to spend more time.
Ramps and elevators are not always conveniently located, so plan your pathway as you make your way around. Wear comfortable shoes, for sure! Family bathrooms were available, but it is quite a large building, so be prepared to walk.
The only food available (a McDonald’s) follows the same hours as the museum. So when the museum closes, so does the restaurant.
They have a fabulous gift shop with the normal trinkets, but also a great book selection for both children and adults.
We did not have time to visit the observation deck or try out the simulators that were also inside the museum.
Getting there: The Udvar-Hazy Center is on the outskirts of Washington, DC (to the southeast) so, of course, plan on road construction and DC traffic in planning your visit.
For more information ….
National Air And Space Museum
14390 Air And Space Museum Pkwy
Chantilly, VA 20151
- Hours: Mon-Sun 10 am – 5:30 pm