On President’s Day weekend we hit up the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly.
Yep, if you’re following me on a regular basis, you will know it was on my list of DC resolutions to get over to see the space shuttle. Boy, did I see it. It’s huge, magnificent and clearly looks like it’s been in space. My daughter made one lap around it, and then took a seat on the floor to give her legs a rest. One resolution down– nine more to go.
Anyway, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall is typically a must for our out-of-towners (I just found out it’s actually the most visited museum in the U.S., and second only to the Louvre), and I feel like I about have the place memorized– down to the carpet and McDonald’s menu at the place.
While it’s great with all of the educational information and hands-on learning– it’s only a taste of what’s at the Udvar-Hazy Center. There’s no way to fit a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (the fastest jet ever built, for those of you who aren’t airplane know-it-alls) or space shuttle Discovery at the National Mall locale. There’s just no way.
In Chantilly, however, there’s a way. An extension of the National Air and Space Museum, the place is loaded with war planes, space missiles, helicopters, the precursors to modern commercial aircraft, and more. The museum is huge– like 760,000 square feet kind of huge. It holds more than 160 aircraft and more than 150 large space artifacts. What’s incredible to think about is that an extension to the facility is currently underway that will showcase the behind the scenes work of the Smithsonian Air and Space collection.
Designed as a hangar, you really begin to feel like you are in one– and there’s plenty of space to let your little ones walk until they’re worn out. My daughter was completely out within five minutes of getting back into her car seat.
Another great feature is the observation tower, where you can watch planes touch down and take off at next-door neighbor, Dulles International Airport. We were up there for more than 15 minutes with our one-year-old.
My advice if you plan a visit with little ones: bring your stroller. The place is huge, and your kid (if she’s like mine) will get sick of walking… about halfway around the space shuttle. Also, leave your snacks and drinks in the car, they will make you throw them out at the door. Pick up a map at the information desk, and ask about the biggest highlights, so you don’t miss them if you’re in a hurry. Go after 4 p.m. The museum is open until 5:30, but parking is free after 4 p.m.– which is great if you only think you’ll be there for an hour and a half.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center National Air and Space Visitor Information
- Open daily from 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., except Christmas Day
- Admission is free. No food or drinks allowed.
- Parking is $15. It’s refundable if you’re just dropping off, and free after 4 p.m.
- Address: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA, 20151.
More DC Fun
- Check out some of my other off-the-beaten path places to visit this year
- Head to the nearest Smithsonian to check out an exhibit before it’s gone
- Watch spring come to life at Theodore Roosevelt Island
- Check out one of Virginia’s presidential homes