Welcome to the Other Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
If you like aviation and outer space, then you’ll want to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, located on the National Mall, in Washington, D.C. This Federal flagship gallery of the Smithsonian’s family of Museums is renowned for pleasing aviation and outer space enthusiasts, young and old alike.
But there’s another Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which every aviation and space fan will want to visit. This gallery, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, is close to Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, in Northern Virginia. And the Udvar-Hazy Center is only about a 30-mile drive from the main D.C. Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. (However, given the traffic congestion of the area surrounding the Nation’s Capital, allow plenty of travel time if attempting to visit both branches in one day.) According to their website: “The two sites together showcase the largest collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world.” The Udvar-Hazy Center began welcoming visitors in December of 2003.
Fees, Parking, and Other Particulars
Like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in D.C., the Udvar-Hazy Center offers free admission. In order to visit, all you’ll pay will be $15 to park, and after 4:00 p.m., parking is free. And unlike the hustle and bustle of the Mall in D.C., the Center boasts a huge parking lot.
In accordance with their website, the Udvar-Hazy Center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. When the tourist season kicks into high gear, for both Virginia and D.C., the Center is typically open longer hours. However, before planning your visit, please check their website (http://airandspace.si.edu/udvarhazy/) or call (703-572-4118) to confirm exact operating times.
And of course, like many museums, the Udvar-Hazy Center is closed on Christmas Day. But if you’re visiting the area during the Holidays, your kids will have a grand time seeing all the cool planes, the day after Christmas, giving Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and kids some much needed exercise after the big Christmas feast.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Features Some of the Most Famous Planes and Spacecraft in History
And it all Began With the Wright Brothers
We all know the contributions Orville and Wilbur Wright, a.k.a., the Wright Brothers, have made to flight. So, no aviation display would be complete, without first paying homage to these two great American inventors. Their diligence, hard work, and inventions improved the world and the course of aviation history, as we know it.
At the Udvar-Hazy Center, you’ll see a reproduction of the “1908 Wright Military Flyer,” which is pictured left, along with a photo of the text describing the Flyer.
And if you find you have time to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the Mall, in D.C., you’ll discover other Wright memorabilia, including the “1903 Wright Flyer.”
Something for Military Aviation History Buffs
Those visitors, who are interested in military aviation, and its history, will want to spend time exploring the vast offerings at the Udvar-Hazy Center. American military planes from World War II, including the pre-war period, are on display, as well as Japanese and German military aircraft. Moving forward, planes that operated during the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold War, up through the modern era, are also showcased.
But more than just instruments of flight to be studied in a gallery, these aircraft tell a story. As military planes, they often represent the opposing sides of war, and no matter how bloody a conflict, they help us to understand history and her great conflicts. Because, good or bad, our history is our history, and it is what it is.
One example of the opposing sides of war is the presentation of the “Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay” in exhibition with Japanese warplanes. So, if you’re a big World War II history buff, a trip to the Center is not to be missed.
And, again, if you’re also able to pay a visit to the D.C. Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, awaiting you are more fascinating “World War II Aviation” displays.
Fly Faster Than Sound
If you missed your chance to soar above the Atlantic, breaking the sound barrier, in one of the Concorde jets, here, at least, is your chance to see one up close. The Udvar-Hazy Center has on display, Concorde F-BVFA, which was a gift from Air France. The Concorde supersonic jets were a joint project between France’s, Air France, and the United Kingdom’s, British Airways, and they flew from 1976 to 2003. Only the future will tell if we ever again return to civilian supersonic travel, but until then, enjoy seeing the Concorde.
Also, at Udvar-Hazy, you’ll find other fine examples of planes from the world of business and commercial aviation.
Blast Into Outer Space
So, if your idea of a cool vacation would be to blast off to the moon, then you’ll enjoy the exhibition focusing on all things space. And within this vast exhibit, named the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, the main draw has been the ability to see the Enterprise, the first of the space shuttle orbiters, and which first flew in 1977. However, if you want to see the Enterprise, you’ll need to visit before April 2012, as she’ll be moved, and put on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, located in New York City.
But don’t worry - if you miss seeing the Enterprise, you’ll soon be able to see the space shuttle, Discovery. In fact, to learn more about the celebrations planned to welcome Discovery to her new retirement home, at the Udvar-Hazy Center, check out their website (http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/discovery/).
And to see even more things ‘out of this world’, you’ll want to spend a few hours at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, in downtown D.C.
But More Than Just Cool Planes and Spacecrafts at the Udvar-Hazy Center
Donald D. Engen Tower – This observation tower, not only offers stunning views of Dulles Airport, but also houses exhibits showcasing the importance of air traffic control work to aviation.
Airbus IMAX Theater – There’s a charge to see IMAX films. Check their website for movie and ticket information. (http://www.nasm.si.edu/visit/theaters/uhc/)
Simulators – Hook your seatbelt, prepare for takeoff, and take a ride in a flight simulator. FYI: These flight simulators do carry a charge.
"I'm Lovin' It®" – We all know the Center is a haven for young minds. So, when your pint-sized geniuses get tired and hungry, and need a break, head over to the on-site “McDonald's & McCafe,” and enjoy a little pick-me-up, before heading back out to conquer the galaxy!
You don’t have to be a wide-eyed little girl or boy, and wannabe astronaut, to appreciate all the aviation and outer space gear contained within the Udvar-Hazy Center. You also don’t have to be an up-and-coming physicist or pilot. Because what you’ll see at Udvar-Hazy has as much to do with the history and times of our great Nation, as it does with science and space.
And if aviation and outer space really ‘move you’, then you’ll also want to check out other similar museums in and around your community. For instance, in Richmond, Virginia, where I live, we have the Virginia Aviation Museum. And while smaller museums may have a smaller display area, what they display is no less significant.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, has something for everyone, and it’s a fun and educational way for a family to spend time together.
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Stephen F Udvar-Hazy Center, 14390 Air & Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly, VA 20151,