The National Air and Space Museum
For those with their heads in the clouds, nothing beats a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall or to its larger location, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport in Virginia. Both sites include IMAX theaters and flight simulators. The National Mall site includes the Albert Einstein Planetarium.
Opened in 1976, the National Mall location includes 22 exhibition galleries that display aircraft and memorabilia spanning the history of flight. These include the 1903 airplane designed and built by Wilbur and Orville Wright—the first powered, heavier-than-air machine with a pilot aboard to achieve flight—and the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia, the only part of the spacecraft that carried the first men to the moon that returned to earth.
Throw in the Spirit of St. Louis, in which Charles Lindbergh made the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight, and you can understand why this building is the most-visited museum in the world.
The Smithsonian’s collection of aviation and space exploration artifacts and aircraft quickly outgrew the space on the Mall. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which opened in December 2003 and includes an airline hangar for space-related items, displays thousands of aircraft.
Visitors can closely examine aircraft parked on the floor or, thanks to elevated skywalks, can come nose to nose with planes and spacecraft suspended from the ceiling. Highlights at this location include the Enola Gay and the Space Shuttle Enterprise.
Learn about lectures and events and plan your visit on the National Air and Space website. Created in 1946 as the National Air Museum, a separate bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, the name was changed 20 years later with the opening of the National Mall location.
by Katie Calvert