Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (National Mall)
This museum is one of the most visited museums in the National Mall. It’s amazing how much you can learn at the museum. A visit to DC is not complete without stopping by here and many other places.
The museum is located in the National Mall in Downtown Washington, DC on Independence Ave. The National Mall borders and contains museums of the Smithsonian Institute, art galleries, memorials, sculptures and statues. The easiest way to get to the National Mall and any of it’s museums and sights is by subway or bus. The most convenient subway stop for the National Air and Space Museum is L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station.
There is limited parking in the area and all the parking spots are metered. If you are staying in the city, you might be able to walk there or take a bus, taxi. One of my favorite spots in Washington, DC is the Grand Hyatt Washington D.C.
Admission & Hours
Open Daily (except December 25) from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and no tickets are required. During weekends and holidays the line to get in can get very long. To avoid long waiting times come here early in the morning, just around opening hours. You will have to get through a security checkpoint with metal detector and bag inspection to enter the building.
The museums has exhibits from the first attempts of flight all the way to the current space program. Some of the favorites here are 1903 Wright Flyer, Spirit of St. Louis, Bell X-1, and an Apollo lunar module. Learn more about the last flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery which is now housed in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the National Air and Space Museum.
This is the perfect place for ever aviation and space geek out there.
Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory
While you there, make sure you visit the public observatory which is located outside on the museum’s southeast terrace, near the corner of Independence Avenue and 4th St. SW, Washington, DC. Some of the things you can see through the telescope are the Sun (safely), the planet Venus, or the Moon (when available). Check the observatory’s calendar for stargazing opportunities at night.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is an annex of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. This place offers additional exhibition space and shows some of the most unique and also biggest exhibits of the Air and Space Museum.
Unfortunately the annex of the museum is located about an hour drive away from the National Mall. There are many ways to get there. The trip itinerary below is planned to connect from the Air and Space Museum in Downtown to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport.
I used Google Maps to check for the best and fastest connection between these two locations. The sample itinerary is the easiest one if you are not familiar with the area.
- L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station
Use the Silver Line to get to
- Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station
Hop on Fairfax Connector Bus No. 983
- Get off at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
You might have to take more connections, depending where you are in the city. The trip takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. So plan ahead and better go early. The above route is one of the easiest while is keeps connections down to a minimum. I took a slight different route and had a stop at Dulles International Airport as well.
You can buy a ticket at one of the machines at the stations or pay for it with your Smartrip card. Make sure you have enough cash value loaded on your card. Be aware that you can’t use a day ticket for this trip as it is not accepted on the Fairfax Connector Bus No. 983. This would make trip planning to easy. No matter what route you take, you will always end up at the Fairfax Connector Bus No. 983 to get to the museum. I wish just that portion of the ride would be included with a day ticket. You can use your day ticket on all other portions of your trip, just make sure you have enough cash for the Fairfax Connector Bus on your Smartrip card as well.
Driving might be the fastest option if you have a car at your disposal but the parking fee at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is $15 per vehicle. Overall you will spend about the same for the public transportation ticket or the parking fees.
Admission & Hours
Open Daily (except December 25) from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and no tickets are required. During weekends and holidays the line to get in can get very long. To avoid long waiting times come here early in the morning, just around opening hours. You will have to get through a security checkpoint with metal detector and bag inspection to enter the building. Also times to enter the parking lot are longer during peak times.
Some of the main attractions here are definitely the Space Shuttle Discovery, SR-71 Blackbird Spy Plane and the Air France Concorde. Two hangars offer a lot more insight in the history of flight. Look at the first planes developed by major companies as well as the first rockets. This place is full of history. Get a glimpse at ongoing conservation projects in the Mary Baker Engen Restauration Hangar. To make the best out of your visit join one of the free guided tours which are available daily at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
If this is not enough for you, watch planes take off and land from Washington Dulles International Airport in the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower. From the observation deck you get a 360° view of Dulles and the surrounding area. The tower is accessed by elevator and the lines can get very long. Make sure you check the lines and get up on top as soon as you can. Despite the rest of the museum, the tower closes at 4:30 p.m. Don’t miss out on this view.
I had some issues finding the elevator, but the easiest way to find the entrance to the elevator is by going down the stairs to your right at the main entrance. Remember you have to get through a quick bag check first if you bring one. On the lower level go to your right toward the IMAX theatres and the elevator will be on your right.
Another reason for me to come to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center was to get the stamp for this museum in my Visit NASA Passport.
This location is also perfect for plane spotting as the planes come in low near the parking lot while in approach of Washington Dulles International Airport. One of the best vantage points is of course the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower. Unfortunately you have to fight the reflection in the windows and it can get pretty busy up there. Alternatively you can hang out in the parking lot for some great photos.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.