Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tourist Tuesday: The OTHER Air and Space Museum

I need to start by saying this to anyone and everyone that ever plans to visit DC - there are more than one Smithsonian museums you can visit. Shocker, I know. You can't imagine how many tourists I hear saying that they are "going to the Smithsonian," as if there was only one to visit. If you don't want to stand out as a tourist around these parts, make sure you know which Smithsonian you are going to visit. The more you know about DC, the better you will fare against all of us locals, that's all. :)

So, last week I mentioned that when my parents were in town we took them to the other Air and Space Museum. Not only are there more than one Smithsonian museum, but there are actually two Smithsonian Air and Space museums. If you're not from the DC area you probably had no idea that there are two Air and Space Museums (you may not have even known that there was one . . .) but it is definitely worth knowing that there are two.

The first one is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall. It's the one made "famous" by a certain Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian movie starring Ben Stiller, or just famous because it's probably one of the more notable Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. This museum is located directly on the National Mall and is literally filled to the brim with air and space artifacts - from space suits to the Spirit of St. Louis plane. It's really a cool museum if you've never been there, but if you are like Chris and I and my parents, you've been there plenty of times and wanted needed to check out something new.

So, we decided to visit the other Air and Space Museum - the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia. This museum is actually 45 minutes to an hour away from DC and the National Mall, and is unfortunately not metro-accessible, but if you have a car when you are visiting DC and have someone in your party who is even remotely interested in air and space flight I highly suggest you visit it. It's very cool.

The museum is actually three huge hangers - one for aircraft, one for spacecraft, and one for restoration - filled with planes, space modules, etc. When you walk in your eyes are literally flooded with aircraft, it's almost like you are blinded by planes and it's hard to even decipher what is what. See what I mean?

Of all of the planes, there were a few that definitely caught my eye. Like the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bombs in Japan.

Or the famous Concorde, the Air France plane you see behind that Boeing 707.

Then, we walked by the Restoration Hanger. I mean, how cool would it be to get to clean up and re-build these old planes? That is, if you had any mechanical experience and knew what you were doing . . . It looks cool though, right?!

Finally, we made our way to the Space Hanger. The hanger that I could not wait to get in to because of this beast. . .

Yes, it's the Discovery Space Shuttle!! How cool is that?! Seriously, this thing has been IN space.

Ok, so I might have gotten a little over-excited about the Discovery shuttle. Remember though, I'm a huge dork.

Other than that, there is a LOT of other things to see . . .

Charles Lindbergh paraphernalia.
Fabric from the Hindenburg.
A "gondola" (bottom of a blimp)
Itt's a car, it's a plane, it's a car/place!
I think we spent a couple of hours in there and never got bored. It did help that we went up in the Observation Tower that looks out over Dulles Airport and the surrounding northern Virginia area, and of course we stopped for a snack of a McFlurry and fries in the on-site McDonald's. MM mmmm fries!

A view of two of the exhibit hangers and northern VA from the Observation Tower
 And, in case you want to add a few more hours to your visit there, I suggest you check out what is showing at the museum's Airbus IMAX theater (a REAL IMAX theater). Chris and I have seen Inception and Star Trek at it, and it was ah-mazing!!

Lastly, if you plan on making the trip out there, remember to bring $15 for parking because while all of the Smithsonian museums are free to enter you do need to pay for parking at Udvar-Hazy. BUT, parking is free after 4pm and the museum closes at 5:30pm, and that might just leave you enough time to hit the hot spots! Also, the museum does provide tours if you like that kind of thing, or you can just be like us and wander around reading the plaques.

We've been to so many museums out here, and multiple times at that, so it was nice to see something not only new, but also really awesome! Everyone should have this museum on their DC to-see list, I know we'll be visiting it again!

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