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Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

Indoor Free
History Museums, Science Museums, Aeronautics Museum, School Trip, Educational, Historical, Touristy
600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC
URL: Smithsonian National Air &...  Phone: 202-633-2214

Activity Overview

One of Washington's must-visits, the Air and Space Museum is the most visited museum in the world. (8.2 million people visited in 2010. The Museum is the largest of the Smithsonian's 19 museums, and has welcomed over 311 million visitors since it opened in 1976.

Things to See & Do

This museum is where famous aircraft desire to live when they retire. Notable crafts like the Wright 1903 Flyer, which Wilbur and Orville Wright piloted over the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module, and the Lockheed Vega that Amelia Earhart piloted in 1932 in the first solo transatlantic flight by a woman.

The Museum's collection encompasses some 60,000 objects ranging in size from Saturn V rockets to jetliners to gliders to space helmets to microchips. Fully one-third of the Museum's aircraft and spacecraft are one-of-a-kind or associated with a major milestone.

There are lots of interactive exhibits as well - wind tunnels, carrier landings etc.. along with artifacts new to the museum, among them a model of the USS Enterprise from the "Star Trek" television series.

Free docent-led tours leave daily at 10:30am and 1:00pm from the museum's welcome center.

Visitors can strap into a flight simulator, walk through a model of the Skylab orbital workshop, and learn about the history of flight and the scientific study of the universe from the permanent exhibits.

You can also immerse yourself in space by taking in an IMAX film or a planetarium presentation. The movies—some in 3D—employ swooping aerial scenes that make you feel as if you've left the ground and fascinating high-definition footage taken in deep space.

The three-story museum store is the largest in all the Smithsonian museums, and one of the best. You'll find souvenirs, clothing, books and movies, kites, and loads of collectors' items.

  • There is so much big stuff that they had to build an enormous storage shed for it. A dazzling $311 million storage shed, the Udvar-Hazy Center, at Dulles Airport, is chock-full of cool airplanes and space stuff. Opened in 2003, its two huge hangars display thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery.

National Air & Space Museum Insider Tips

  • This museum gets crowded with school groups and tours. It is best to visit early on weekdays.
  • Limited Parking: Metered street parking and paid parking garage options are limited. Parking on the Mall is available after 9:30 am but it isn't a sure thing so public transportation is recommended.
  • Metro Access: The closest Metrorail stop is at L'Enfant Plaza (about 3 blocks). Metrobus stops are located right outside the Museum entrance on Independence Avenue, SW, and along 7th Street, SW. Visit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority website for more information.
  • No Food and Drink: Only bottled water is permitted in the Museum. You may only consume food and other drinks in the Food Court which offers items from McDonald'­s, Boston Market and a pizzeria. Visitors who bring their own food are encouraged to picnic on the National Mall.
  • Limit the Number of Bags: All visitors are screened through metal detectors upon entry. The fewer items you bring inside the Museum, the faster your entry (and visitors behind you). Before you visit, save yourself a headache and review the list of prohibited items, which include pocket knives and tripods.
  • Connect to WIFI: Connecting to the museum's WI-FI is easy. Just choose SI-VISITOR, open a web browser, and accept the terms of service.
  • Buy Tickets Early: IMAX and Planetarium show tickets can sell out during busy months or when popular films are showing. We recommend you buy tickets online in advance.
  • Open every day except December 25.

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