When G and I went to Washington DC earlier this summer, there were a few things I knew we had to do. The National Mall is obviously a must-see in DC and I also wanted to check out some of the museums. The Smithsonian museums are the most well-known and we narrowed our choice down to what we considered to be the main three: American History, Natural History, and Air and Space. I had been to the National Museum of American History before and really enjoyed it but wanted to see something new. As much as I enjoy natural history museums, I’ve seen quite a few before, plus, G loves anything related to planes or space. So naturally, we decided on the National Air and Space Museum.
What I didn’t know is that the Smithsonian actually has two Air and Space Museums. They outgrew the first one on the National Mall so they built a second near the Dulles Airport back in 2003. The museum in Virginia was actually really close to where we were staying so on our first day in DC we went over to check it out. I guess the Air and Space Museum is so popular that when people have long layovers in Dulles they take a shuttle to the museum for a couple of hours. Not a bad way to kill time between flights!
The Air and Space Museum was really fun to visit. It consists of two hangars: an aviation hangar and a space hangar, as well as an observation tower where you can watch planes land at the Dulles Airport. The museum was completely packed with planes- they were hanging from the ceiling, covering the floor… and the space hangar was filled with relics from space, everything from satellites to games that astronauts played. This is definitely the place to visit if you are at all interested in aviation, but it would also be fun for history buffs. It was interesting to see all of the different planes and how the styles and technologies have changed over the years.
And everything in the Air and Space Museum has a story behind it. These aren’t planes they found in the middle of nowhere, they are the “first of this,” or the “only remaining.” Many of the items on display can be recognized by name by people who aren’t even interested in aviation, like the Enola Gay or a piece of the Hindenburg. And a lot of them were just fun to look at. You could really see the evolution of technology and the changes that were made to aircraft over time.
The space hangar was also nice to see. It’s crazy to think about how far we’ve progressed with the space program in such a short amount of time. This was another area where everything included was a recognizable part of history (but I guess that’s the point of the Smithsonian, everything has to be important to be included!).
The “space stuff” was probably the best part of the museum. It’s funny to see a case of watches, tools, and even makeup and think such ordinary objects are so cool because “they’ve been to space!” It really puts things into perspective and it’s interesting to see how they had to alter things we use every day to make them spaceworthy.
The National Air and Space Museum was a lot of fun to visit for both G, an aviation and space enthusiast, and me, a casual fan. It was crazy the amount of planes to look at! Everywhere you looked, there were more planes! The museum had a nice setup with a big open space and lots of walkways at different levels so we could see everything. It was interesting to see the history of aviation and space flight and there was also an area where we could see other planes being restored. I would definitely recommend checking out one of the Air and Space Museums, whether it’s the one we visited in Virginia or the original museum on the National Mall in DC.