I let you know already that we spent in a week in the DC area in August. Some of these places we had been to before, but enjoyed. Others were new to us (or some of us as I had actually been to all of them years ago). So, over the next few weeks I’ll give you an overview of each of the five places we went, in order.
Day 1 was at Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. We have been there twice before; it is a favorite every time. The kids love the scale of the place – the big hangers with complete airplanes and helicopters are a wonder to behold. It really does take a full day to take it all in, especially if you want to see one of the IMAX movies.
We decided to go here first because there was rain in the forecast (see clouds above, although it didn’t rain) and it was the shortest drive after a long travel day. We also consciously did the loop in the museum in reverse of our usual order as folks do tend to tire towards the end.
The museum is basically “T” shaped and divided into three categories: military, space, and civilian. There is also a restoration hanger, a control tower where you can watch planes landing at Dulles airport, simulators, and IMAX movies. We did the civilian planes first.
Then we looped back for lunch (McDonald’s, though they will let you bring in food). As we passed the cockpit of the Enola Gay the boys remarked on its similarity to the Millennium Falcon.
After lunch we went up to the control tower and purchased tickets for the older ones to watch one of the IMAX movies later in the afternoon. The wind direction was perfect because planes were coming in to land on either side of the museum’s control tower such that they were almost at eye level as they went past. (More on this later.)
After lunch we went to the military wing.
The older boys are finally getting old enough to understand the sides in the World Wars, the existence of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the significance of the military in general.
I always appreciate it when they leave some airplanes in an un-restored state. Dusted and cleaned up a bit yes, but not patched/painted/etc.
Finally, we headed to the space wing. I finally figured out the corner to wedge into to get the entire space shuttle in one picture!
The space wing has many more small displays and plaques to read than the other areas. In this way it is the most like the main Air & Space museum downtown.
Finally, we sent the older ones off to their IMAX movie and I took the younger three up the observation tower again. It was packed! What I didn’t realize initially is that most folks up there this time were plane spotters. This because obvious a few minutes later when an Airbus A380 came right past the window. I was so busy showing it to the kids that I didn’t get a picture of it until it was past us landing. But, I did get a picture of the Boeing 747 that came a few minutes later. You can imagine the even larger plane this close! Definitely not some thing you see often.
Anyway, after the A380 went by almost 2/3 of the crowd headed for the elevator. I also because aware of the number of people checking their phones to see which planes were coming next. That’s how I knew to be more ready for the 747. Apparently after the 747 went by there weren’t any other big planes due (at least for a while) because everyone headed for the exits. We stayed a bit to let the crowds clear and then headed down to meet the rest of our group and end our visit.