The Incidental Tourist

National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian

Travel Photo: National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian


I was in the D.C. area with some time to kill and finally got to visit the other half of the National Air and Space Museum, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

The Center sits in a pair of hangers on the Dulles International Airport property and is a must see for any Aviation buff.  I’d been to the NASM in Washington many times, it was almost a required stop for any trip to the nation’s capital, but had not been back to see the Udvar-Hazy addition until now.

The museum is split into three major sections.  One section has a display of aircraft from the dawn of flight, including WWI fighters, bi-planes and other curiosities.  The main hangar area spans decades from the thirties all the way to present day, featuring private aircraft, aerobatic planes, experimental designs, military aircraft, rotor wing aircraft and even one of the Concorde supersonic airliners.  There are several hundred things on display here, from small to large, and all are in perfect condition.  Taking in the main hanger from the upstairs entrance is simply breathtaking.

The third section focuses on space flight and rocketry.  Here are displayed satellites, space memorabilia and vehicles and even military rocketry, from intercept missiles to ICBMs to rocket powered target drones.  There highlight in this section is the Space Shuttle Discovery, moved here after she was decommissioned at the end of the Space Shuttle Program at NASA.

Also visible in the space section is the restoration workshop.  In here, you can watch as craftsman rebuild aircraft from the ground up, restoring them to their former glory.  At any time you can see several aircraft in various stages of restoration, and racks and boxes full of parts and pieces.

Finally, take a trip up to the observation lounge to watch IAD in action, and grab a bite to eat in the museum’s restaurant, located just next to the gift shop on the upper floor by the entrance.

The Udvar-Hazy Center is a great addition to the NASM, giving much needed floor and ceiling space to display the Smithsonian’s largest exhibits, and allowing them to show far more of the collection to the public than was every possible on The Mall.

Like all Smithsonian museums, admission is free to the public and there are always talks, classes and other events going on that may interest you.

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