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Visiting the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
Blast off at this popular free museum chronicling the history of aviation and space travel.
A museum that goes above and beyond
Glimpse the 1903 Wright Flyer, run your hands over moon rock and experience the larger-than-life world of aviation and space travel at the National Air and Space Museum. Since opening on the National Mall in 1976, this hub of all things flight has educated and inspired future generations of pilots and astronauts from around the world. The museum (along with its second location, the Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Va.) contains the largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world. All components of human flight are on display, including related art and archival materials.
The museum is located on Independence Avenue at 6th Street SW, and admission is always free. Regular hours are 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., but the museum stays open until 7:30 p.m. during its extended spring and summer hours (check website for specific dates).
The easiest way to reach the museum is via Metrorail or Metrobus. The closest Metro stop is Smithsonian, on the Blue, Silver and Orange lines. The 32, 34 and 36 Metrobus routes, as well as the DC Circulator’s National Mall route, will all take you to the Mall, which you can explore in full once you’ve experienced the Air and Space Museum’s wonders. The facility is handicap-accessible.
What’s inside the National Air & Space Museum?
The Air and Space Museum takes visitors to the sky, showcasing the amazing technological achievements that have progressed aviation and space exploration throughout the last century. Our fascination with flight is still alive and well, as the museum (and the accompanying Udvar-Hazy Center) is one of the most visited in the world year-after-year.
As you may imagine, the historical objects on display are fundamental to the story of flight. The 1903 Wright Flyer owns the distinction of flying the world’s first successful flight, and you can see the groundbreaking flying machine in person. There’s also Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the first aircraft to complete a nonstop flight from New York to Paris.
The Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the only portion of the Apollo 11 spacecraft to return to Earth, is prominently displayed in the ongoing Space Race exhibition. Visitors can also touch a sample of a lunar rock brought back from the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
The relatively new Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall opened in summer 2016 and features The Enterprise from Star Trek, a new open floor plan, more aviation and spaceflight stories and an exclusive mobile experience that will let visitors personalize their exploration like never before.
The Air and Space Museum also features an IMAX Theater, a planetarium and a public observatory with a safe solar telescope so you can be a daytime stargazer. Daily tours are offered and educational events are available for children and adults. The museum science demonstrations and story times are for younger children.
A stellar DC Cool experience
Put your peeper through the lens of a high-powered telescope and watch as celestial bodies come into focus. Held on select evenings throughout the year, nighttime stargazing at the National Air and Space Museum’s Public Observatory brings out volunteer experts (many of whom share their personal telescopes), families and couples. You might look through three telescopes, each focused on a different point in the sky.