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Air & Space

The success of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum exceeded expectations. Over five million had visited the museum only six months after opening day. Today, the Air and Space Museum in DC is one of the most visited museums in the world.

When you’re visiting the National Mall in DC – whether you are looking for things to do with the family or on a business trip you don’t want to miss the Air and Space Museum at 6th and Pennsylvania Ave, SE. Since its earliest days back in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution has been deeply involved in tracking scientific breakthroughs and displaying cutting-edge technologies. At the Air and Space Museum, you’ll be surrounded by world-famous aviation equipment that allowed man to leave earth for the moon and beyond.


In 1899 Wilbur Wright sent a letter to the Smithsonian asking for help in researching powered manned flight because there were no other books available on the subject in the Dayton, Ohio library. Today his correspondence is in the Smithsonian – as well as the Wright Brothers original aircraft, their 1903 Flyer.

Upon his death in 1948, Orville Wright left to the Smithsonian Institution the original plane he and Wilbur flew at Kitty Hawk, NC, on December 17, 1903. The plane that changed everything is considered a priceless national treasure. Many experts consider this aircraft to be the most valuable item in the entire Smithsonian Collection. Originally displayed hanging in mid-air at the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building nearby, the Wright Flyer is now on display on the ground in its own special gallery at the Air and Space Museum so that visitors can view it more closely.

In 1946 after World War II President Truman approved a new Smithsonian, the National Air Museum. By the time it opened in 1976 it had a new name, The Air and Space Museum, to celebrate America’s arrival on the moon in 1969. An expansive second campus, the Udvar-Hazy Center was opened in 2003 near Dulles Airport in Chantilly VA, about 30 miles away to showcase even more aircraft.

Today the Wright Flyer has been joined by moon rocks that visitors can touch as well as displays of rockets and space capsules like NASA’s Apollo Lunar Module and Skylab – along with famous early planes like Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and a replica of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. There are mail planes, seaplanes, fighter jets, missiles and space suits. The gift shop is one of the top fun places in DC and legendary for holiday toy shopping!

Open 364 days a year the Air and Space Museum is one of the leading points of interest in Washington DC. It is regularly listed in the top 5 most visited museums in the world. In 2018, after more than 40 years of continuous operation, the Smithsonian announced a 7- year rolling renovation of the Air and Space Museum Mall campus. While the Air and Space Museum Mall campus remains open, a number of galleries have been temporarily closed while they are being refreshed.

The Air and Space Museum Mall campus is expected to begin to reopen renovated galleries beginning in 2022. Throughout the renovation, the Udvar-Hazy Campus has remained open. Check the Air and Space website often for the exact reopening procedure it will follow as it reopens both campuses after the Covid shutdown.

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