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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.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
600 Independence Ave. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20560
With the construction going on, the Independence Avenue entrance is closed. The entrance is only on Jefferson Drive inside the Mall.

National air and space museum tickets are free for both locations, there is a $15.00 charge to park at the Udvar-Hazy site at Dulles, and the quickest way there is on the Toll road that is about $6.00 each way. Be prepared on the toll road with exact change in coins, or an EZ-Pass.

The main attractions of the Museum are the Wright Brothers’ Wright Flyer Airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, flown by Charles Lindberg, the spacesuit of Neil Armstrong of the Apollo 11 moon landing, artifacts, and exhibits from the history of flight and aviation.
There are food concessions at all of the museums, some more extensive than others. Best bet is the American Indian Museum which features Native and Southwestern American fare. Adult beverages are available at some of the museums. During seasonal weather, there are generally several food trucks of all sorts in the general area.

All museums feature gift shops, which are a great source for quality souvenirs and mementos.

There is an app that lists all of the Smithsonian museums, that we suggest you download. It’s loaded with information about the many exhibits in each building, where they are, and schedules of events taking place each day.

Highly recommend you check to see what time they offer free guided tours of the museum, they last about an hour, many of the guides are former pilots and tell great stories about the exhibits on display.
National air and space museum tickets are free for both locations, there is a $15.00 charge to park at the Udvar-Hazy site at Dulles, and the quickest way there is on the Toll road that is about $6.00 each way. Be prepared on the toll road with exact change in coins, or an EZ-Pass.

As you face the Museum on independence Ave., to your right the American Indian Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the United States Capitol. To your left, the Hirschhorn Museum, the Arts and Industry Building, and the Smithsonian Castle. Directly behind you is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, and the Bible Museum. All are within a 5-10-minute walk.