Growing up, my favorite museum was the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. My family made annual pilgrimages downtown to the Smithsonian Museums. I was really excited when, in 2003, the Udvar Hazy Center, an annex to the National Air and Space Museum, open. Multiple trips ensued, with the kids, with out of town guests to explore human space flight, World War II aviation, and vertical flight.
This is a great place for kids — a wonderful way to try to ignite that raw imagination and desire to explore where no one has gone before. I have fond memories of taking my two sons to visit the museum. I treasure a photo I took of them in front of the Discovery Shuttle.
It can be hard to take in. There are simply hundreds or thousands of history’s most significant aviation and space craft. And it’s hard to focus.
Before heading into the space age hanger, we stopped by to look down over the Mary Engen Restoration Hangar, a facility spacious enough to allow the museum to restore several different aircraft at any given time.
But on a weekend, there was little activity going on in the restoration hanger, so we headed to see the star of the Udvar Hazy Center, the Space Shuttle Discovery. Patriotic feelings fluttered in our hearts as we took in this massive aircraft, framed with exotic satellites overhead and the American flag behind.
The satellites in particular were very interesting — some reminded me of dogs, others of jellyfish. I wondered if these shapes had inspired the engineers who designed these amazing aircraft!
But I also liked the Blackbird, it’s sleek black design threatening and reassuring, all at the same time.
Getting there: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA
Hours: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.