Located in Chantilly, VA, a quick 30-45 minute drive from Washington, DC, the Udvar-Hazy Center or, as we locals like to call it, “the Dulles Air & Space Museum” is an off the beaten path destination that I highly recommend for anyone visiting Washington, DC. Let’s face it, the weather in Washington, DC is fickle and there are many days during heavy tourist season where the weather is just too unpleasant to be outside. If you’re tired of being drenched in sweat the minute you step outside your hotel room, Dulles Air & Space is the place for you!
Dulles Air & Space has two large hangars, displaying thousands of aircrafts and space ships. When my kids were early walkers, we frequently took advantage of Air & Space’s wide corridors and open expanse of space to let our kids run and burn off their energy, especially in the winter or spring when the weather was frequently too cold or too wet for us to be outside.
If you have any experience visiting museums with young children, you know that it can frequently be a harrowing experience to actually get anything out of it yourself. Between maneuvering the crowds, chasing little feet, and reminding sticky hands not to touch, we frequently find that we, as the adults, miss out on a lot of the experience. I’m happy to report that the Dulles Air & Space museum is different because the nature of the exhibits (airplanes and space shuttles!), makes it easy for even the adults to catch as glimpse before eager little feet run off. The Blackbird, the Concorde, the Enola Gay, and the Discovery Shuttle are all located at Dulles Air & Space and they’re impressive enough to catch the fancy of even the youngest museum goers.
Things to Note:
- The museum is open daily from 10am – 5:30pm and although admission is free, there is a parking fee of $15 per vehicle before 4pm.
- There is a McDonald’s cafe located on the second floor so if you get hungry and need to catch a bite to eat, that’s always an option.
- If you have older kids, there is also an IMAX Theater and Planetarium that may be of interest. My children also love to watch the preservation and restoration activities taking place in the Restoration Hangar, where there are frequently specialists working hard to assess and preserve artifacts for everyone’s enjoyment.
- Do not confuse the Dulles Air & Space Museum with the National Air & Space Museum in Downtown, Washington, DC. Both are operated by the Smithsonian, but are uniquely different. The downtown museum has traditional exhibits and a children’s science area that is fantastic for children ages 3-6. The downtown museum, however, can get extremely crowded during busy tourist season as it is located on the mall and within walking distance to most major tourist sites. The Dulles Air & Space Museum featured in this post can mostly be described as “a bunch of cool airplanes and space craft hanging out in giant hangars.” In other words, super awesome for little kids who need to burn off energy in sub-optimal weather conditions. It’s also a wonderful place to visit with older children, especially as they learn more about air and space travel. My oldest son is not quite at the age where the Enola Gay or the Concorde means anything to him – but you can be sure we will visit when he is!
Be sure to check out our entire category of posts on things to do and places to visit in Washington, DC. We are so lucky to call this place home and hope that our tips and tricks come in handy as you plan your own adventure in Washington, DC!
Every so often, we encounter a place that is so fabulous for those traveling with kids that it is worthy of being featured on its own. For more fabulous locations, please check out our other Spotlight features!