We are HUGE fans of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It’s the go-to spot for my youngest whenever we head to the National Mall. You could easily fill an entire day just exploring this D.C. museum with kids or simply wandering on your own as you explore the history of flight.
We chatted with Holly Williamson, Public Affairs Specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, to find out what makes this Washington, D.C. museum so special, why you should visit, and what you need to know before you go.
Where is the National Air and Space Museum located?
Location: Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560 (on the National Mall)
What topics does the museum cover?
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum covers aviation history, human space exploration, astronomy, principles of flight and art.
What is your museum’s claim to fame?
Our collection has some of the most significant aviation and aerospace-related artifacts in the world.
What is your favorite exhibit or artifact in the museum?
That’s a tough question! Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit just went on display after a major conservation project.
What kinds of special exhibits and events do you host throughout the year?
We have had lectures and family day programs, as well as other specially themed programs in years past.
Are there guided tours available?
We offer free guided tours every day at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm. Registration is not needed, except for groups of 20 or more.
Tours start at the National Air and Space Museum’s welcome desk in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. Docents offer a 90-minute “highlight” tour that takes visitors throughout the museum. Tours are usually in English, although other languages may be available (pending volunteer docent availability). We also have digital audio tours available for $7 ($6 for two or more). These are self-guided tours and are available in English, French, Mandarin, and Spanish.
How much time should someone plan to spend at the museum?
That really depends on your level of interest. Some visitors can tour the museum in 45 minutes, others need an entire day.
What should someone bring with them and what items are not allowed in the museum?
Bring your camera.
Items that are not permitted in Smithsonian facilities include selfie sticks and monopods tripods, food and beverages (aside from water), and weapons.
All visitors will be subject to bag screening, so the less you have with you, the quicker you’ll get into the Museum.
Is photography allowed inside (without flash)?
Yes, and we encourage you to take and share photos. As mentioned above, selfie stick, monopods and tripods are not permitted.
What should parents of young children know before visiting the museum?
The museum is a large space and often has a high volume of visitors. Be sure to check out the “How Things Fly” gallery on the first floor.
Story times are offered on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Check our website for times and book titles.
Our IMAX Theater offers 45-minute educational films on a variety of subjects throughout the day (fees apply).
What’s the coolest item for sale in the gift shop?
The most popular item may be the space ice cream!
Is there a museum cafe or restaurant?
We currently offer grab-and-go options, including salads, sandwiches, snacks, soups and hot dogs.
What should teachers planning a field trip know before reaching out to you?
Teachers should check out our educators page (airandspace.si.edu/educators) for information on field trips.
For distance learning opportunities, visit airandspace.si.edu/learn.
What else should a visitor know before visiting?
The Museum is currently undergoing a large-scale, multi-year renovation to both the building and all gallery spaces. At this time, approximately half of the galleries are closed for renovation. New galleries are expected to open in early 2022 and the final project will be complete in 2025.
For information on the project, you can visit airandspace.si.edu/about-transformation.
What are your normal days and hours of operation?
We are currently closed due for public safety reasons. We invite you to visit airandspace.si.edu/anywhere to check out some of our online engagement offerings.
Does the museum have a bag check or coat room?
Is there an admission fee?
The Museum is free. The IMAX Theater offers discounts for students, seniors, veterans, and members of the military for tickets purchased at the box office.