Learn to Soar at Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

One of our family’s dirty little secrets is that we didn’t tell our kids that the Udvar-Hazy Center even existed after we moved to Washington, D.C. They knew about the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall, but we never told them about the annex in Northern Virginia.

Columbia and Discovery• photo credit Mark Avino

You see, my youngest son is obsessed with aircraft, and we already spent so much time at the downtown museum, and I needed a break. There are so many great museums in D.C., but that Boeing Aviation Hangar, the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar and Donald D Engen Observation Tower really are worth the trip out towards Dulles Airport to see where they hide all of the big planes.

In our effort to highlight all of the best museums in Washington, D.C, we spoke with Holly Williamson, Public Affairs Specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Air And Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, to share what makes the Udvar-Hazy a must-see D.C. attraction, why you should visit, and what you need to know before you go.

Table of Contents

Where is the museum located?

Location: National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151

What topics does the museum cover?

The history of flight and space exploration, including the cultural influences they have had.; STEM-based education topics; and how the Museum conserves the artifacts in its collections

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
McDonnell Space Hangar • photo credit Dane Penland

What is your museum’s claim to fame?

The Udvar-Hazy Center displays some of the largest artifacts in the Smithsonian’s National Air And Space Museum’s collection, including an SR-71 Blackbird, an Air France Concorde, and Space Shuttle Discovery.

We also have a working restoration hangar with an observation deck to see the projects under conservation, and a tower with a 360-degree view of the area–a great place to watch airplanes take off from/land at Washington Dulles International Airport.

What is your favorite exhibit or artifact in the museum?

With thousands of artifacts it’s tough to narrow that down. We have a collection of six model planes that were made by Mr. Udvar-Hazy when he was a young boy, living in Hungary. Having no model kits available, he fashioned them from scratch, using common household items and images from books, magazines, and films as his guide. These models provide a window into a childhood fascination which led to a highly successful career in aviation.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Childhood Aircraft Models • photo credit Jim Preston

What kinds of special exhibits and events do you host throughout the year?

We’ve had family days, fly-ins, musical performances, and other special presentations.

Are there guided tours available?

Yes, and our free guided tours are considered to be one of the best things you can do in Washington, DC.

The 90-minute tours give an overview of the Udvar-Hazy Center, with stories that you won’t get anywhere else.

Each tour is unique, led by our passionate volunteer docents. We also have self-guided digital audio tours, which are available in English, French, Mandarin and Spanish (fees apply).

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
World War II Aviation • photo credit Eric Long

How much time should someone plan to spend at the museum?

Guests should plan on spending at least two hours at the Udvar-Hazy.

What should someone bring with them and what items are not allowed in the museum?

You. should definitely wear good walking shoes and bring a camera.

The Smithsonian does not permit:

  • outside food and beverages (aside from water)
  • selfie sticks
  • monopods
  • tripods
  • weapons

Is photography allowed inside (without flash)?

Yes, we encourage you to take photos and share them with your friends and family. Please note that selfie sticks, monopods, and tripods are note permitted in the Smithsonian’s National Air And Space Udvar-Hazy Center.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Little Butch • photo credit Eric Long

What should parents of young children know before visiting the museum?

Story times are offered every weekday at 11:00 and 11:30 am.

Stop by the Welcome Center for a scavenger hunt form and see if you can find the selected planes with cool animal names.

Our Explainers may also be out on the floor, with science demonstrations, paper airplane contests, and more (schedule permitting)

What’s the coolest item for sale in the gift shop?

We have a wide variety of books, games, clothing, space pens and gummi space shuttles.

Is there a museum cafe or restaurant?

We hope to introduce a new cafe in late 2020/ early 2021.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Wall of Honor • photo credit Mark Avino

What should teachers planning a field trip know before reaching out to you?

We have one-hour, classroom-based STEAM labs, led by Museum educators and guided tours for students. Classes can also reserve an app-based Museum scavenger hunt. Students will need to bring their own smart phones to play.

Visit airandspace.si.edu/educators for additional information.

What else should a visitor know before visiting?

Timed tickets are required at this time. Get your free timed entry pass at airandspace.si.edu/udvar-hazy-center

All bags will be subject to screening upon entrance. To expedite entry, please leave unneeded items in your car.

Public transportation is available from the Wiehle/Reston East Metro station and from Washington Dulles International Airport. Buses run approximately every 20 minutes and schedules for the 983 route are available at fairfaxconnector.gov.

What are your normal days and hours of operation?

We are open daily from 10:30 am – 5:30 pm. We are closed on December 25.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
UHC Exterior • photo credit Jim Preston

Does the museum have a bag check or coat room?

We have small lockers available.

Is there parking available?

Yes, we have ample parking for cars. There is a $15/car fee for all cars entering the grounds before 4:00 pm. Your parking ticket is valid for the entire day. To re-enter, you will need to pay on exit and ask for a receipt at one of the staffed gates.

Is there an admission fee?

The Museum is free. The Airbus IMAX Theater offers discounts for youth, seniors, veterans, and active-duty military members.

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