There are many worthy museums along the Mall, and it can be hard to know which to see while visiting Washington DC with kids. If yours are airplane, science, or space fans, you’ll want to make the National Air and Space Museum a priority. Like the other museums, the Air and Space is massive, and will require at least half of your day. We recommend hitting this (and any major museum) early in the day, to avoid lengthy security lines.
Right when you enter from the Mall side, you’ll be able to touch a moon rock. Start here for the first ‘wow’ from the kids. The capsule from Apollo 11 is here in the main hall as well, and numerous other impressive space artifacts. The downstairs exhibit halls seemed more committed to hands-on science, with almost a science museum feel, with several rooms devoted just to kids. Ours enjoyed participating in scheduled programs in this area, such as a paper airplane making contest. We learned quite a bit about balance and stability in the process! Young kids will want to spend a good deal of time in these halls.
Upstairs, the larger planes and the Apollo 11 Skylab are available for touring; definitely check out the interior of the Skylab to see where astronauts went to the bathroom, slept, and ate. Numerous planes grace this level, and exhibit halls include aviation during WWI and WWII, military unmanned vehicles, and a space exhibit on exploring planets. There’s a section on the Wright Brothers upstairs, and another on the early history of flight downstairs. It seemed like these two exhibit halls could have been combined or at least next to each other.
Overall, the Air and Space museum looked a bit more worn than the other Mall museums; I’d love to see it get an overhaul. There’s an IMAX theater, and we were very intrigued by all the movie selections. We saw one, but the IMAX broke down before we could see a second. There’s a planetarium that we didn’t get to as well.
Date last visited:
Distance from the interstate:
Minutes from I-66 and I-395. Close to I-95.
Free. IMAX movies and Planetarium are extra ($9 and $7 for adults and kids, approximately).
Hours of operation:
10 am to 5:30 pm daily, except Christmas Day. Extended hours are possible in summer.
There’s a museum cafe, but also a nice food court across the Mall underground between the two wings of the art museums. If you have the time and patience to go through another security check, it may be worth the effort. Tip: No matter what we do, we always bring water bottles and refill them at water stations. We save $10-15 per meal by not purchasing drinks, and save from adding to the plastic bottles piling up, too.
The museum is located at Independence Avenue at 6th Street, Washington DC. Get off at the Smithsonian Metro stop, or walk from most points on the Mall.
Wondering where to stay in DC? Check out our review of Grand Hyatt Washington.
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