Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
Many visitors to DC are sure to have a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall on their itinerary. It is a must see for all ages and fits very well into an itinerary with other sightseeing in the area. For kids, it is conveniently close to the Natural History Museum and can be done in the 1/2 day itinerary that I posted in Part 1. The US Botanical Gardens is also nearby and worth a visit, too. I know I know, botanic gardens are for old ladies right? Wrong! Our kids loved seeing all the different types of trees and flowers (there was an orchid exhibition when we went). There is an upper level deck that looks over a tropical forrest and there’s a water fall (all kids love water, remember?).
Anyway, I remember going the Air and Space Museum as a kid and being in complete awe of how many airplanes could fit into one building, and it puzzled me how complicated it must have been to organize getting each aircraft into the building one by one in order to hang them from the ceiling at every angle so close together. There are also rockets and space suits, rich for budding imaginations. For older kids there is a planetarium and and IMAX theater.
Well, more than 30 years since the young Wanderlustress visited the Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Institution has constructed an even larger air and space museum out in Virginia near the Dulles International Airport called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The place is unimaginably much much bigger than the original building in DC, comprising of several airplane hangars connected together to house hundreds of full-sized aircrafts, the stealth bomber and even the space shuttle! So when I walked in there for the first time, the 44-year old Wanderlustress felt even more amazed than the 11-year old girl did waaaaaaay back when. So you could imagine how my kids felt, especially one particularly excited little boy.
Even before we walked into the doors of the museum, we already felt like we were in a living museum on our drive in. There were airplanes coming in for landings right above us! We watched airplane landings from inside, too, and there is even a control tower that you can go up and watch them take off and land from the airport runways. Neat stuff! And I haven’t even mentioned yet that they let you sit in the pilot seat of a Cesna plane along with a few other flight simulations (that seem sure to turn your stomachs!). For kids and grown ups, this is an impressive place to visit. The museum itself is free but there is a parking fee of $15 and you have to pay for the simulations (but not to sit in the Cesna). Have fun!
The only unfortunate part about this absolutely awe inspiring museum is that it is not easy to get to for visitors. If you are staying in the DC metro area, it is about a 30 minute drive. If you don’t have a car and you can get to Dulles International Airport, there is a free shuttle from the airport to the museum.