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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum was first opened on July 1st, 1976 and is one of the largest and most popular museums located on the National Mall. The National Air and Space Museum is free to the public as part of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and the Center for Earth and Planetary studies. The National Air and Space Museum is also home to one of the Smithsonian Institute’s 9 research centers.

As one of the most popular destinations in Washington D.C., and most popular museum in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum is visited by more than 8 million people annually at its two locations. Since opening, the Museum has been visited by more than 311 million people.

The Museum’s collection consists of more than 60,000 objects which range from the massive Saturn V rockets, to microchips, with gliders, jetliners, and space helmets in between. More than a third of the collection’s aircraft and spacecraft on display are one-of-a-kind and associated with major milestones in human history.

Some of the most popular parts of the collection include the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis”, as well Amelia Earhart’s iconic red Lockheed 5B Vega. For younger visitors who prefer a hands-on approach to museums, there’s even a special lunar rock that can be touched in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall! The National Air and Space Museum also includes the Albert Einstein Planetarium and Public Observatory open to amateur astronomers. There is also the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater showing films that showcase many of the historic moments the collection features.

Flight Simulators:

The National Air and Space Museum offers a variety of motion simulators that are sure to delight. The Ride Simulators are not interactive, but include the SpaceWalk aboard the Space Shuttle and International Space Station, Cosmic Coaster’s journey through the Cosmos, an F-18 Experience that pushes the limits of the F-18 Super Hornet, and Wings which features the P38, F-86 Super Sabre, and the F-5 Tiger. The Interactive Flight Simulator allow 360-degree barrel rolls with thrilling air-to-air combat in F-4 Phantom II jet fighters. Tickets are available to purchase directly at the simulators or at the IMAX Theater box office. All riders need to be at least 42 inches tall unless accompanied by an adult. The Interactive Flight Simulators require all riders to be at least 48 inches tall.

Tours:

The Smithsonian offers daily tours led by former NASA employees, pilots, engineers, and historians. Each tour is approximately 90 mins beginning at 10:30 AM and again at 1:00 PM. There may be additional tours on some days, so if you are not able to arrive for one of the preset times you should check with the Welcome Center for the latest information. When planning a larger group trip of 20 or more adults to the museum you should reserve a tour with at least two-weeks advance notice. If you are traveling in a small group of around 10 or more adults it is possible to get a 60-minute tour with at least three-weeks advance notice. Special needs visitors who would like a tour guide should give at least two-weeks advance notice for reserving custom program space.

Fees and Hours:

General admission to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is always free. Regular hours are between 10:00 AM and 5:30 PM. The Museum is open 364 days a year with the lone exception being December 25th, Christmas Day. Ride Simulators cost $7.00 alone, or $6.00 with the purchase of an IMAX ticket. The interactive Flight Simulators are a dollar more at $8.00 alone, or $7.00 with the purchase of an IMAX ticket.

Transportation:

While we recommend that you use public transportation via the Metrorail and Metrobus to get to the National Mall, there are some limited metered street parking spots and paid parking garages nearby.  The best option for free parking is the Anacostia Community Museum. There is fee-based parking at the Zoo and Air and Space Museums’ Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The Smithsonian Information line is able to provide the most up-to-date information at: 202-633-1000.

If you are traveling with a handicapped vehicle permit, there are some free spots for cars and vans on Jefferson and Madison Drives. There is however a 3-hour limit for all parking which is strictly enforced. Any metered spots may be subject to their own regulations and time limits. So make sure you check any signs posted before you leave your car unattended for an extended period of time.

The commercial parking options in Washington, D.C., include the following locations:

North of the National Mall:

  • Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 13-1/2 St. on Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Entrance located on 14th St.)
  • Verizon Center at 6th and G Sts., NW

Northeast of the National Mall:

  • Union State at 1st St and Massachusetts Ave., NE

South of the National Mall:

  • L’Enfant Plaza, L’Enfant Promenade, SW
  • 6th and C Sts., SW