Location: Chantilly, Virginia
Webpage: Smithsonian Museum
General Description: The Udvar-Hazy Center is the companion facility to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Opening in 2003, this facility at the Washington Dulles International Airport, provides a lot more room to display thousands of aviation and space artifacts from the very small to the enormous. They are still in the process of restoring and adding more aircraft and artifacts, so the museum is continuing to evolve.
1) WOW!!! We spent over 7 hours in the museum from their opening at 10:00 until late in the afternoon and there is no way we saw it all. The building itself is the size of multiple hangars and is itself an architectural marvel from the outside.
2) Throughout the day they conduct walking tours of the highlights of the facility by volunteers who are very knowledgeable. We heard a lot of great stories about the major exhibits that we would not have known otherwise. However, be warned. The walking tour took over 1.5 hours and could have been much longer in my opinion. You are free to leave the tour at any time.
3) Here are some of the highlights of what we saw:
SR71 Blackhawk that flew stealth missions against Russia during the Cold War.
Space Shuttle Discovery which flew the most missions during the program
One of the Concorde jets, the fastest commercial jets
Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan in World War II.
An interesting flying platform that was tested as a shooting platform for individual soldiers.
The model used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind that has some hidden features (such as a phone booth and R2D2 from Star Wars).
Early planes, even some that never got off the ground.
World War II bombers and airplanes, such as the Flying Tigers.
An entire area where they were rehabilitating old aircraft to include in the museum in the future.
4) We also took the elevator up to their Observation Tower where you can watch the planes taking off and landing at Dulles airport while you listen to Control Tour chatter.