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Everyone knows that Washington, D.C. is a great place to go with kids. With museums, monuments and lots of green space, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained. What few out-of-towners know, however, is that there are loads of great things to do just across the river, in Northern Virginia, as well.
Last weekend we traveled down to Northern Virginia (Arlington and Springfield, to be exact) to visit family. Looking to add a bit of travel culture and fun while we were there, we considered heading to the National Mall to visit one of the many, amazing National Smithsonian Institute museums.
We debated driving into town but with a kid that hates the car, the thought of circling for parking wasn’t too enticing. We then considered driving to the metro and heading in by train.
With another kid who is not a big fan of walking (and usually whines whenever she is expected to walk more than a few minutes), trudging endless blocks from the metro to the monuments and museums also was less than appealing.
Don’t get me wrong, the child walks and is expected to walk a lot. But, sometimes, we just throw in the parenting towel before the fight has even begun. This was one of those times.
So, we settled on driving a short distance with minimal walking. That brought us to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (a.k.a the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s annex at Washington Dulles International Airport). I’ve been wanting to check out this museum since it opened so was excited at the prospect.
This is a great museum with tons and tons of airplanes, including the Concorde and a stealth aircraft (so cool!!!), as well as several space vehicles, including the space shuttle Discovery and some of the Apollo capsules.
Being annexed to Dulles International Airport (IAD) has its advantages. A number of the planes on display made their final flight to IAD then taxied over to the museum on a connecting tarmac. Additionally, the museum hosts “Become a Pilot Day” where 50+ aircraft fly into IAD then roll on over to the museum for up close and personal inspection.
There’s also a children’s center, which we heard is fun but was closed, an IMAX theater and a simulator ride. Additionally, on certain days (I’m guessing weekends, typically), the museum has kiosks set up with some hands-on displays and docents to explain more about the aircraft and spacecraft on display.
Unfortunately, our walking-averse child was not as enamored with the museum as we were. She’s not really into planes and wandering from one to another wasn’t exactly her idea of a good time. Our little guy, and his 2-year-old cousin loved it, however.
The highlight of this museum, for me, was the observation tower. With 360 degree views of IAD, including the flight control tower and runways with planes taking off and landing, as well as the beautiful surrounding countryside, I could have spent hours up there.
One thing to note: the only food available is a McDonalds (I have a lot to say on this but will reserve it for later….) so be sure to bring your own.
* This post was also shared on Walking on Travels , where you can find more inspiring travel posts and tips.