The Udvar-Hazy Center is a part of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum located in Fairfax County, VA. Unlike the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center houses many and I mean many full size aircraft. You will find all kinds of vehicles from the beginning of aviation to today.
While the Udvar-Hazy Center is located about 30 miles from Washington, DC. It does make for a nice drive if the traffic isn’t horrible and traffic usually during the week in the DC area is pretty bad. I’ve always had better luck on the weekends. You figure most of the politicians leave their mistresses and go back to their home states to their wives. But who knows.
One thing that is unique is the observation tower. It let’s you see air planes taking off and landing at Washington Dulles International Airport. Just as with my usual luck going to DC it was very foggy and rainy. I swear it is like a 50/50 chance of me getting good weather or bad weather when I go.
On a clear day you are going to want to get a view from the tower. If you’ve never watched planes taking off and landing, it is a sight to see. Plus if you have kids with you, they will just love it. Lines can get long in clear weather but are not bad on foggy days. Of course you can’t really see much outside but there’s an exhibit that shows what an air traffic controllers work station looks like.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the kind of place that you have to see in person. Pictures of it just don’t do it any justice. I was simply blown away the first time I came here. I knew from looking at photos and reading other blogs and articles that this place was jammed packed with tons of aviation history.
I just couldn’t believe how many air craft were actually inside. Let me tell you it is a lot. They are on the ground and hanging from the ceiling. As of May 2012 there were 152 large Space Artifacts including the Space Shuttle Discovery, Gemini 7 Capsule, numerous satellites and much more.
There is also over 169 aircraft. A few are even the only surviving, like the Japanese Aichi M6A, Boeing 307 Stratoliner (first pressurized cabin), German Dornier Do 335 and many more.
You will also find the Enola Gay which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6th, 1945. Helping put an end to World War II. One thing I can say about the Enola Gay is that it’s much smaller than I pictured in my head.
But that’s not the only WWII era plane. There are so many that it is just too much to list. Planes from Germany, France, Japan and of course America.
WWII era planes are not the only ones. You can also spot WWI era planes and let me tell you….. I would NOT want to be flying in one of those things. Might as well glue feathers on a board and strap it to your back and try to fly.
Now one of the most interesting pieces at the Udvar-Hazy Center to me was the Air France Concorde Supersonic passenger airliner. This air plane could travel at twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 or 1,354 mph. It would take half the amount of time to travel from New York City to London.
There were two problems with this plane. One it could only fly over ocean crossing routes because of the sonic boom. The second being the price. Ticket prices on a flight were over 30 times MORE than the cheapest options for the route on a regular plane.
Much like the Enola Gay I was shocked by how small this plane seemed. Looking at the picture above it looks pretty big and it is. I was just expecting to see something bigger since it can hold 92-128 passengers. To me it is small when you think of how big a 737 is.
In the main hanger you will find everything and anything that has to do with aviation. From Jets to missiles to helicopters and gliders. It is very impressive to see the collect that is here. It’s even more impressive to know that this isn’t all of it.
Around the main hanger there is three different viewing levels. Ground, middle and top. There are ramps and elevators to access all areas but they also have a large spiral staircase that is pretty fun to walk down.
If you stand still in the middle of these walk ways you can kind of feel them vibrating. It doesn’t bother me but one of the people in my group was not a fan of it.
Now I am a fan of all things space. Wish I could have been on a space shuttle or even one of the future missions to Mars. Sadly I’ll never get that chance but I do love to look up on a clear night and wonder.
At the Udvar-Hazy center they have one of the NASA Space Shuttles. Here they have Discovery. The Space Shuttle Atlantis is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Space Shuttle Endeavour is in Los Angeles. Now I just need to head out to Los Angeles to see Endeavour.
Discovery flew 39 missions between August 30th 1984 to February 24th 2011. It’s pretty amazing to me to be so close to something that was above the round earth. But the Space Shuttle isn’t the only thing in what I like to call the Space Hanger.
You can see different satellites, heat shields, space suits and even the Mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You will also come across Gemini VII. It is just hard to image that two people spent almost 2 weeks in space in that tiny capsule.
There are many things to occupy your time while visiting the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. One thing that is a big hit with many people and the lines can be long are the simulators. They have ride simulators and interactive flight simulators that are $10 or less per person.
See how well you can handle a P-51 Mustang or an F-16 in the flight simulators. Or ride along with the Red Baron the most infamous WWI ace pilot.
Head over to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar to see what is currently being restored. Get a great aerial view of the many restoration projects that are being undertaken. It is pretty cool to see.
Of course you can also check out what is playing at the IMAX theater. During my visit they were showing two films on space, one on D-Day and another about Aircraft Carriers. We didn’t have time for a film on our visit but the Apollo 11 one looked interesting.
Speaking of interesting the gift shop had some pretty unique items. They had all kinds of different aircraft models you could buy and build yourself. There was also tons of different aviation themed books available.
Of course they also had your typical stuff you would find like hats, t-shirts, mugs and much more. The gift shop is pretty tiny so when it is crowded it can be really tough to move around.
The day I went was very busy. Outside was rainy and foggy so I am not surprised how busy it was. Anything that you could do that you had to wait in line, had a long line. Forget about getting anything at the McDonald’s here. There must of been 50 people standing in line.
Overall we had a time exploring the Udvar-Hazy Center in VA. It kept us dry for a little part of the day and we got to see some very interesting aircraft. We will definitely be going back on a clear day to check out the observation tower.
Have you ever been to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to follow us on Social Media to stay up to date on our latest post and news.
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