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Visiting the Air and Space Museum in DC | Guided Museum Tours (2024)

Updated: February 13, 2024

This post provides information about visiting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC. (We also have a post for the Dulles location).

We include details about how to get here, when you can visit, exhibits to see, security checks, and more.

Let's get started!


The Air and Space Museum is a Smithsonian museum located on the National Mall, and it’s entirely free to visit.

The attraction is open DAILY except December 25 from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.

Free tickets are required (see below).

There are several exhibits on display here covering some of the most notable moments of aviation history in the United States.

Note that a 7-year huge renovation and reimagining of the museum began in 2018. Some parts of the museum may be affected, but the project should be complete in 2025.

Since it’s located on the National Mall, the National Air and Space Museum isn’t too difficult to find, but you can always check our section on how to get there for step-by-step instructions.


Free timed-entry passes are required to visit. Entry times are hourly from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

You may reserve tickets here or join us for a tour of the museum!

You may enter up to one hour after your timed tickets.

If you are unable to get tickets for your desired date, same-day tickets are released on the website at 8:30 am.

On Fridays through Mondays, a limited amount of additional same-day passes are released at 12:30 pm on the website for afternoon time slots.

TIP: In addition to the Air and Space Museum on the National Mall, there is a second branch located at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.

However, it can be a little challenging to reach, making it an attraction better suited for someone with a car or other means to visit.

If you want to know more, please read our post covering the Udvar-Hazy Center.


The main museum is located on Independence Ave SW, between 4th and 7th streets. If you are taking the Metro, the closest stop is the L’Enfant Plaza Station. 

Follow signs leading to the Maryland Avenue exit and take the escalators up.  Once you are on the street, you will be at the intersection of Maryland Avenue and 7th Street, NW.  At the intersection, turn right. 

The Museum is one block away, but the entrance is on Jefferson Drive, one more block up.  Then turn right on Jefferson Drive to get to the entrance.

You can also use many of the hop-on / hop-off bus companies to get around town – all of which have stops at or near the Air and Space Museum.

If you are driving, street parking is limited and is usually only 2-3 hour spots, so be sure to read the sign before you leave your vehicle.


March- July is the busiest time of the year for DC. With Spring Break and school letting out, this is the time when most families and school tours visit. This means longer lines and crowded exhibits.

Saturday afternoon is one of the busiest times to visit.

We suggest visiting this museum on a weekday.

If you want to avoid crowds, we suggest planning a visit to the museum for the off-peak season (January-February and September-December.)

Typical weekdays during the high months will be a little more manageable, especially if you arrive when the museum opens at 10 am.

Opening Hours

  • Daily (except December 25)
  • 10 am - 5:30 pm
  • Admission is Free

Visitor Information

Visitors to the Smithsonian museums should expect “airport-style” security screening, meaning metal detectors for all guests and X-ray machines for bags.

This could add up to 15 minutes to get through security, and during the busy school season possibly even longer.

Prohibited Items:

  • Firearms or ammunition
  • Knives (including pen, pocket, or “Swiss Army”-style knives)
  • Aerosol cans (including pepper spray and Mace)
  • Scissors
  • Tools (screwdrivers, awls, etc.)
  • Placards, signs, or banners
  • Pets (except service animals)
  • Wagons (collapsible and fixed wheel)

How Long to Spend at the Museum

The National Air and Space Museum has many galleries exhibiting hundreds of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rockets, and other flight-related artifacts, as well as a planetarium and an IMAX theater - however, during renovations only 8 of them are open.

Your timed tickets do not limit how much time you may spend at the museum, but you are not allowed to exit and re-enter.

With so many things to see and do, we recommend budgeting at least 2 hours to see the museum.

The closed exhibits are suspected to reopen in Spring 2025.


Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry! we’re here to help with our tour of the Air and Space Museum.

Whether you’re simply unsure which path to take or want to breeze through the museum with efficiency, a private tour is a perfect way to get the most out of your visit. You can book a private tour with us.

Once you’re done with the museum, enjoy exploring the rest of DC with one of our walking tours.

The National Mall and Capitol Hill tours are both nearby and are a great way to continue exploring Washington, DC.


Please note that until 2025 there will be rolling closures as the entire Air and Space Museum undergoes renovations to the decades-old building and exhibits.

America by Air

Look up as you enter or see a better view from the second-floor overview.

Make sure you head over to the Museum's Planetarium where you'll see the full-size T-70 X-wing used in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hanging from the ceiling.

On the opposite end of the main hall, Jackie Cochran's T-38 is on display - the plane that she flew to create eight different records in 1961.

Exploring the Planets

In this exhibit, you'll find three versions of the Mars rovers, and huge models of planets to explore the different worlds orbiting the Sun.

The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age

The original 1903 Wright Flyer is the centerpiece of the exhibit that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. 

Explore the beginning of flight with over 250 photographs and 150 artifacts that include a reproduction of the Wright Brothers’ 1899 experimental kite.

Destination Moon

Destination Moon celebrates the first lunar landing in 1969 and beyond.

The exhibit is here with one-of-a-kind artifacts from the historic mission, including Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. 

It showcases the incredible exploration of the Moon, from the Moon race of the 1960s and 1970s to what is going on today.

Nation of Speed

The need for speed! Explore our desire to be fast - on air, water, land, and space. See two motorcycles that set land speeds 100 years apart.

In 1907, Glenn Curtis went 136 mph on a V8 and in 2018, Erin Sills rode her BMW S 1000 RR exceeded 219 mph.

Early Flight

After the Wright Brothers powered flight, the world took to creating an industry around aviation. See how flying machines that were once only dreams became reality.

One World Connected

Look out the International Space Station's cupola to see how astronauts observe Earth.


Here are some thoughts on the Air and Space Museum from members of our Washington DC Travel Tips Facebook group.

Again, you don't have to join the group to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.

The reviews were overwhelmingly positive!

People visiting with kids also recommended going and liked that it was interactive.

One teenager was a bit disappointed. Then again, the museum was under renovation at that time.

Though the museum is quite popular, many people felt that the annex, the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum near Dulles, was better than the main one on the Mall.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Follow On Instagram | I'm a historian & tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. I have written for HuffPost Travel and have been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. I've also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. I am the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All. I am an authority on D.C. history, and have led tours in the city since 2011. I currently resides in DC, but have also lived in London and South Korea, and have traveled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. I homeschool my 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC. Read More...
Updated: February 13th, 2024
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