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Air and Space Museum Dulles

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This post covers the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, otherwise known as the Air and Space Museum located at Dulles International Airport.
In addition to providing information about the museum, we’ll also explain how to get there, when to visit, and exhibits you might want to see while you’re there.



Overview

Along with a variety of different exhibits not seen at the main campus, it holds many more aircraft and is home to the Space Shuttle Discovery.
The Udvar also has a restoration hangar, research archives, and an observation tower that provides a stunning view of airplanes taking off and landing at nearby Dulles Airport.
However, it can be a little challenging to get to, making it an attraction better suited for someone with a car.
If you have the time and transportation, this is a great museum for anyone who is really into aircraft and wants to see as many historic planes as possible.
The Udvar-Hazy Center is free to visit and it’s open every day except December 25th.
That said, there will be times when the museum is a bit busy, so check our section on when to visit for more details.
With two hangars full of attractions to see, there’s unquestionably more to see here than at the National Mall.

You can find out more about what to see here in our exhibits section.
There is so much to see that you might want to consider using their digital guide, and you can find out more about this service in our guided tours section.
Visitors to the Smithsonian museums should expect “airport-style” security screening. At the Udvar-Hazy Center there is a bag check when you enter.
This could add up to 15 minutes to get through security, and during the busy school season possibly even longer, if you have a bag.
Prohibited Items:

  • tripods & monopods
  • selfie sticks
  • guns/knives/weapons
  • pets
  • food and drinks (bottled water is ok)
  • scissors
  • aerosol cans
  • tools
  • smoking
  • placards, signs, or banners

If you’re also interested in visiting the National Air and Space Museum located on the National Mall, please read our post covering how to get there, when to visit, and what you can see.
There is food service at Udvar-Hazy which is convenient since unlike the National Mall location there is nothing else in walking distance. Opening in late 2021, a Shake Shack will be available for food service.


How to Get There

The Udvar-Hazy Center can be a little challenging to get to since it is out near Dulles Airport.
For those visiting by car, it is about a 45-minute drive west of the city.
Parking is $15 per vehicle, though it is free if you arrive after 4 pm.

For those without a car, you can still get there from the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall by Metro and then by bus.
The trip takes about an hour and a half. Simply take the Silver line west to the Wilhe-Reston East Station.
From there board the Fairfax Connector Bus No. 983 which runs every 20 minutes.
You can pay for the bus fare with your SmartTrip card or cash (but it must be exact change - $2 or $1 for seniors)
Exit the bus at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Stop.


Best Times to Visit

If you want to avoid crowds, we suggest planning a visit to the museum for the off-peak season (January-February and September-December.)
There are shorter lines and fewer crowds during this time of year, making your visit more enjoyable.

The best time to visit seems to be Thursday after 3 pm, or if you wait until 4 pm, parking is free!
Opening Hours

  • Open Daily
  • 10 am - 5:30 pm
  • Admission is free


How Long to Spend at the Museum
The Udvar-Hazy is a massive 760,000-square-foot facility, which means you are going to want to give yourself plenty of time to see it all.
We recommend at least 2 hours there and more if you plan on experiencing their IMAX theater.
If you plan on seeing a show, we recommend purchasing a ticket online to guarantee a spot, especially during the busy season. 
Parking is free after 4 pm if you are attending an evening film.


Guided Tours

Audio tours are not currently available.
Guided tours are available for groups of ten or more, with advance reservations. These are free, but must be reserved at least three weeks in advance at https://airandspace.si.edu/visit/group-reservations.


Exhibits

There is plenty to see and experience at the Udvar-Hazy Center, so we thought we’d give you a few highlights to help plan your visit:

Discovery

Have you ever been up close to a space shuttle? Because here’s your chance!
The Udvar-Hazy Center is home to the Discovery, the oldest surviving space shuttle, and longest-serving orbiter.
Discovery

From 1984-2011, Discovery flew 39 missions, totaling 365 days in space.
Come experience the amazing journey of this space shuttle and learn more about space.


SR-71 Blackbird

This amazing aircraft comes from the height of the cold war.
It was originally developed as a highly classified “black project” and served as a high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance vehicle after the downing of Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 plane over Soviet Russia.
Some might better know this particular SR-71 as the Transformer Jetfire from Michael Bay’s movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.


In fact, Jetfire’s scene from that movie was filmed in the Udvar Hazy Center, and they have an entire display on the making of that scene there.


Mother Ship Model

In the Space Hanger, there is a fun hidden gem: the alien ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Mother Ship Model

Fans of Stephen Spielberg can visit his vision that was made possible by a team led by Gregory Jein. The ship is made up of model train and other kits.
If you look closely, you can see that glued to the ship are an assortment of weird things that were added as a joke, including a tiny R2-D2 and a cemetery plot.


The Enola Gay 

This is the famous B-29 “Superfortress” bomber that became the very first aircraft ever to drop an atomic weapon, doing so over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

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About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: October 11th, 2021
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