Top 7 Must-See Attractions At The Newly Renovated Air And Space Museum

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National Air and Space MuseumPhoto credit: Eric Long / Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., will partially reopen its flagship building on October 14th. The building’s reopened west end will give visitors access to eight new and renovated exhibitions, the planetarium, the museum store, and Mars Café.

Since 2018, the museum has been renovating all 23 exhibitions, presentation spaces, and updating the building’s exterior. Renovations will last through 2025. As they are completed,  additional galleries, the IMAX theater and a new entrance in 2024 will gradually reopen. The eastern side of the building will follow in 2025.

Although tickets will be free, guests must obtain timed-entry tickets to the museum. Tickets will be available online starting September 14. Follow the museum on Facebook, and Twitter, or take a look at its website for updates on ticket availability and hours.

Must-see exhibits that will open on October 14, 2022, include the following:

1. America By Air

Explore the history of American air transportation, including the technology that revolutionized air travel and America’s changing flight experience. Explore a Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor, Boeing 247, and DC-3 airliners. Feel like a pilot in the cockpit simulation of an Airbus A320 and enter the nose of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

2. Destination Moon

Destination Moon, a permanent gallery at the museum, takes a comprehensive look at the history of lunar exploration. The Apollo 11 Mission in 1969 and the earlier pioneering flights are commemorated in a new, state-of-the-art traveling exhibition. The Apollo 11 command module Columbia lies in a custom-designed, climate-controlled case as the centerpiece of the Destination Moon exhibit. The exhibit also features Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit.

3. Early Flight

Early Flight explores the first decade of flight by taking visitors to the fictitious Smithsonian Aeronautical Exposition of 1913. Visitors will be treated to a variety of fabric-covered aerial vehicles. Most are real; some are just barely in the eye of the inventor. Trade show style exhibits show cutting-edge technology of the day.

The exhibit boasts a rare 1894 Lilienthal glider, along with powered, unmanned vehicles that successfully flew in 1896 and 1903. Early Flight also features three Wright airplanes, the 1909 Wright Military Flyer, and the world’s first military airplane. The Model D “Headless Pusher,” an Ecker Flying Boat, and a Blériot XI monoplane round out the exhibit.

4. Nation Of Speed

This exhibit features Mario Andretti’s iconic vehicles, from the Indy 500 winning race car to the Sharp DR 90 Nemesis. Nation of Speed explores America’s “need for speed” and the technology developed to enhance our ability to go faster and faster. It explores speed as part of American culture and identity.

Want to gain an understanding  of the diverse worlds circling our sun? The Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery probes the science and history of our exploration of planets and moons. The exhibition draws on research from scientists in the museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, who are actively involved in current planetary missions.

6. One World Connected

Aviation and spaceflight redefined the connectedness of our world. One World Connected features an array of satellites and other technology that have increased global human connection. On the museum grounds you’ll see the full-sized X-Wing Starfighter from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, on loan from Lucasfilm.

7. The Wright Brothers And The Invention Of The Aerial Age

The invention of the airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright is a great American story. Their invention changed the world. The exhibition explores who Wilbur and Orville Wright were, what they achieved, and how they did it. At the heart of the gallery is the 1903 Wright Flyer, one of the most iconic artifacts in the Smithsonian’s collection.

Getting There

The easiest way to reach the museum is via Metrorail or Metrobus. The closest Metro station is L’Enfant Plaza. Metrobus routes, as well as the DC Circulator’s National Mall route, will all take you to the Mall.

Visitors to the museum 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.

Best Times To Visit

The busiest time of the year for D.C. museums is from March through August, and Saturday afternoons are especially packed. To avoid crowds, it’s best to visit the museum on a weekday. Try to arrive before the museum opens.

There will be rolling closures through 2025, as the entire Air and Space Museum undergoes renovations to the decades-old building and exhibits. The Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater is closed until the renovation project is complete (2025).

For more information on traveling to Washington D.C., check out these articles:

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