Have A Little Flyer? Don’t Miss These DC Aviation Attractions!

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“Go, go, go!” My two little boys are interested in anything and everything that moves (planes, trains and automobiles, anyone?). Since we drive by Reagan National Airport and see planes overhead on a daily basis their interest in aviation has (pun intended) soared, which led my husband and me to explore the options here in DC for little flyers. As it turns out this area offers many opportunities to learn, see and do for pint-sized aviators. Check out some of the museums, events and activities listed below and watch your little one take flight!

Museums

College Park Aviation Museum

Located near the University of Maryland, College Park, this museum is small but mighty. It offers a number of hands on activities for even the smallest aviation enthusiasts, is located next to a working airport and includes a small outdoor play area. The cost of admission is very reasonable ($5 for adults, $2 for kids ages one and above). The museum offers a number of special events and programs catering to the younger crowd and often runs Groupon specials. We took a day trip to visit on a cold winter morning and enjoyed all of the indoor activities, from dressing up as a pilot to sitting in a plane, followed by a delicious pizza lunch nearby.

College Park Aviation Museum

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

This is the granddaddy of them all and a perennial favorite of parents and kids. I remember exploring this museum in wonder when I was a little one, and now my kids enjoy it just as much, especially the hands on area that caters to kids and the Skylab Orbital Workshop. It is important to note that the museum is currently in the midst of a seven-year renovation project with phased closures and openings of galleries, shops, theaters and the café. Museum favorites will remain on display and you can visit the museum’s website to check what is on view before you visit. I went a few weeks ago and though the renovation was evident it did not take away from our visit.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

With the National Air and Space Museum in the midst of a massive renovation, this is the perfect time to visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (part of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum) in Chantilly, VA. Many of the artifacts from the Air and Space Museum in DC will be moved to the Udvar-Hazy during the renovation, but even without the additional artifacts, this is simply a great place to visit and well worth the drive. Large stroller friendly ramps and walkways and tons of interesting planes, helicopters, gliders and other aviation and space flight artifacts make this perfect for kids and parents. The collection (which includes the space shuttle Discovery) is housed in a large hangar where the delighted squeals of children feel more at home than in a more formal museum and the observation tower provides a 360 degree view of Dulles Airport. Entry is free, but parking is $15 per vehicle. 

Udvar-Hazy Center

Airports

Local airports are a great place to spend a day with kids. We visited Reagan National Airport and my boys delighted in seeing the planes being prepared for their next flights, catching glimpses of take off, watching jet bridges wheeled into place, exploring the baggage claim and checking out the ticketing area. We grabbed lunch at Chick fil a in the airport and settled into chairs in front of some large windows to enjoy the view. Don’t worry about not having a ticket, Reagan National has lots to see from the main terminal prior to the TSA lines. All in all it was a fun (and inexpensive) outing for two small airplane enthusiasts! We have yet to explore Dulles or BWI but I’d imagine they’d offer similar opportunities.

Reagan National Airport

Special Events

Joint Base Andrews Air and Space Expo

May 11-12, 2019

A great opportunity to see the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels! Attendance is free and open to the public. For more information visit Legends in Flight.

Innovations in Flight Family Day and Aviation Display

June 15, 2019

This annual event at the Udvar-Hazy Center explores the engineering and design innovations that have taken place during the last century of flight. Includes over 50 vintage and modern aircraft on display outside the Museum and hands-on, STEM-based activities. Visit Air and Space Museum for more info.

Dulles Day and Plane Pull

September 14, 2019

Includes classic cars, trucks and vintage and modern aircraft as well as a 5K and 10K and the opportunity to watch team compete to pull an 82-ton plane. Visit Plane Pull for more information.