Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum an Out-of-This-World Experience

Space Shuttle Enterprise

Big bird: Enterprise, the first orbiter built as part of NASA’s Space Shuttle program, sits on display at the Udvar-Hazy annex in Chantilly. (Bernt Rostad via Flickr)

You’re probably asking, “How come this guy hasn’t written about the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum yet, quite possibly the coolest museum in the entire world?”

Well, ever heard of saving the best for last … or at least until you readers deserve it? I’m just playing. Of course you deserve it, or, like the English proverb says, “Good things come to those who wait.” (I know, I know. That’s a crock of – hey, watch your mouth!)

Anyway, apartment renters, this is one museum you can be proud to call your own no matter where in the metro area you reside.

[ Related: Hidden History: Five D.C.-Area Museums You Won’t Find in the Tourist Guide ]

The National Air and Space Museum’s roots go way back – before manned flight even – to 1876, when the Smithsonian’s aeronautical collection began with the acquisition of a group of kites from the Chinese Imperial Commission. In 1946, it morphed into the National Air Museum, before finally settling on its current moniker in 1966, reflecting our nation’s achievement in breaching Earth’s atmosphere.

Today, according to its website, “the National Air and Space Museum is recognized as the world’s most visited museum.” Quite an honor in any celestial orbit. The museum has the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft anywhere in the world, 50,000 artifacts ranging in size from rockets to microchips. They’re also in the business of research, as the museum is home to the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies.

National Air & Space Museum
Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20597

There are two public display facilities, the one on the National Mall we’ve all been to at one time or another – the one with Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module and lunar rock – and the newer Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, where you can find many more artifacts. Opened in December 2003, the Udvar-Hazy annex is big enough to house the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Yeah, it’s that big.

Current exhibitions and attractions include:

Of course, no trip to either facility is complete without some toys to take home (yes, this museum was made for kids). While both museums have stores offering a variety of merchandise – including souvenirs, models, books, posters, DVDs, clothing and more – the one on the Mall would be the one to hit.

Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy.
Chantilly, VA 20151

It’s a relatively mammoth three-level, 12,000-square-foot retail nirvana that, among other highlights, displays the original model of the USS Enterprise used in the filming of the first “Star Trek” series.

[ Related: Have a Sneaky Good Time at the Spy Museum in Penn Quarter ]

No word on whether a well-preserved William Shatner will pop out of it and try to get you to go on

Speaking of Shatner, did you hear how he’s made out as the Priceline Negotiator? I wonder what fraction of that he made in the original series that made him a star in the first place? Talk about your final frontiers. Anyway, back to planet Earth…

Listen, this is a one-of-a-kind institution, and the blogger from would be an utter fool to think he could simulate its majesty with the written word.

Apartment renters near Northwest or Southwest, or those of you near Chantilly, you owe it to yourself to visit both museums. Also feel free to check out Apartment Showcase to take a look at available apartments in the area.  If you move away not having set foot in either, you’ll be just like this guy, hair and all.

And you wouldn’t want that. Moreover, we wouldn’t want that. Though that slice of hair metal is among the better gems in the genre, cheese-grater vocals notwithstanding.

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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