Day 2 of Washington DC was … wait for it …. awesome!
Got out of bed without the phone alarm again. Used a bottle of Mountain Dew for breakfast, and had a nice quick walk around the hotel grounds.
I was picked up by Beth, my tour guide and driver (She’s gonna kill me when she reads this.) and headed out to the Smithsonian.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, is located at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, in Chantilly, Virginia. It is located in a section of the Duelles Airport, and consists of the Boeing Aviation Hanger and the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger.
The hours are 10:00 to 5:30pm daily, except Christmas. Admission is FREE. Yes, I said free. But, parking is 15.00 dollars, or free after 4:00pm.
The museum is …. chocker-block full of aircraft, expiremental aircraft, rockets, spacecraft, and other related items, to the point that it’s almost overwhelming. It’s full to the point that things are hard to get pictures of. The host of items on display would fill several normal museums. Its good that they give out maps.
The upside is that things in the museum are very well labeled. The staff is also knowledgeable and friendly. The museum gives free tours of the hanger floors, pretty much on the half hour. The tour guides also don’t seem to be offended if you stop and listen in for a couple minutes and then move on.
Where the museum has almost every conceivable rocket and airplane you would ever want to look at, it does have a couple of stand out pieces. The freshly restored Enola Gay, B29 Superfortress is piece number one. The bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb is stationed in the middle of the hanger floor, on the left wing of the hanger. The plane is in amazing condition. The restoration work (which I have heard was the most extensive restoration that the Smithsonian has done) is fantastic. It is surrounded by numerous other aircraft, which makes it hard to get a picture of, but it is easily viewable.
The second standout piece would be an SR-71, Blackbird. The Blackbird is located in the middle of the museum and is the centerpiece for the hanger floor. It is in outstanding condition, and is easily photographed.
Directly behind the Blackbird, and the centerpiece of the Space Hanger is the Space Shuttle Discovery. The Space Shuttle has an appearance where they appeared to give it less preparation before display, leaving it with a used-in-Space feel to it. The look is very genuine and somehow draws you to it, emotionally. Once again, there is enough stuff in the Space Hanger where it is a little hard to photograph just the Space Shuttle, but it is super easy to view. You can literally walk underneath it around its tail. You feel closer to the Shuttle than you do other pieces on display.
Where those are the must-see pieces, this is much more. A Russian Mig-21 holds one end of the jet fighter display wing, while a X35 Joint Strike Fighter holds the other end. Beyond the Enola Gay is the Concorde. In its shadow is the Red Bull Stratos Capsule. And the list goes on and on. You could go every day for a week and not see everything there is to see.
After a second go around and a big stop at the gift shop, it was out the door and back into traffic. The drive from the hotel in Bethesda and the Air and Space Museum at the Duelles Airport is about half of an hour. That’s if traffic isn’t too heavy. If there is a lot of congestion, the drive time can increase greatly.
There was a little crash time. Ended up watching the Real Madrid v Manchester United match on ESPN. Then, out for dinner at Chop’t with Beth. After dinner … Shark Week.
See you tomorrow!