We’ve lived in DC for a total of about 15 months over the past few years, so I’ve made my way to the majority of the Smithsonian Museums. They are all great museums, but I think I’ve finally stumbled onto my favorite.
My dad came to visit us last week and he brought up the idea of driving out to Chantilly to see the other Air & Space Museum. You’ve probably heard of the smaller museum that’s on the national mall, but did you know there is a second, much larger museum about 40 minutes outside of DC?
It’s out by the Dulles International Airport – so if you’re visiting and renting a car, I highly suggest checking it out.
I’m not really a huge fan of aviation history, but I was incredibly impressed with the massive and diverse collection. It’s basically a giant air hanger that is filled with a number of awesome and historic planes.
I also found the Top Gun plane, also known as the “tomcat”. I couldn’t resist that photo op, now could I?
They’ve got military planes, commercial planes, helicopters, crazy experimental aircraft and an entire wing dedicated to the space program. You can also watch the museum staff work on restoring vintage planes.
Some other memorable planes include the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb, a collection of vintage helicopters and the world’s fastest plane – the SR-71 Blackbird. The black bird is pictured below, followed by the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb.
Then of course there’s the space section. The space collection is quite expansive too and includes all sorts of things like computer equipment used by NASA during the moon landing, an isolation trailer used by the Apollo 11 crew (if I remember right), the Apollo 11 flotation collar, space suits and of course, the Space Shuttle Discovery.
The Space Shuttle takes up the majority of the room and is ridiculously impressive. It’s absolutely massive. It’s crazy to imagine how big the actual rockets they strap to the shuttles are.