First, this museum is located near the Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia. It is an extension of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Admission is free but parking is $15. For a family of five $3 a person is a really good deal.
We loved this museum. When I planned our trip I figured that we would spend about 2 1/2 hours there and it would be sufficient for our family, both boys and girls to have their fill of planes. It was not near enough time.
When we arrived we admired the sculpture out front. We liked the swirl of the metal, but these fun orbs caught our eye and the kids had to see how comfortable they were.
Once we arrived inside we immediately found a bathroom and went to the only restaurant in the museum (McDonalds) for lunch. One rule in our family is that everyone needs a full belly before starting to tour a museum. It just makes for happy kids and that makes happy mommies and daddies. So we ate.
Then we began our tour. We started at the front desk where we were given activity sheets for the kids (no patches at the end but it kept them on task).
We began on the second floor. We found this fun fighter jet painted in a shark motif.
Ladybug didn't think it was that heavy! (wink wink)
We saw the Lockheed Blackbird! Oh my goodness this is a big plane. This is looking at it from the second level.
It is really an impressive plane. We then went over to see the Enola Gay. This is a B29 Superfortress. It is THE plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I was amazed at how I felt around this plane. It holds a lot of history in its wings. I needed some time with this plane but the kids moved us along. Some planes with such significance just seem to need some reverence, you know? This one does. It is a big, heavy plane and it looks almost like it was a miracle it just got off the ground much less fly some really important bombing missions like it did. I could imagine the conversations between the pilots, the silence the plane probably had when it dropped the bomb, the nervousness of the gunners, and the complete concentration of the bombardier sitting up in the nose of the plane.
We continued around and began to examine the markings on planes, identifying the American and the German planes, military vs. commercial. We even found a bored docent who welcomed the challenge to take our picture.
We saw an Air France Concord. This is a big plane too.
We then spent some more time with the Blackbird.
Is it okay for a girl to call this plane "sexy"? It truly is sleek and aerodynamic. It is HUGE. It is skinny.
But the next stop was exciting. The space shuttle Enterprise. This is the shuttle that they did the test flights in gliding back to earth in. It is actually smaller than I thought.
It is big but I, for some reason, thought it would be bigger. I really enjoyed walking around it though and seeing the huge rockets in the back.
They had exhibits from all the space programs from Mercury on up. They even had Alan Sheppard's module that he circled the earth in.
Overall, our impression of this museum was first rate. We really enjoyed all the planes. We didn't get to any helicopters or did we get to the third floor catwalk to see the other planes suspended up there. We HAD to leave as we had dinner plans we had to get to, and we promised that we would return. It is worth going back.