SCHOOL TRIP SPOTLIGHT: Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
Welcome to the one place in Washington, D.C. where you can touch an actual moon rock before buying a bag of freeze-dried, astronaut ice cream (which we recommend eating AFTER you ride in the flight simulators.) Here are five highlights not to be missed at the D.C. museum.
The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum is perhaps the most well-known of all the city’s Smithsonian attractions, with two campuses to visit on a school trip to Washington, D.C.
Most groups visit the flagship location on Independence Avenue in D.C., while those looking for more STEM-related experiences often choose to visit the Udar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, which is the larger, companion site.
Five Highlights at the Air & Space Museum include the following:
- Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed 5B Vega, the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, and Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1.
- For students interested in military history, the collection of WWI and WWII fighter planes should not be missed.
- Charles Lindbergh’s single-engine Spirit of St. Louis hangs in the center hall, an echo from the golden age of flight.
- Don’t miss Buzz Aldrin’s spacesuit and John Glenn’s Mercury 7 capsule, which are sure to inspire the space explorer in any visitor.
- Other popular experiences include the flight simulators and the Lockheed Martin IMAX theater where exciting short films are regularly screened. (Note: please remember both of these are ticketed
Construction at the Museum
The west side of the building houses nine exhibitions. Most of the objects on view in these galleries will be moved to a new collections storage space at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. The federal government last year appropriated $40 million for the facility, and the museum has requested $10 million more. The storage space is expected to be ready by 2019.
During construction, many of the museum’s most popular artifacts, including the Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, and the Mercury Friendship 7 will remain on view.
Food and Dining While at the Museum
The food court at the Air & Space Museum has long been popular for groups, but it is currently closed for renovations. There are good lunchtime eats are found outside, however, at the food trucks at the intersection of Maryland Ave & 6th St. NW as well as the food service at the neighboring National Museum of the American Indian.
Air & Space is the most popular museum in the city and the line to clear security can be long during the spring and summer months. Leave everything but your cash and camera behind to help speed the process.
The SCHOOL TRIP SPOTLIGHT is written by NationsClassroom’s licensed tour managers and guides. Written from their years of experience with student groups, the articles feature exciting attractions from the most popular student travel destinations on the historic East Coast.
For more information about a school trip to Washington, D.C., please Browse Our Tours.
Originally published June 2018, updated July 2021