“Go, go, go!” My two little boys are interested in anything and everything that moves (planes, trains and automobiles, anyone?). Since we drive by Reagan National Airport and see planes overhead on a daily basis, their interest in aviation has soared (pun intended). This led my husband and me to explore the options here in DC for little flyers. As it turns out, this area offers many opportunities to learn, see, and do for pint-sized aviators. Check out some of the museums, events, and activities listed below and watch your little one take flight!
Located near the University of Maryland, College Park, this museum is small but mighty. It offers a number of hands on activities for even the smallest aviation enthusiasts. Located next to a working airport, this attraction also includes a small outdoor play area. The cost of admission is very reasonable ($5 for adults, $2 for kids ages one and above). The museum offers a number of special events and programs catering to the younger crowd and often runs Groupon specials. We took a day trip to visit on a cold winter morning and enjoyed all of the indoor activities, from dressing up as a pilot to sitting in a plane, followed by a delicious pizza lunch nearby.
This is the granddaddy of them all and a perennial favorite of parents and kids. I remember exploring this museum in wonder when I was a little one, and now my kids enjoy it just as much. They especially love the hands on area that caters to kids and the Skylab Orbital Workshop. It is important to note that the museum is currently in the midst of a seven-year renovation project with phased closures and openings of galleries, shops, theaters, and the café. Museum favorites will remain on display and you can visit the museum’s website to check what is on view before you visit.
With the National Air and Space Museum in the midst of a massive renovation, this is the perfect time to visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (part of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum) in Chantilly, VA. Many of the artifacts from the Air and Space Museum in DC will be moved to the Udvar-Hazy during the renovation, but even without the additional artifacts, this is simply a great place to visit and well worth the drive. There are large stroller-friendly ramps and walkways, as well as planes, helicopters, gliders, and other aviation and space flight artifacts, making this perfect for kids and parents. The collection (which includes the space shuttle Discovery) is housed in a large hangar where the delighted squeals of children feel more at home than in a more formal museum. Additionally, the observation tower provides a 360 degree view of Dulles Airport. Entry is free, but parking is $15 per vehicle.
Local airports are a great place to spend a day with kids. We visited Reagan National Airport and my boys delighted in seeing the planes being prepared for their next flights, catching glimpses of take off, watching jet bridges wheeled into place, exploring the baggage claim, and checking out the ticketing area. We grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-a in the airport and settled into chairs in front of some large windows to enjoy the view. Don’t worry about not having a ticket. Reagan National has lots to see from the main terminal prior to the TSA lines. All in all it was a fun (and inexpensive) outing for two small airplane enthusiasts! We have yet to explore Dulles or BWI, but I’d imagine they offer similar opportunities.
June 18, 2022
This annual event at the Udvar-Hazy Center explores the engineering and design innovations that have taken place during the last century of flight. Includes over 50 vintage and modern aircraft on display outside the Museum and hands-on, STEM-based activities. Visit Air and Space Museum for more info.
September 17, 2022
Includes classic cars, trucks and vintage and modern aircraft as well as a 5K and 10K and the opportunity to watch team compete to pull an 82-ton plane. Visit Plane Pull for more information.