Have A Little Flyer? Don’t Miss These DC Aviation Attractions!

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“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 often, 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!

Museums

College Park Aviation Museum

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 under are FREE). The museum offers a number of special events and programs catering to the younger crowd. 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.

aviation attractions DC
College Park Aviation Museum

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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. Check out our article about museum updates. 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. Since the re-opening a couple of years ago, it is very popular and we highly suggest snagging free tickets online before going! The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm and closed on Christmas Day.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (part of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum) in Chantilly, VA is 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. You do not need to reserve tickets online.

aviation attractions DC
Udvar-Hazy Center

Airports

Local airports are a great place to spend a day with kids. We visited Reagan National Airport (DCA) 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.

Be sure to check out the airport playgrounds for even more fun! And if you want to picnic and see planes, then head to Gravelly Point in Arlington, VA near DCA to watch planes overhead. It is a serious sight to see and the views of the planes, greenery, and water are amazing! It can get noisy, so keep that in mind for young ears.

aviation attractions DC
Reagan National Airport

Special Events

Innovations in Flight Family Day and Aviation Display

Saturday, June 15, 2024 from 10AM to 3PM

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.

Dulles Day and Plane Pull

September 14, 2024

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.

Flying Circus Aerodrome & Airshow

This incredible airshow in Bealeton, VA runs every Sunday from May to October. See wing walkers, ride in a biplane(!), and more! Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for Military Members, $10 for children, and children under 5 are FREE!  The gates open at 11 am, the pre-show starts at 2 pm, and the show starts at 2:30 pm. They also host special events like a Father’s Day airshow, kids day, and hot air balloon festival.

Lastly, the Airplane Owners and Pilots’ Association celebrated their 85th anniversary and had a huge flyover on the National Mall. This would be a fun annual event!

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