When James decided to do his fourth grade science fair project on flight, I took him out to the Udvar Hazy Center to gather material. Amy tagged along because it was her idea in the first place, but mostly because she thinks every science project is her science project. We also brought the portable child.
The first thing I noticed on driving up to this sprawling government facility were the anti-tank blockades hidden beneath the road and a perimeter of concrete sphere bollards to prevent an off-road attack. If you were bent on assembling an air-force from the last century, they’re ready for you.
Udvar Hazy Tower
Our first stop was the observation tower, which offers sweeping views, not only of the Dulles airport, but of the foothills to the west. As we walked around the spacious deck, we listened to the live audio from the Dulles air traffic control tower, which we could see off in the distance.
As planes lined up in the skies to land, we tracked them on the Flight Radar 24 app, which allows you to see where all the flights are arriving from and interesting stats like their speed and altitude.
Walking around the light-filled main hall at the Udvar Hazy Center was a mood-enhancing experience after the dreary drive along the Dulles Tollroad. The visitors to the Crystal Palace during the 1851 Great Exhibition must have felt the same way. It is rare to see so much space and light under one roof.
The Udvar Hazy Center features a number of important flight artifacts, most notably the Enola Gay, the Concorde, and the Space Shuttle, but we were most interested in the gliders and single pilot designs, from which James is drawing inspiration for his project.
Pro Tip: bring a quarter to open a locker for your stuff (you’ll get it back when you return the key). The museum is huge and the long walk is more enjoyable without all the kid luggage.
Cost: Although the Udvar Hazy Center is free, parking set us back $15 and we spent close to $30 on lunch.