One of Northern Virginia’s most popular attractions is celebrating a special birthday: The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center turns 15 years old this Saturday! The annex of Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum in Chantilly opened its doors to the public on December 15, 2003. Since then, nearly 20 million people from all over the world have walked through its doors.
To celebrate, the museum is hosting a day full of special talks, exhibits, and activities. As a bonus, there will be some free screenings of the film To Fly in the Airbus IMAX Theatre, and parking (normally $15 per car) will be at no charge that day thanks to a benefactor. Admission to the museum is always free.
Among the activities will be special talks and presentations by curators on historic and modern aircraft, as well as on artifacts and special collections. Visitors will learn more about specific equipment in the museum, its preservation work, and special items. There also will be musical performances by the Loudoun Jazz Ensemble, and kids’ activities such as crafts, story times, and the Smithsonian TechQuest: Race to the Moon game. The museum has published a detailed list of events on its site.
The Udvar-Hazy Center was created in a hangar and is packed with some of the largest aircraft including a Concorde, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the Space Shuttle Discovery, as well as historic airplanes, helicopters, engines, rockets, and more. Special exhibits showcase pilot uniforms, military equipment, wartime items, memorabilia, and other historic pieces.
The museum also has a mock observation tower with educational exhibits; there you also can see planes arriving into and departing from the adjacent Washington-Dulles International Airport. Udvar-Hazy’s IMAX theatre shows educational and popular current films, and there is a wonderful gift shop and a McDonald’s on-site, too. Long ramps make it a very accessible place for people in wheelchairs or parents with strollers (there are elevators, too).
The Udvar-Hazy Center is located at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151. The museum is open until 5 pm but anniversary activities take place 10 am to 3 pm.
All photos by and (c) P. Hall