We are always trying to keep our toddler busy. During the summer it’s easy because we can be outside, but during the winter it is a lot harder to find things to do. We have been lucky with the recent warm weather that we have had the opportunity to get out but the weather around here is far from predictable so I am sure that will change soon! One of our favorite places to go is the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Center in Chantilly, Virginia. We have been taking Aiden there since he was a few weeks old (when we were brave enough to leave the house). It is the perfect place for a newborn and toddler because it is massive and if you have a screaming newborn or toddler with a tantrum you won’t disturb anyone. It’s amazing and I always refer my mom friends with new babies in the winter time there.
Most people are familiar with the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. The Udvar-Hazy Air & Space center is a companion facility in Virginia. It is set up in two huge airplane hangers and has full-size airplanes and space artifacts. Basically, everything the Washington, DC location can’t house because of space constraints.
There is so much to do at this museum you could easily spend a whole day there. The main museum is set in two parts. One room is all the air artifacts such as air crafts from hot air balloons and flying boats, to helicopters, to the first ever planes, war planes and even current commercial planes. The second room is full of space artifacts including the Discovery Space Shuttle, rockets and missiles. In addition to the main displays, if the weather is nice they often have an outdoor display where individuals bring their collectible planes for people to view and you can walk through a commercial United Airlines plane. There are free guided tours of the facility which we don’t usually take advantage of, but I am sure are great for anyone truly interested in the artifacts. They also have a section in the back where you can see them actually restoring some of the artifacts which can be an interesting behind the scenes peek.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a tourist destination without a photo booth and flight simulation rides. There are a few different photo opportunities including this hilarious one we got of Aiden when he was about one-month-old! There are different flight simulation options too.
The Center also offers the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower, which gives you a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of Washington Dulles International Airport and the surrounding area. Recently while we were there, we were able to watch the largest commercial airplane take off from the tower. There is also an IMAX® Theater where they show both educational space-related movies as well as some current blockbusters.
There is no cost to visit the museum; however, parking is $15. Also, be prepared to eat before or after because you are not allowed to take food in and the only food option is a McDonalds. This is the only thing I don’t like about the museum; however, we typically go for a few hours in the morning or afternoon (after breakfast or after lunch) so it’s not that big of an issue for us. Be prepared to have your bag checked when you come in. You don’t have to worry about bringing in baby food/milk they are really good about that.
Tip: Parking after 4 pm is free! If you are local you can come from 4-5:30 (when it closes) for a quick afternoon visit.
Honestly, I can’t think of an age that wouldn’t be appropriate for this museum. It’s great for babies/toddlers/young kids because they can be loud and run around a little without disturbing others, it’s great for older kids because what kid doesn’t love planes and rockets, and it’s great for parents because it’s just cool to see all the stuff they have.
Have you visited the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum? What is your favorite way to keep your baby/toddler busy during the winter?