Monday, January 24, 2011

Visiting the National Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Gemini VI, Image Source: NASA

So you decided to see the free show, or just check out some cool airplanes and space shuttles? Here's how to make it happen.

How I got there via Metro: 

I took the Yellow/Green line to L'enfant Plaza, and since I had the stroller, I took the elevator up- it's at the very end of the platform. Once outside, I walked (it was left for me) about a block or two toward C Street (it turns into Maryland Ave to the right), then once I crossed C Street/Maryland Ave in front of me I saw the sign with the Smithsonian Map. The Air and Space Museum and the stroller/accessible entrance was directly across the street to my right. Click here for a Map, if you need a visual.

You can also take the Orange/Blue line to Smithsonian but I haven't tried that way yet, so you would have to ask the Metro attendant for directions once you get off the train and/or study the map at the link above.

Once inside the Museum, the Einstein Planetarium is upstairs, but go in past security and to the right to get your free tickets into the show from the IMAX ticket booth. On the way to the ticket booth, you will pass the elevator on your right (again, because of the stroller), just go back here to go upstairs and the Planetarium entrance will be to your left. 

Image Source: NASA

Tips for Visitors:

  • It's crowded most of the time, but stroller-friendly although you will find it easier to abandon your stroller from time to time to check out certain exhibits so... 
  • I recommend bringing a backpack to keep your personal belongings with you hands-free. 
  • I also recommend you check out their security procedures on their website so you know what to expect and what not to bring. They weren't too strict with food in that we could bring closed containers (ziploc bags, juice boxes, etc.) in with no hassle, I think they just mean to prevent patrons from eating inside the museum. Think: bugs, mice, and lots of extra cleaning avoided, which keeps admission free. 
  • I brought in our refillable BPA-free water bottles, which go everywhere with us, by the way.
  • To save some money, pack a good lunch and lots of snacks if you plan to make a day of it and...
  • Admission is FREE so don't feel obligated to see everything in one day- there's way too much to see for that, especially with kids.
  • Should you choose to not pack a lunch...If you're up for a slightly uphill 10 min walk straight up 7th street to Chinatown, there are some great and not-too-expensive restaurants there where you can choose to grab-and-go or sit down. Note: The Green Turtle at the Verizon Center location offers a free kid's meal per one adult meal that you purchase. The food is so-so for my tastes but it'll do. 
    • The good news is, the Gallery Place Metro stop is right here and you can head on home once you're done eating, no need to walk all the way back to where you started, as it's serviced by Green/Yellow and Red lines. If you came in on Orange/Blue, you can get on here and transfer at another stop.
    • To find the elevator down if you have a stroller, find the Dunkin Donuts on the left side of the Verizon Center, pass it by a few feet and look behind the diagonal column and poof! There's the elevator, nice and hidden in plain sight.
    • In the interest of saving money, avoid the food carts as the food is usually way overpriced, especially near popular tourist attractions and of poorer quality, or you just get way less than you should for the price.

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