The National Air and Space Museum is a huge monument to the people and technologies involved with the development of aviation and space flight. When you visit, start with a trip to the IMAX theatre box office, because tickets to the many fascinating IMAX films can be hard to get and can sell out quickly. The same goes for the Plantetarium if you want to get tickets, especially on a weekend or during spring or summer.
Galleries as of Feb. 2003 include flight simulators, early business air transportation, milestones of flight (the gallery with many famous airplanes hanging), and space race (the gallery with many famous spacecrafts). Walk through the original space station and see Apollo Soyuz.
On the second floor, you can exlore Sea-Air operations, WWI and WWII aviation, the Wright Brothers (coming soon), and "Apollo to the Moon", among others.
May, 2003: We recently revisited the museum, and I have a few things to Add. It's fascinating to just wander among the planes, rockets and spacecraft in the hall. Plan your visit; it's IMPOSSIBLE to do everything unless you devote several days to this museum. It is that full and rich with inforamation and things to do.
We focused on one gallery, exploring the universe, saw one of the IMAX movies, and visited the gift shop during our 3 1/2 hour visit. Exploring the universe is a wonderful history of how we, humanity, have explored our neighbors and gone all the way out to the universe. The first half of it ends up feeling like a history of telescopes, and at the end you get to learn about a dazzling array of technology. This information is presented to you in all kinds of ways, from the historical (some original telescopes and old time astrolabes) to the sophisticated (computer quizzes, infared scanners) to the amusing (Scott Hamilton skates the universe to a song by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame). There is lots here, expecially in the last half of the exhibit, for kids.
We also saw the "Space Station 3D" IMAX film, which I will review separately.
We had lunch in the Wright Place. This used to be a nice restaurant, but it has been taken over by a food court, which offers a McDonald's menu, a handful of Boston Market sandwiches and roast chicken entrees, some pizzas and upstairs, there is a more upscale cafe eatery where you can get gourmet sandwiches, salads, gourmet coffee, fruit smoothies (a great variety), beer and wine. There is also a dessert place that we did not visit.
There is good reason this is the most popular museum in the city.
Closest Metro is Smithsonian Metro Station on the orange and blue lines.