Summer Road Trip, Part FIVE! Washington, DC: Airplanes and the National Postal Museum

Here’s the penultimate installment of my recap of the big road trip we took way back in June! Today I’m covering our last two days in the DC area, and then next week I’ll finally wrap this thing up by telling you about a couple of places we stopped on the trip back down.

National Air and Space Museum: Udvar-Hazy Center

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Dave’s Aunt Debbie had suggested this place as an alternative to the main air and space museum on the mall, and we decided to give it a try in hopes that it would be less crowded way out in Virginia. And it was!

The Udvar-Hazy Center is very close to Dulles Airport and a decent drive from the city…..around 40 minutes with no traffic, and good luck getting there AND back without hitting traffic (we ran into quite a bit on our way back, even though we were careful to leave before four). A couple of things to note are that the museum is free but parking is $15/car, and that the only on site food is a McDonalds.

Another thing to note is that there are a lot of airplanes in this museum. If you love airplanes, you’ll be incredibly happy here. If you find airplanes both terrifying and relatively uninteresting, you’ll keep wondering where the more… exhibits are. Like the history of flight attendant uniforms? They should make that one; I’d like that. Or one time I went to Graceland and you could go INSIDE ELVIS’S PLANE! They should have that here. Maybe not Elvis’s plane, because that’s at Graceland. Maybe Prince has a plane he’s done with? I bet Prince has a really cool plane. Anyway.

What they do have here is two giant hangars, one filled with airplanes. So many airplanes. The other one with rockets and stuff. And then they have an observation tower you can go up to and watch planes take off and land from Dulles. And I think there’s an exhibit on air traffic controllers or something to stop at on the way back down from that, but Abe was extra crazy that day, so we didn’t stop there. They also have an IMAX theater and flight simulators. AND! They have a Transformers exhibit right now, but I only just remembered that when I looked at the website just now….we totally missed it while we were there! I have no idea how, I was sure we walked all over the museum about 50 times. It is really sad, because Dave loves Transformers (and, Amy tells me, so does Louis).

The flight simulators were the main thing the kids were looking forward to, so we went there first thing.

There’s an extra fee for these, but there was no wait, so that was very nice.


Abe and I waited while all the big kids went on the simulators. I had no desire whatsoever to take part, having ridden Mission Space at Epcot a few too many times:


I think they liked it:


I should stop here to point out Gus’ shirt that he got at the National Archives. Because I love it. It’s so Gus:


Then we headed up to the observation tower. I guess sometimes there can be a long wait for the elevator, but, again, we didn’t have to wait long at all:


This seemed like it SHOULD be a great place for Abe, since it was an enclosed space with lots to look at but not much to touch. But he was NUTS. I think he’d been subjected to a little bit too much touring on this trip.

Then we had our McDonalds lunch and split into smaller groups for some more touring.



Also, airplanes:


My Dad used to have a Piper Cub, so I took a picture of this one. I used to have a t-shirt with that bear on it:


Word is Milo was off being really fascinated about space stuff while Ari, Abe, Dave, and I were looking at these airplanes. I think I would have appreciated them more if I’d stuck closer to my kid who’s excited about these things. But I did appreciate the lack of crowds and the air conditioning, so no complaints here.

Then we went to look at space stuff. They have the Discovery here, which was my favorite part:


We looked at airplanes and space things for a long time, and then it was time to go. On the way out, we stopped by the gift shop to try on funny hats. We enjoy trying on funny hats in gift shops. Amazingly, none of us has ever had lice:


National Postal Museum:


Remember back when I promised to share with you the best kept secret in Washington, DC? Well, here it is! We all loved this place. The exhibits were all nicely done and informative; there was tons of hands-on stuff for the kids. And we were just about the only people here.

I read about the Postal Museum a few times before our trip, and then again the night before we went here, when we were trying to decide where to go for our last full day. Every time I read about it, I thought, “that sounds like fun!” And then every single time I promptly forgot about it before even mentioning it to anyone else. We were planning to go to the National Gallery on this day, which I think everyone was a little worried about with all the kids. We took the Metro to Union Station, came up on to the street right across from the Postal Museum, at which point I remembered it existed and said, “hey! we could go there instead!” And we did.

The only thing I can figure out is that there must be some sort of spell over the Postal Museum that makes it literally impossible to remember it exists unless you’re actually looking at it.

In this way, the blissful emptiness of the National Postal Museum is preserved for the select few who stumble across it.

We walked over to take a look at the Capitol before we went in to the museum:


A passerby offered to take this picture, in which you can see our entire group except Abe, who was asleep in the stroller:


Then back to the Postal Museum! This is another Smithsonian place, so free admission. And it may be the only museum in DC where you can see a taxidermied dog covered with postal tags. This isn’t the real dog; I didn’t get a good picture of him. Here’s the statue of him:

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There’s a central atrium with….another airplane:


And a bunch of other mail-carrying vehicles, like a train car, and this truck (the kids spent a lot of time in here):

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Then there are exhibit halls about the history of postal service off to the sides, with tons of hands-on stuff for the kids:

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Did you know zip code stood for zoning improvement plan ? I had no idea:


The kids were happy here for a long time, and then we headed upstairs and discovered….MORE museum! Upstairs is about stamps and stamp collecting, which seems like it would be not much fun for kids, but they loved it. They have a whole bunch of stamps out and everyone’s allowed to pick out six (I think it was) to take home to start a collection:


There are computers where you can design your own stamp and e-mail it to yourself:


Ari made this one. I’m very impressed with his design skills. I would totally start a stamp collection if more of them looked like this (take note USPS!)


They also have that upside down airplane stamp on display and tons and tons of stamps, organized by category. Here’s Nana, checking out the duck stamps:


And thus ended our DC touring! We went over to Debbie and Paul’s house that night for dinner and a rousing kid-created game of “Find My Shoes!”

Predictably, this is the last time Gus was seen with both of his shoes:


We had to stop and buy him new shoes at Target the next day (he had flip flops with him, too, but he needed closed toed shoes for one of our stops on the way home).

The next morning we said goodbye to everyone and headed home with our fledgling stamp collections.

Read about the rest of our trip!

Jamestown and Yorktown

Colonial Williamsburg

DC: Monuments, Archives, and Spy Museum

DC: Zoo and Natural History Museum


Summer Road Trip, Part FIVE! Washington, DC: Airplanes and the National Postal Museum — 4 Comments

  1. That’s it. I want to go on an exact replica of this road trip. A postal museum and airplanes and so much more. Love it!! B’s most favorite museum in Denmark has been the postal museum there. Would love to take him to this one too.

    • I suggest a world tour of all the postal museums there are! Incidentally, I think you’re the only one who’s read this post (since I didn’t get it finished in time for Friday and dumped it on a weekend)….further evidence of the cloaking spell cast over the postal museum 😉

  2. Ramona would have freaked to see all those airplanes! That looks like so much fun! I’m sure the kids liked it too. 😉

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