Wright's flyer suspended at the National Air and Space Museum

Eric Long/NASM

There's a space station you can actually walk through (where wax astronauts sleep upright strapped to cots), and many multimedia areas that ratchet up the experience for kids. One sure favorite is the At the Controls-Flight Simulator Zone, which allows visitors to climb aboard a MaxFlight FS2000 simulator and pilot through a twisting 360-degree barrel roll or pull back on the joystick to complete an upside-down loop during their incredible five-minute adventure.

Other such simulation programs allow visitors to "fly" aircraft located in nearby galleries. Vehicles include Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, WWII's infamous P-51 Mustang, and the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero.

Showcasing the icons of space and aviation -- Apollo modules, a Mercury space capsule, lunar landing probes, the Wright Brothers' 1903 Flyer, and full-size missiles -- the most-visited museum in the world exhibits the real deal instead of models. At the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., your children can touch a piece of real moon rock, activate a supersonic wind tunnel, and see an actual spy satellite.

When the crowds start to drain your energy, direct yourselves to the museum's Einstein Planetarium or the IMAX theater, where films rotate continually, for a restful, educational break.

National Air and Space Museum Information

Address: Independence Ave. at 4th St., SW, Washington, D.C.

Phone: 202/633-1000

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., daily

Admission: Free

For more information on family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Washington D.C. City Guide: Learn more about the many things for families to do in Washington, D.C.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.