My husband has always been an aviation fan, and I've always loved the Smithsonian museums, so we decided to take our 12 yr old girls to the Dulles branch of the National Air and Space Museum. They absolutely loved it!
We spent our entire day there casually strolling through all the exhibits, first heading to the Space Shuttle on display. It was amazing to see an actual space shuttle so close up. As one who remembers the tragic accidents the U.S. experienced in its shuttle fleet, it was incredible to be able to see the tiles that were designed to protect the shuttle. We loved seeing the evolution of space flight as well.
We enjoyed all the other galleries, too. It was easy for all of us to read the narratives that accompanied each item on display. The girls had fun, too, as we took photos of them pretending to be sucked into a huge engine or "holding up" many of the aircraft suspended from the ceilings.
After we watched an IMAX movie, we went back to watch two more! Although there was an extra fee for the IMAX movies, they were well worth it.
For me the best part was riding in a simulator with my husband. The simulators cost extra, but it was the best money we spent all day! It was so realistic, and my husband did not really have control of the "jet," so I alternated between screaming and laughing so hard it hurt!
The only negative was that the only food venue is a McDonald's, which doesn't exactly offer lots of healthy options. Also, the demand at lunchtime made the restaurant feel like a zoo.
Our girls talked about our day to family and friends for weeks, and we can't wait to go back, despite the nearly 3-hour car ride to get there!