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Visiting the National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center
Backyard Tourism, North America, Travel, USA, Washington DC

Backyard Tourism: Visiting the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center

Whenever I go into a travel dry-spell, I make a concentrated effort to go on some backyard tourism (aka going to tourist-y places in my home city). I did this quite a bit when I was living in Hoboken and checked out a number of cool places like the USS Intrepid, Citi Field, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Chelsea Market. This is my first backyard tourism post for Washington, DC metro area.

Richard and I were bored one weekend this spring and decided to check out the other National Air & Space Museum – the Udvar-Hazy Center. The Udvar-Hazy Center, for those of you who are not in the know, is an annex of the National Air & Space Museum. It’s located in Chantilly, VA which is about 45 minutes from the main National Air & Space Museum location on the National Mall. Being 45 minutes out, the Udvar-Hazy Center is afforded much more space than the National Mall location. This allows NASM to showcase a wide variety of things that they can’t in the National Mall location due to space and logistical constraints (i.e. how do you logistically get a spacecraft into downtown DC?).

Boeing Aviation Hangar

When you walk into the Udvar-Hazy Center, one of the first things you run into is the Boeing Aviator Hangar. This is a large space where a number of planes of various shapes and sizes are showcased. Some of hanging from the ceiling and some are on the ground. You can enter on the second level and walk down into the hangar. That gives you an impressive bird’s-eye view of the hangar before you even go down to explore.

Udvar Hazy National Air & Space Museum Hangar

Planes everywhere at Udvar Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Menacing plane at Udvar Hazy National Air & Space Museum

If you’ve ever watched Top Gun, you might recognize this plane as a Tom Cat, or F-14.  Udvar-Hazy has some memorabilia from a real “Top Gun” pilot on showcase. Let’s just say… this guy really liked being a Top Gun guy considering his license plate.

Tomcat F-14 Top Gun Plane    Top Gun Guy

One of the more impressive planes we saw in the hangar was an SR-71, or a Blackbird. This is literally one of the fastest planes on the planet. The plane being showcased flew set a record when it flew from LA to Washington, DC in 1 hr 4 min 20 seconds when it retired in 1990. Not sure I’m really in that much of a rush to get to LA, but it’s still pretty impressive.

Blackbird at Udvar Hazy NASM    Blackbird SR-71 from the top Blackbird SR-71 Emergency Kit

There are a number of miscellaneous things in the hangar. The capsule that Felix Baumgartner’s space jumped from is on display. There are little kiosks for viewing the inside of the cockpits of various planes. There’s a Concorde (USS Intrepid also has one, so this is the second one I’ve seen!). And they even have a random landing gear on display (Richard for scale).

Feliz Baumgartner's Capsule Air France Concorde at Udvar Hazy Cockpit Kiosk in Hangar

Landing gear with Richard for scale

 

Dulles Observation Tower

One of my favorite parts of visiting the Udvar-Hazy Center was the Dulles Observation Tower. We could watch the planes coming in to land at Dulles. It was pretty fun, because Dulles gets a lot of international flights. I live and work relatively close to National Airport so I see those planes frequently, but they are often smaller commuter planes and jets vs. the big honking international planes. They also had an area that simulates an air traffic control tower.

Dulles Observation Tower Plane landing at Dulles (IAD) Air Traffic Control Station

Discovery Space Shuttle

The most impressive thing about the National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center is the Discovery space shuttle. It’s so big. It takes up most of the space section, but they also managed to fit in some space capsules and items that astronauts bring with them to space.

Discovery from the front at Udvar Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Richard in front of Discovery Space Shuttle Discovery Space Shuttle Astronaut Underwear    Spaces Capsules at Udvar Hazy

Getting There

As I mentioned, the Udvar-Hazy Center is about 45 minutes from the flagship National Air & Space Museum location on the National Mall. As such, the best way to get there is by car. There are some busses that go there, but the most efficient way to get there is via car.

Udvar Hazy Building - National Air & Space Museum

The Verdict

Overall, visiting the Udvar-Hazy Center was a great, low-cost weekend activity. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot while I was there.

Stars

3-stars

3 of 5 Stars: I really enjoyed going to the Udvar-Hazy Center, but for me, it’s one of those places that I probably won’t go to again. I definitely think it’s worth going to if you are into airplanes or space in any way shape or form. But if those things aren’t your cup of tea, I’m not sure that it’s worth going 45 minutes out of DC to get to.

Time Needed

3-5-hours

3 to 5 Hours: We spent about 3 hours at the Udvar-Hazy Center and felt a little rushed at the end (it was Sunday and they were going to be closing soon). Plan to spend anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, depending on how much you like to read the placards. If you just walk and look, you’ll be fine with 3 hours. If you like to read in-depth, give yourself 5 hours. Also, there are lines for the observation tower. We ended up waiting about 20 to 30 minutes before we got up there.

Cost

1 money of 4

One of the best things about the Udvar-Hazy Center is that admission is free! However, there is a charge for parking. We spend around $15 on parking when we went. Still, for $7.50 each, it’s a pretty cheap afternoon activity.

Have you been to the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center?

At the top of Millenium Bridge in Downtown Denver
Colorado, Destinations, North America, Travel, USA

Running through Downtown Denver

Last month, I went to downtown Denver not once, but twice, for work! We have a team out in our Denver studio and we went to out there to work with them. It was a good, but busy, two weeks.

One of the best parts was that by going to Denver, I unlocked another state! I’d never been to Colorado before, so this was a pretty big deal, since I don’t go to “new to me” states all that often.

Let’s just say: I LOVED DENVER! I want to go back again and again. Lucky for me, I will get to go back a number more times for my current project over the course of the next year AND I was already planning to hit up Denver on my upcoming road trip (more on that in an upcoming post).

One of the things that I want to start incorporating into my travels (regularly) is running while I am away. I feel like one of the best ways to explore a city is by running. Heck, you saw how beautiful Chapel Hill was from my Tar Heel 10 Miler race report. Same thing here! So in my second week there, I finally got off my butt for a nice jaunt around where I was staying in downtown Denver.

Best part of running to explore a city? It’s free!

A mix of old and new

One of the things that struck me about Denver right away was the mix of old and new architecture. Old brick buildings are intermixed with newer modern construction.

Empty Downtown Denver Street

Surprisingly enough, the streets of downtown Denver were pretty empty when I went on my run at about 7am. I can’t speak for the highways, but I thought this was pretty incredible! I guess they get a late start in Denver.

convention-center-bear

There is also a bit of whimsy about downtown Denver. I stumbled across this large bear statue outside of the Denver Convention Center. So cute!

Running along the Cherry Creek Trail

I eventually made my way to a small running and biking path along Cherry Creek on the Cherry Creek Trail. The etiquette on this trail states that runners run on one side of the water while bikers bike on the other side.

Running path in downtown Denver

There weren’t too many people out on the trail while I was, but I passed by a few runners on my way.

Peaceful running path

The Cherry Creek Trail is set lower than the streets. This creates a lot of nice shade while running.

Water on the running path

There had been an abnormal amount of rain the week before I went, so I started to see some flooding on the trail. That didn’t deter me!

Impassable running path due to flooding

That is, until I got to this impassable portion of the trail. As far as I could tell, the flooding didn’t extend beyond these few feet, but I wasn’t in the mood to test it out and get my running shoes wet. So back I turned!

Millennium Bridge

The Denver Millennium Bridge is one of the architectural highlights of the city. Built to mark the millennium, it is the first “cable-stayed bridge using post-tensioned structural construction.” So, a footbridge held up by a post and some cables?

Steps up to Millenium Bridge

I didn’t get any snaps from far away, but you can see it from quite a way away. Here I am before walking up the steps.

At the top of Millenium Bridge in Downtown Denver

The cables make for interesting pictures.

Denver from Millenium Bridge

You also get a good view of the rest of Denver from the top.

16th Street Mall

On my way back to my hotel, I ran up 16th Street past the 16th Street Mall. Essentially, there is a mall that is a space for local shops, street art and other things!

Market St Mall Downtown Denver

One of the best parts of the mall, however, is the free shuttle. It runs almost every minute and will pick you up at any corner and drop you off at any corner along 16th Street. Did I mention it’s free?

Chess on Market St Mall

Each block is dedicated to something different. On this block, there were chess table sculptures.

16th Street Garden

Another block was a dedicated garden.

Overall, a good run

One of the things that I was hesitant about when I got to Denver was running at altitude. I’m happy to report that I didn’t really have any issues. Granted, I only ran 3 miles. I’m sure I might feel differently otherwise but that wasn’t the case.

An added surprise was that I even felt way faster when I went on my first run after returning home. I guess that’s what the altitude will do to you!

Have you been to Denver? What do you think?

Destinations, Europe, France, Provence, Travel

Goult, France: The Perfect Provence Getaway

A long long time ago, I went on a trip to Europe. September 2013 to be exact. Now that it’s 2015, it’s time to start sharing some of my experiences! Today, I talk about Goult, the small town that I stayed in the Provence region of France.

Goult is the reason Richard and I went to Europe a while back. Well, my work was the reason and Goult was the primary destination. My previous company decided to host a working retreat in Provence, France for anyone at the company who wished to join. They picked Goult as the location where we would set up shop for a week.

We could bring our significant others and the hotel, some food, and a couple of team excursions were included. Richard and I paid for airfare and covered the cost of our stays in Paris and Barcelona before and after we went to Goult. Always looking for ways to cut down on travel expenses, Richard and I thought this was the perfect way to go to Europe on a budget.

Goult is as picturesque as they come

I knew that Goult would be wonderful. It’s the tiniest little town you can imagine. It sits atop a hill and overlooks the beautiful Provence region of France.

Grocery store in Goult France

We were in Goult for 6 days. During that time, we were able to walk around the small town and gaze in awe at the age and beauty of the town. It was pretty sleepy overall, but there were a few restaurants, a bakery and a little grocery store.

Alley in Goult France

One of my favorite things about southern France was all of the colors. Greens, lavenders, reds, and blues. All of them juxtaposed with the old stone buildings.

Restaurant in Goult France

While we were in Goult, we mostly ate at the Chateau de Goult, where we were staying and had access to a kitchen. There were a few small restaurants such as this one.

Windmill in Goult, France

Goult is home to a pretty big windmill. This was just a short 5 minute walk from where we were staying.

In Goult, there are alleys galore!

Alley in Goult France

For being such a small town, Goult had plenty of winding roads to explore. We spent hours walking around and getting lost in the unique details.

Quintessential alley with moped in Goult, France

It was so “Europe” in Goult. When I saw this moped just chilling in the alleyway, I couldn’t help but snap a pic.

Steep hill in Goult, France

As I mentioned, Goult sits on top of a hill. We rented a car to get from the train station (about 45 minutes from Goult) and this was one of the first hills we encountered. We nearly didn’t make it up, it was so steep! I’m glad Richard was the one driving while we were there.

Alley cat in Goult, France

Of course, no alley is complete without an alley cat. This little guy is just one of the few random cats and dogs that roamed freely in town.

We stayed in (potentially haunted) Chateau de Goult

The highlight of Provence was getting to stay in the Chateau de Goult. Dating back to the 12th century, the castle is OLD.

Exterior of Goult Castle from another angle

Throughout the years, the castle has had many purposes. From fortress to residence to school and now to vacation property.

Courtyard of castle in Goult France

The main outdoor area in the castle comprises of a courtyard, complete with small pool. Unfortunately, the week we were there wasn’t too warm, so we didn’t end up taking advantage of the pool.

Statue in the entryway of the castle in Goult, France.

The Chateau de Goult is full of interesting antiques. This statue greeted us at the door when we walked into the main building.

Stairwell in Goult Castle

The main staircase was built in the 17th century. It’s magnificent. And large. And beautiful.

Formal dining room in Goult Castle

On the last night, we had team dinner in the Guard’s Room, which dates back to the 14th century and was part of the original fortress.

Knight's armor as decor in Goult Castle

No fortress would be complete without a suit of armor hiding out in the corner.

Library/study in Goult castle

While Richard and I didn’t have any weird sightings, a couple of people from our party independently reported ghost-like sightings or experiences. I guess if anything is going to be haunted, it would be a nearly 1000 year old castle!

Exterior of Goult castle in France

The Chateau de Goult was a fabulous place to relax and spend the week. If you ever have a need for a large place to host up to 14 people in southern France, this is your place!

Cemeteries in France are Weird

A surprising thing that we stumbled upon in Goult was the cemetery. It wasn’t surprising to find a cemetery, but it was surprising to see how the cemetery was designed.

Cemetary in Goult France

All of the graves were above ground in rectangular boxes. It’s probably not as uncommon as I think, but it had never occurred to me before that a cemetery might be designed this way.

Cemetery in Goult France

One of my impressions of the cemetery was that there was just a lot of STUFF. Each grave had a lot of different plaques and trinkets on top of and around it.

Cemetary in Goult, France

The most delightful part of the cemetery (if cemeteries can be delightful) was the landscaping. All of the trees were trimmed like topiaries. It made me feel like I was walking around the set of Edward Scissorhands.

The Verdict

View of Provence region from Goult Castle

Stars

5 stars of 5

I didn’t pay to stay in Chateau de Goult, so I will keep things simple and just give the town and the chateau a simple star rating of 5 of 5. We were there for around 6 days and during that time, we were able to fully explore everything that was available in the town. It was a bit far from the nearest train station (45 minutes), which meant that renting a car was necessary if we wanted to be able to explore the surrounding towns.

While I may not go back, because I like to explore new places, if you are ever in the area, Goult is definitely worth the trip.

What do you think of Goult? Would you go to check it out for a day or a longer stay?

Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Destinations, Europe, Spain, Travel

Park Güell: A walk in the park in Barcelona

A long long time ago, I went on a trip to Europe. September 2013 to be exact. Now that it’s 2015, it’s time to start sharing some of my experiences! Today, I talk about Park Güell, the second work of Antoni Gaudí that we visited in Barcelona.

One thing that we were not blessed with while visiting Barcelona was great weather. Our second (and final) day in town was a Sunday and it was pretty gray and overcast. It was also a bit rainy, as you can see from the number of umbrellas. Despite the weather, we decided to explore Park Güell.

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Sagrada Familia Exterior with Street Sign
Barcelona, Destinations, Europe, Spain, Travel

Sagrada Familia: The Church That is Too Big For Pictures

A long long time ago, I went on a trip to Europe. September 2013 to be exact. Now that it’s 2015, it’s time to start sharing some of my experiences! Today, I’m starting out with one of the last stops on my trip – Barcelona, Spain where I toured the Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia a Church Too Big for Pictures

If you ever go to Barcelona, Spain and you only get to pick one thing to do, visiting the Sagrada Familia should be that thing. Full stop.

I’m not even sure where to begin when talking about Sagrada Familia, because its history is just as fascinating as its architecture. Since I can’t even begin to figure out how to weave the facts together, here’s a bulleted list:

  • Construction began in 1882
  • Designed by Antoni Gaudí, a renowned architect
  • Gaudí focused on the church from 1883 through 1926, at the time of his death, when the church was only 25% of its way to completion
  • Sagrada Familia, along with Gaudí’s other works of architecture, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Construction of the building won’t be completed until 2026

Let me let that last fact soak in. Sagrada Familia is not yet finished. It won’t be finished UNTIL 2026!

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A view of the Brooklyn Bridge
Backyard Tourism, Destinations, New York, North America, Travel, USA

Backyard Tourism: A Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

I’ve been in a bit of a travel dry-spell, so I’ve been spending my weekends exploring my own backyard. Living in the New York area gives me plenty of opportunities to check out cool spots and locales. Check out my other backyard tourism extravaganzas to Chelsea MarketMets’ Citi Field and the Intrepid Museum. And, oh hey, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge was one of the 26 new things I want to do while I’m 26. Two birds, one stone.

It was actually supposed to be a pretty gross, overcast and rainy day. But the day I ended up heading out to the Brooklyn Bridge with one of my friends was anything BUT gross, overcast and rainy. Instead, we were blessed with blue skies, sunshine and warmth. In other words, the perfect day for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge!

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Ways to Pass Time While Traveling
Travel, Travel Tips & Tricks

20 Ways to Pass Time While Traveling

Let’s be honest: traveling can be boring. I’m not talking about getting to your destination and having that part of travel be boring. I’m talking about the act of traveling from point A to point B. That can be boring.

Of course, running into roadblocks while traveling makes things more interesting and anything but boring. However, if your travel plans go swimmingly (the nerve!), you may find yourself a bit bored and looking for ways to pass the time while flying, waiting in the airport, sitting in the car or riding the train.

Alas, have no more fear! Here are 20 ways to pass time while traveling to ensure that next time, you will successfully defeat boredom.

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Downtown Ocean City, NJ
Destinations, New Jersey, North America, Travel, USA

Recipe For a Successful Rainy Weekend in Ocean City, NJ

The funny thing about going to beach towns is that all (or most) of the outdoor activities are dependent on the weather. If it’s raining, it’s not as easy (or fun) to go to the boardwalk or the beach itself. If it’s too early in the season, it’s a ghost town. I traveled down to Ocean City, NJ before Memorial Day for a weekend with friends, and it was both rainy and a ghost town.

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Getting to and from New York City Airports
New York, North America, Travel, Travel Tips & Tricks, USA

The Ultimate Guide to Getting To And From New York City Airports

Since moving to the New York City metro area, I have flown at least once each month as a result of going back and forth to Rochester (part of being in a long distance relationship) and my other travel endeavors, like my trip to San Diego and going to Las Vegas and Phoenix for conferences last fall. I tend to pick the cheapest flight option available to me, so I go with whatever airline and airport fits the bill. As a result of this, I’ve tried nearly all of the ways of getting to and from New York City airports.

To help you figure out what your options are, I’ve broken down your options for getting to and from New York City airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

My goal isn’t to tell you what the best way to get there is, but to give you a sense for your options. Your starting location, your ending location, the amount of time you have, and your budget all play into what the best option is for you.

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Backyard Tourism, Destinations, New York, North America, Travel, USA

Backyard Tourism: Intrepid Museum

I’ve been in a bit of a travel dry-spell, so I’ve been spending my weekends exploring my own backyard. Living in the New York area gives me plenty of opportunities to check out cool spots and locales. Check out my other backyard tourism extravaganzas to Chelsea Market and Mets’ Citi Field.

Recently, I went to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex. I hadn’t heard about it before, so was delighted to find out that there was an aircraft carrier museum sitting literally in my own backyard. The Intrepid Museum is located on Pier 86, right across the river from Hoboken.

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