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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 TowerPlane 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 ShuttleDiscovery Space ShuttleAstronaut 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.



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 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.


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.


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?

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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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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Citi Field Stadium
Backyard Tourism, Destinations, New York, North America, Travel, USA

Backyard Tourism: Seeing a Baseball Game at the Mets’ Citi Field

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 first backyard tourism extravaganza to Chelsea Market.

When Richard suggested we hit up a Mets game a couple of weekends ago, I was game (pun intended). While a little chilly, it was the perfect spring day to hit up a baseball game.

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

Backyard Tourism: A Trip to Chelsea Market

I haven’t had any travel planned since the beginning of the year and there is nothing currently on the docket for the coming months. To make up for this lack of travel, I’ve decided to start to explore some of the more touristy sides of my own backyard. Enter: Chelsea Market. The great thing about backyard tourism is that one person’s backyard can be another person’s travel destination, so hopefully you will find this useful regardless if you are local to New York or planning to travel here soon. Chelsea Market is located in, you guessed it, the heart of Chelsea in New York City.

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Destinations, North America, South Carolina, Travel, USA

I Went There: A Quick Trip to Charleston, SC

I’m not sure about you, but I couldn’t possibly take nearly two weeks off of work without doing something. Yes, during the holidays, there is food to eat, family to entertain and merriment to be had. But for those of us who get stir crazy with too much “free time,” there are also places to go.

And places to go over the holiday, I went. I went to Charleston, SC to be exact. My first time, too.

So what did I think? Here are the deets on my 2 days in Charleston.

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California, Destinations, North America, Travel, USA

San Diego Essentials

As you are well aware, Superstorm Sandy delayed my departure from San Diego. Knowing that we would be in California for a few extra days, we decided to rent a car and drive up to San Francisco. During the ride (I didn’t drive – lucky me!), I had a lot of time to soak in the scenery and contemplate what I thought of California and my stay there until that point.

The architecture in California is NOT what I was expecting

Maybe I haven’t been as observant when looking at pictures of buildings in California as I could have been, but I was pretty excited to find non-boring architecture in San Diego. Things are newer, yes, but it also has this cool vibe that you just don’t get on the East Coast.

Getting around was fairly easy to do by foot, airplane, etc.

The great thing about San Diego is that the airport is fairly close to the city. And by close, I mean, I was able to get a shot of a plane’s underbelly!

Since we stayed in downtown San Diego, it was easy to walk to the hot spots we wanted to check out. We walked about 7 miles the day we went to Balboa Park, we didn’t taxi while we were in town and we took a bus over to Coronado Island. We decided it might take too much time to swim over there, you see.

Driving up to San Francisco was a fairly easy ride as well. It took us nearly 8 hours, but it was 8 hours well worth it. We were able to see some of the California countryside while driving with the Pacific at our side.

A view of the Pacific Ocean from the 101

We saw nothing but blue skies on our way up to San Francisco from San Diego along the Pacific Coast.

California is beautiful

I already knew this. But now I’m finally able to say that I’ve seen it myself. I couldn’t help but be in awe as we drove up the 101 and had the Pacific Ocean right beside us. It was really cool to drive through so many different terrains in just one day. The East Coast is beautiful in its own way, but there is definitely not as much variety.

My verdict?

San Diego is awesome! I’d go again (and again) in a heartbeat. When I go next time, I hope to check out some of the things surrounding San Diego. We really only explored downtown because it was close and there was plenty to do, but there is so much more to do in the surrounding area – especially if you have a car.


5 stars of 5

Have you ever been to San Diego? What was your verdict?