After years of treading through the earth of our world’s ancient civilizations and culture hunting for significant historical landmarks that always make it onto UNESCO’s list of must-see places, the city that remains the most precious in my heart is our nation’s capital. My strong attachment to Washington DC over all the other places I’ve seen likely stems from the experience of being born and raised during the early years of my life in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a short metro ride away from the heart of the most giving city I’ve had had the privilege of knowing. Growing up, I never tired of my ventures into the Smithsonian complex even though I had already seen the museums a million times before. Every visit rekindled my childhood love for exploration and discovery. And the place that I can singlehandedly attribute for kicking off my still-burning passion for adventuring beyond the realms I know is the National Air and Space Museum.
I’ve always been enthralled by the idea of an infinite universe existing beyond myself. My Star Wars obsession aside, the intrigue of outer space has been a part of my mental language since early elementary years, leading to stories and entire amusement parks in Roller Coaster Tycoon being themed to extraterrestrial life and intergalactic voyages. The Air and Space Museum was an aspiring explorer’s utopia, a literal and metaphorical playground for my dreams that simultaneously provided a solid educational experience. From the first class IMAX shows that blew away the film offerings at any museum I’ve visited to the real space shuttle models that allowed me to be an invincible space explorer, so much of what I saw and did here became indelible marks in the timeline of my youth.
But unlike other places that fade into memory as we grow, the Air and Space Museum never become a fad. When I walked through the doors as an eleventh grader en route to the land of college applications and portfolios that forced me to really grow up from running around below the projected stars in a planetarium, the magic I felt as a child was just as pure. My friends probably thought I was a bit juvenile for standing in the same lines as dozens of kids less than half my age to see the shuttles I could probably draw out of memory and insisting to eat overwhelmingly average museum food just because it was what I did as a kid. But I couldn’t care less. It was like the museum was telling me that I would always have a place for me no matter how old I got. It was a true testament to the spirit of human imagination.
Recently, as I was browsing through my college’s course catalog, I found myself spending insane amounts of time on the astronomy offerings section, just allowing myself to be enraptured by the descriptions of space, time, and the universe. I let my mind drift, and found myself back inside the magical exploration grounds of 600 Independence Avenue.
No other place reflects the beauty of my childhood that well.
To learn more about the National Air and Space Museum and its wonderful attractions, you can visit their site here: