WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — It’s one of Washington D.C.’s most popular tourist attractions — and it’s back! What other place allows visitors to experience the view of planet earth through the eyes of International Space Station astronauts? Or see a rare “roadable aircraft” that could fly to an airport, and then turn into a car? Yes, we’re talking about the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Since 2018, the museum — which sits along the National Mall — has been taken over by construction crews who have carefully dismantled the aging exhibits to restore and “reimagine” the iconic building that’s drawn in more than 350 million visitors since first opening in 1976. The site completely closed in March to allow crews full access.

Even the museum’s director, Chris Browne, admitted that the building was “worn out” during a media event on Thursday where reporters were given early access to newly-renovated west wing.

Starting Friday, October 14, tourists from near and afar can finally experience the first phase of the museum’s reopening, which will feature eight new and renovated galleries, an upgraded planetarium, an expanded museum store, and the new “Mars Café”, with a full coffee and espresso bar, sandwiches, salads, and pastries.

Although the museum didn’t open fully until this weekend, the initial eight exhibitions and planetarium were more than enough to keep tourists busy. Smithsonian is touting the nearly 100 interactive and digital experiences that will make a much more engaging experience.

Admission is free, but guests need to book a timed-entry pass in order to get in. You can reserve those passes here.

A view of the present installation progress for the ISS Cupola— an Eye on the Wondrous World in the “”One World Connected” gallery in the new transformed west end of the Smithsonian Air and at Space Museum in Washington, DC, August 5, 2022. (Smithsonian photo by Jim Preston)

Even though the museum has now re-opened, there’s still work to be done. Although only 8 galleries are opening this year, the full, $250 million transformation isn’t expected to be complete until 2025. Once all is said and done, a total of 23 galleries and spaces will have been renovated.