What Are the Best Aviation Museums in the United States (for Enthusiasts to Visit)?
The US has a long and distinguished history when it comes to aviation and space travel. For this reason, it makes sense that our country has a good number of museums dedicated to the history and science of flight.
That being said, if you’re the type who is fascinated and amazed by the history behind the planes, pilot uniforms, and other aircraft-related memorabilia on display, then you might want to visit some of the best aviation museums the United States has to offer.
Here are our choice recommendations for the top must-visit aircraft museums in the country.
1. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC)
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC has hundreds of objects on display, including the Hubble Telescope, a piece of the moon, and more.
With two campuses in the area, the Smithsonian has an extensive collection of aircraft. First, start with the site of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Then head to the Washington Dulles Annex. With 22 galleries that cover the history of aviation and space-space. See the 1903 Flyer Wright jump that started US aviation, and then see the Spirit of St. Louis.
Discover the origins of space flight and see the X-15 North America, a US Air Force and NASA aircraft that flew over the edge of the atmosphere– that’s 50 miles from the Earth’s surface at 264,000 feet!
2. Palm Springs Air Museum (Palm Springs, CA)
Established in 1996, The Palm Springs Air Museum is a living history museum dedicated to educating the public about the role Air Power played in preserving American liberties and way of life.
Ranked #1 of 98 attractions in Palm Springs on TripAdvisor, the Museum preserves, exhibits, and flies aircraft from World War Two, Korea, and the Vietnam Wars. Most of the aircraft– such as a T-28 Trojan, a PT-17 Stearman, a C-47 Skytrain, a P-51D Mustang, and a T-33 Shooting Star Jet, among others– are in flyable condition.
3. Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum (Denver, CO)
The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum has been named one of the best aviation museums around the world by CNN and USA Today. The museum is located in Hangar #1 of the former Lowry Air Force Base in eastern Denver, Colorado.
Transferred from the United States Air Force to a group of volunteers in 1994, the Wings Over the Rockies museum boasts more than 182,000 square feet of hangar space full of iconic aircraft, space vehicles, artifacts, military uniforms, and much more.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
7711 East Academy Boulevard
Denver, CO 80230-6929
Open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm
4. The National Museum of the USAF (Riverside, Ohio)
It’s the biggest Air Force Museum in the United States. The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the official museum of the United States Air Force, and is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 6 miles northeast of Dayton, Ohio.
The museum has more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display. Drawing about a million visitors each year, the National Museum of the USAF is one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Ohio.
The National Museum of the USAF
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB Ohio 45433
Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day
and New Year’s Day.
5. The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum Complex (NYC, New York)
Launched in 1943, the former aircraft carrier USS Intrepid fought in World War II, surviving five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. The ship was decommissioned in 1974, and today is berthed on the Hudson River as the centerpiece of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
A destination for both aviation fanatics and families, the USS Intrepid places a collection of military aircraft on deck, including the Avenger torpedo bomber, the A-12 Lockheed spy plane, a Bell 7 helicopter, the Douglas A-1 Skyraider, the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and Grumman A-6 Intruder, (both stalwarts of the Vietnam War), among many others.
Visitors can also get an up-close look at a retired British Airways Concorde, as well as the space shuttle Enterprise (which has no working engines or heat shields so it never flew into space). You can also enter the Growler, a once top-secret nuclear missile submarine and the only guided missile submarine open to the public.
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum Complex
Pier 86, W 46th St,
New York, NY 10036, United States
Open Monday through Sunday (including Holidays) from 10 am to 5 pm. (Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.)
877-957-SHIP (7447) or 212-245-0072
6. Pima Air & Space Museum (Tucson, Arizona)
Creating unlimited horizons in aerospace education through the preservation and presentation of the history of flight, the Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the largest non-government-funded aviation and space museums in the world.
The Pima Air & Space Museum opened its doors to the public in May of 1976. And over the past forty years, the museum has grown immensely. The sprawling museum complex sits on an 80-acre property, encompassing six indoor exhibit hangars (three of which are dedicated to WWII).
Today, the museum features about 400 historic aircraft, from a Wright Flyer to a 787 Dreamliner.
Pima Air & Space Museum
6000 E Valencia Rd,
Tucson, AZ 85756
Open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm (9 am to 3 pm during the summer). Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas day.
7. The Museum of Flight (Seattle, WA)
The Museum of Flight is the largest independent, non-profit air and space museum in the world.
The concept for The Museum of Flight complex began to take in 1975 when the Port of Seattle leased the land on which the Boeing Red Barn now sits to the Museum for 99 years. The Red Barn– the birthplace of The Boeing Company– was saved from demolition in its original location on the Duwamish River and floated by river barge to its current location. The Red Barn was restored in 1983 and became the first permanent location for The Museum of Flight.
With over 175 aircraft and spacecraft, tens of thousands of artifacts, millions of rare photographs, dozens of exhibits and experiences, and a world-class library, the Museum and its people bring mankind’s incredible history of flight to life.
8. The EAA Aviation Museum (Oshkosh, WI)
The EAA Aviation Museum, formerly the EAA AirVenture Museum, is a museum dedicated to the preservation and display of historic and experimental aircraft as well as antiques, classics, and warbirds.
Located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the EAA Aviation Museum is one of the world’s finest aviation attractions and a year-round destination for the entire family.
The museum has a collection of more than 200 historic airplanes along with world-class galleries and displays, including the Eagle Hangar that pays tribute to World War II aviation and the heroes who served. Kids will the highly interactive KidVenture Gallery, which features 16 hands-on exhibits, a scenic overlook from Tower of Flight as well as a climb into the cockpit of a half-scale model of an F-22.
EAA Aviation Museum
3000 Poberezny Road
Oshkosh, WI 54902
Just south of Wis. 44 (South Park Ave.) and adjacent to Wittman Regional Airport.
Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day.
9. Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum (Ashland, NE)
The Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum is a museum focusing on aircraft and nuclear missiles of the United States Air Force during the Cold War.
It is located near Ashland, Nebraska, along Interstate 80 southwest of Omaha. The objective of the museum is to preserve and display historic aircraft, missiles, and space vehicles, and provide educational resources
The museum building is a 300,000-square-foot structure that features a glass atrium (which houses a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird), two large aircraft display hangars, a traveling exhibit area, a children’s interactive gallery, a 200-seat theater, a museum store, an aircraft restoration gallery, and a snack bar.
The Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate.
10. Boeing Future of Flight (Everett, WA)
The Boeing Everett Factory is an airplane assembly facility built by Boeing in Everett, Washington, United States. It sits at the northeast corner of Paine Field and includes the largest building in the world by volume, covering 98.7 acres. The entire complex spans both sides of State Route 526.
One of the main exhibits at Boeing Future of Flight is the Above and Beyond aerospace exhibition. This features immersive simulations, interactive design challenges, iconic historical touchstones, visionary concepts for the future, and inspiring stories from game-changing innovators, past and present.
Other highlights include the detailed full-scale mock-up of the Destiny Module, the primary research lab for U.S. payloads sent to the International Space Station (ISS), the Drones and Robotics experience, and the Gallery, with more than 150 current and future Boeing products and services.
Boeing Future of Flight
8415 Paine Field Blvd.,
Mukilteo, WA 98275
Open Thursday to Monday from 9:30 am to 5 pm. (Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.)
11. Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Chantilly, Virginia)
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, also called the Udvar-Hazy Center, is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s annex at Washington Dulles International Airport in the Chantilly area of Fairfax County, Virginia, United States.
The Udvar-Hazy Center displays thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including the Space Shuttle Discovery and a Concorde, in two large hangars.
Some of the most notable include the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery. The Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar has an observation overlook, allowing visitors to see the preservation and restoration work underway by the Museum’s collections staff.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151
Open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm (closed on Christmas day.)
A Final Word About the Best Aviation Museums in the United States
Whether you’re a history buff or simply fascinated by flight and space, you should definitely visit these 11 must-see aviation and aerospace museums in the country.
Of course, there are many more aviation museums around the United States. Which ones do you think should we have included in our list? (We’d love to hear your recommendations too!)