Best Aviation Museums Across the U.S.
Lovers of flying and aircraft will want to visit one or all of these sites. Watch while a jumbo jet being built. See a retired Concorde. Find a top secret spy plane. Explore hangars full of jets and bi planes. Read on for the best aviation museums across the U.S.
Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center in Washington
A must for aviation enthusiasts, tour the only North American production facility for commercial jet assembly open to the public. As a former crew member and Boeing fan, this tour has been on my bucket list for years.
First start at the visitor center and board buses bound for the production area. Then walk though a couple of tunnels to ride the Boeing freight elevator to the observation area.
From a catwalk near the ceiling, see the production below. Boeing runs production five days a week for three shifts a day.
Since it’s the Boeing wide body assembly area what you see depends on the production schedule. This facility assembles the 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner. And it’s the largest building in the world by volume.
After the tour, walk through the aerospace gallery for exhibits on aviation. Then head to the outdoor observation gallery overlooking Paine Field.
Located at 8415 Paine Field Blvd, near Everett, Washington, the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center is 25 miles north from Seattle.Adult admission (16 to 64) are $25 and youth tickets (15 and under) are $15. Open every day with tours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tickets are timed and reservations are a must.
NOTE: Boeing requires tour participants be 4-feet-tall. Walking through tunnels, riding a freight elevator along with climbing stairs all required during the tour. Cameras, phones and personal items are not allowed on the tour. Lockers are available at the visitor center. Wheelchairs can be accommodated with advance notice.
Intrepid Sea Land Space Museum in New York City
Looming on New York City’s Hudson River, the USS Intrepid offers a collection of military aircraft on its deck along with the retired British Airways Concorde. It offers a destination for aviation fans and families alike.
Then hidden away in a pavilion find the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise. Since it lacked engines and a functional heat shield it never flew in space. It was launched from a modified Boeing 747 for testing.
Located at Pier 86 at W.46thSt. at 11thAvenue. Open most days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.Adult admission (13 to 64) $33, kids 5 to 12 $24 and 4 and under free.
California Science Center in Los Angeles
As one of the locations to see a retired Space Shuttle, this is a must for the adventurers. With half of the facility dedicated to space exploration and aircraft, the California Science Center offers lots to see in and around the facility.
See the Endeavor, a retired Orbiter from the U.S. Space Shuttle program. Since the Space Shuttle orbiters were built in California this exhibit focuses on the parts and people integral to the program.
In the main building, find the Apollo-Soyuz command module. It docked with the Russian Soyuz aircraft in 1975. Then see the Gemini 11 capsule from 1966. The Gemini mission bridged the gap from the Mercury missions to the Moon-bound Apollo missions.
Along with spacecraft, see the A-12 Blackbird, a spycraft from the Vietnam era.
Located at 700 Exposition Park Dr. inLos Angeles. Open10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Free, except for special exhibits and $2 reserved tickets to see the Space Shuttle. Since this is a free museum, it’s a favorite with school groups. Buy tickets for special exhibits and the Space Shuttle in advance.
American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum at DFW
Tour the American Airlines museum to learn about the history of the airline. Walk through a 1940 Douglas DC-3, the first airliner American Airlines used for passenger travel.
See all the flight attendant uniforms from the beginning. The working cockpit simulator that you can climb into is another must.
Located at 4601 Texas Highway 360. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $9 and kids 2 to 17 $6.
Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas
The Southwest 737 sticking out of the building will grab the kid’s attention. Head this museum to see lots of aircraft inside hanging from the rafters and parked outside.
As a bonus head around back to see the Southwest jets take off-and-land at Love Field, one of its hubs. Find a Southwest jet that kids can walk through.
Located at 6911 Lemmon Avenue, at the Dallas Love Field Airport. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $10 and kids 3 to 17 $7.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
With two campuses in the area, The Smithsonian features an extensive collection of aircraft. Start with the location of the Washington, D.C.’s National Mall first. Then head to the annex at Washington Dulles.
With 22 galleries walk through the history of aviation and spaceflight. See the 1903 Wright Flyer that jumped started U.S. aviation. And then see the Spirit of St. Louis.
Learn about the origins of spaceflight and see the North American X-15, a joint U.S. Air Force and NASA aircraft that flew at the edge of the atmosphere. That’s 50 miles from the Earth’s surface at 264,000 feet.
Also see the Mercury Friendship 7 Capsule.
Located at Independence Ave. at 6th St. SW. Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day. Admission is free and tickets aren’t required for this museum.
Steven Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport
Since the main National Air and Space Museum is filled to the rafters, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Annex was built to house the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery.
Find two hangars, featuring the Boeing B-29 Enola Gay from WWII. Then find a Air France Concorde. Another highlight is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a long range Mach 3 reconnaissance aircraft.
In a separate hangar, see the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery. With 39 launches and landings, it leads with the most time in space. It delivered the Hubbell Telescope to orbit and Astronaut John Glenn, 77, was the oldest human in space aboard the Discovery.
Located at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway in Chantilly, Virginia. Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day. Admission is free and tickets aren’t required for this museum. Parking is extra.
Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona
As the largest air and space museum without U.S. government funding, it offers 80 acres with more than 350 historic aircraft. Find 150 aircraft indoors in hangars and the remainder outside.
Collection highlights include the SR-71 Blackbird, the U.S. spy craft. Also find a Wright flyer, from the Wright Brothers. And Air Force One that Lyndon B. Johnson used in the 1950s and 60s.
The Pima Air and Space Museum offers a boneyards motor coach tour with over 4,000 aircraft at the Davis Monthan Air Force Base. Open to all with proper ID and reservations must be made 16 days in advance.
Located at 6000 E. Valencia Rd. in Tucson, Arizona. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Adult admission is $16.50 and kids (5 to 12) $10 with kids 4 and under free.