Best Aviation Museums Across the U.S.

The Boeing Factory offers a production tour and gallery. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Best Aviation Museums in  the U.S.

Pilots, aviation enthusiasts and aspiring aviators will want to bee-line for a museum dedicated to the art of flying. Each facility is packed with aircraft and spacecraft from the pioneers of flight, to the last generation’s spycraft to the vessels of space exploration. Here are the best aviation museums in the U.S.

Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center in Washington

A must for aviation enthusiasts, the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center is the home of Boeing wide body assembly area. This facility assembles the 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner and is the largest building in the world by volume.

Visitors can walk through the aerospace gallery for exhibits on aviation. Then head to the outdoor observation gallery overlooking Paine Field. The interactive Boeing Backstage Pass is additional.

Located at 8415 Paine Field Blvd, Mukilteo, Washington, the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center is 25 miles north from Seattle. Adult admission (16 to 64) are $12 and youth tickets (6 -15) are $6. Open Thursday to Monday  from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). The tickets available online.

NOTE: Boeing Factory Tour is closed at this time.

Visit the Intrepid during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Find a retired Space Shuttle and the Concorde along with a submarine. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Intrepid Sea Land and 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. The Intrepid Sea Land and Space Museum offers a destination for aviation fans and families alike a few blocks from Central Park.

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. The Intrepid Sea Land and Space Museum offers a 3D movie, flight simulators along with a Concorde experience (all require an additional fee).

Located at Pier 86 at W. 46th St. at 11th Avenue. Open most days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (13 to 64) $36, kids 5 to 12 $26 and 4 and under free.

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Kids love space so explore the California Space Science Center. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Free, except for special exhibits. Since this is a free museum, it’s a favorite with school groups. Buy tickets for special exhibits in advance.

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The DC-3 was the first aircraft AA used for passenger service. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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 Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adult admission is $12 and kids 2 to 17 $6.

The Tail of a 737 grabs the attention at the Frontiers of Flight museum. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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 $12 and kids 3 to 17 $6.

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Delta Flight Museum

At the hub for Delta Airlines, visitors can learn more about the major U.S. airline from its early days to the future of flight. Inside, guests will find a full-service flight simulator, a restored 1940 Douglas DC-3 and a Waco 125 biplane.

Located at 1060 Delta Blvd. Building B. Open Thursday to Monday from 10 .m. to 4 p.m. (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). Adult admission is $15 and kids (65-17) are $15 with a senior discount.

See the Spirit of St. Louis at The Smithsonian. Photo Credit: Pixabay

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 its 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 visitors can 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 timed-entry reservations are required.

 SR-71 Blackbird with the Space Shuttle Obiter
The SR-71 Blackbird with the Space Shuttle Obiter in the background at the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center. credit: Catherine Parker

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. It is one of the Best Aviation Museums in the U.S.

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.

After touring the spacecraft and the aircraft, visitors should head to the tower. With a live feed the Air Traffic Control, see both of IAD runways, it’s an exciting place to see landing and departing flights.

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. daily in the winter. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Adult admission is $19.50 (2 day ticket is $26), kids (5 to 12) $13 (2 day ticket is $15.50) with kids 4 and younger entering for free.

Palm Springs Air Museum 

Explore four air-conditioned hangars with 59 wartime aircraft, including the largest collection of flyable WWII planes. This museum is staffed by veteran aviators. 

Make it an experience of a lifetime and book a flight on a vintage warplane, starting at $195 per flight.

Located at 745 N. Gene Autry Trail. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (18+) is $22, kids (13 – 17), seniors are $20 and kids 12 and under are free.

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

As the official museum for the USAF, visitors can see a comprehensive history of its aircraft. It is the oldest aviation museum in the world and showcases 360 aircraft and missiles, many of them rare and one-of-a-kind.

The National Museum of the USAF features an airpark along with a playground.

Located at 1100 Spaatz St. in Dayton, Ohio. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is free to enter and parking is also free.

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Explore the beginnings of aviation with an historic aircraft. Find obscure experimental airplanes. Explore a museum dedicated to one commericial airline. Walk through an airpark with parked aircraft. See some of the biggest and best aviation museums across the U.S. dedicated to foreign and domestic aircraft along with spy planes, vintage aircraft, military jets and more. Best Aviation Musuems across the U.S. #AVGeek #Aviation


Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.


    • Catherine Parker

      Thanks for checking out my article. The Air Force Museum is on my to do list for sure! And I will definitely add it once I visit. It’s always a favorite.