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The United States has plenty of museums and sites where travelers can learn aviation history.
- See also: Flying in the United States
The history of modern aviation itself traces its roots back to the United States, where in December 1903, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright developed and flew the world's first motor-operated airplane in North Carolina.
Since then, aviation in the U.S. has flourished from a nascent profession and recreational hobby into a multibillion-dollar industry, in both the private and public sectors. American airplanes remain a critical component to the country's commercial transportation, corporate travel, commerce, and military arenas.
- 1 Wright Brothers National Memorial, 1000 North Croatan Highway (Kitty Hawk, North Carolina), ☏ . Daily 9AM–5PM (closed on Dec 25). Celebrates and explains the first successful controlled, sustained, powered, heavier-than-air flights, which the Wright brothers performed here in 1903. The visitors center has a model of the original aircraft, and interpretive talks. Outside, stone markers show the start and ending points of the first four flights. The adjacent First Flight Airport (KFFA) offers a 3000' runway for day use, with tie-downs but no fuel or other services. Compared to the time of the first flight, Kill Devil Hill has shifted south a short distance due to wind, and is planted with grass to keep it in place. It is topped by an art deco monument to the Wright brothers, and Orville attended its dedication. Follow US Highway 158 to mile 7.5, turn west into Memorial. $7/adult, children 15 years or younger free, free with passes.
- 2 National Air and Space Museum, 655 Jefferson Dr SW (Washington DC), ☏ . 10AM-5:30PM daily, except December 25. The most-visited museum in the U.S., with over 8 million visitors per year, this impressive repository covers the history of human flight, rocketry and space flight. It contains thousands of impressive artifacts, including the Wright brothers' 1903 Flyer, Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, Apollo 11's command module Columbia, and the simulated bridge of an aircraft carrier. Free Admission.
- 3 Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center - National Air and Space Museum (Dulles Air and Space Museum), 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway (Chantilly, Virginia, near Dulles International Airport), ☏ . This branch of the Smithsonian museum opened in 2003 to house many illustrious air/spacecraft that would not fit into the 1976 museum in the Mall. The Udvar-Hazy collection includes the SR-71 "Blackbird" spy plane, the Concorde supersonic jet, the B-29 Enola Gay of Hiroshima fame, the Super Constellation, and the space shuttle Discovery. In addition, the museum contain an observation tower and an IMAX theater. The museum is free; there is a charge for the IMAX. Parking is available for $15/vehicle..
- 4 , 1750 Radford Blvd (Pensacola, Florida), ☏ . 9AM-5PM. The Naval Aviation Museum is the most popular tourist destination in Pensacola, and it offers a comprehensive look at the history of flight in the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. The 150 beautifully restored aircraft are the biggest draw here; make sure to check out the Blue Angels jets hanging in the atrium, and the only C-130 Hercules to have ever landed on an aircraft carrier. Kids will enjoy the flight simulator, and the IMAX theater shows a visually stunning documentary, the History of Flight. Practice demonstrations by the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, may be viewed from the museum most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings between March and November. These practices are weather permitting, and a tentative practice schedule may be viewed on the Blue Angels’ website. Free, but donations welcome. $8 for IMAX tickets..
- 5 National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, 1100 Spaatz St (Dayton, Ohio), ☏ , fax: . 9AM-5PM daily, closed fourth Th of Nov, 25 Dec, and 1 Jan. The world's largest military aviation museum with over 300 aircraft on display from the earliest days of aviation to modern prototypes. It is well maintained and interesting even for non aviation buffs. Highlights include the B-2 stealth bomber, a Mercury space capsule, and the very cool V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor craft. Free.
- 6 , 22156 Three Notch Rd (Lexington Park, Maryland 20653; Take MD-4 south, then turn right on MD-235). Patuxent River Naval Air Station is the Navy's primary aircraft test facility. Virtually every aircraft flown by the Navy since World War II has been tested at Pax River. The base is, of course, not open to the public, but you can visit the Naval Air Museum without coming onto the main base. It includes a large collection of jet-age Navy aircraft, including the F-4J Phantom II, the F-14A Tomcat, F/A-18A Hornet, S-3B Viking, E-2B Hawkeye, AV-8B Harrier II, and the two experimental aircraft that competed for the Joint Strike Fighter contract, the Boeing X-35C and the Lockheed-Martin X-32B. Visitors can walk up and touch the aircraft. Museum exhibits also include flight motion simulators. Free; donation requested.
- 7 Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E Valencia Rd (Tucson, Arizona), ☏ . Daily 9AM-5PM (last admission at 4PM); closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Features over 300 historic aircraft on an 80-acre site with five hangars, two of them devoted to World War II. Veterans and volunteers are often on hand to answer any questions, and there are daily walking tours of the grounds. There is an onsite restaurant. $15.50 (adults), $12.25 (Pima County residents), $12.75 (seniors/military), $9 (children 5-12), free (children under 5).
- Tram Tour, ☏ . As the grounds are so large, a tour tram is offered for those who do not wish to walk. The guided tour lasts one hour and covers 1½ miles and more than 150 planes. Departure times vary, so it is best to call ahead or inquire at the entrance. Price is in addition to museum admission: $6 (adults), free (children under 6).
- 8 Aerospace Maintenance and Regentation Center (AMARC / Boneyard), ☏ . M-F; times vary so best to call ahead. A separate, very interesting tour can be booked to see the Aerospace Maintenance and Regentation Center, located nearby on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where 4200+ aircraft are stored. As the facility is an active military base, an ID is required (all nationalities welcome). Visitors are not permitted to leave the bus, and non-essential backpacks/camera bags are not permitted (storage is available at the museum). These tours are very popular and cannot be reserved ahead; tickets are sold only on the day of the tour on a first-come basis, so it is best to arrive early. $7 (adults), $4 (children under 13).
- 9 Edwards Air Force Base, 1 S. Rosamond Blvd (Mojave, California; take the 14 south to Rosamond, then take Rosamond Blvd. east out of town and follow it directly to the base), ☏ . Edwards AFB is very famous as the American military flight test center, home to Chuck Yeager and co. in the 1950s and 1960s, the scenario to nearly all the action seen in famous movie The Right Stuff: a massive testing and training ground for the USAF and NASA. The Air Force Flight Test Museum is inside the base, and tours are available. See the website for details. Note that this is an active military base so ID will be required and visitors may be required to submit to a search. Edwards AFB is best known for being similar to Area 51, but usually most of the time, test and experimental aircraft will come out of the hangar to experiment. This Air force base was built in 1933 and opened for use in 1948, for the USAF and NACA. In 1958, NACA has been changed to NASA, making Edwards a NASA base. The site of the first Space Shuttle landing, it became a back-up site to the prime landing location, the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- 10 NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (Dryden Flight Research Center). Known as the Dryden Flight Research Center until the name was changed in 2014, this center has played an important role in the history of flight. Before NASA, NACA ("National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics") operated and tested the transsonic Douglas Skyrocket. The center also conducted the Controlled Impact Demonstration in 1984, a test in which a Boeing 720 aircraft was remotely piloted and intentionally crashed in order to study fuel additives meant to reduce fires in the case of a crash. Other experiments have included "aerospike" engines and supersonic rockets. Five lunar landing research vehicles were tested at the base, one of which is available for viewing.
- 11 Aircraft on display. There are a lot of iconic aircraft, such as Balls 8, NASA's venerable B-52 Stratofortress, famous as the X-planes' mothership, on display at the base's North and West gates. Take a lot of pictures of these planes when you are driving or walking in Edwards AFB.
- 12 Rogers Dry Lake. Dry most of the year, the hard surface of the lakebed provides an extension for runways at Edwards, and is home to approximately 16 runways. Many notable aeronautic achievements have taken place above.
- 13 Blackbird Air Park, 2503 E. Avenue P (Palmdale, California; take Highway 14 or Sierra Highway to Avenue P, turn east, drive to 25th Street East.), ☏ . F-Su (except in inclement weather) from 11AM to 4PM Pacific Time. On Federal Government holidays both airparks are closed. The Blackbird Airpark Museum is an extension of the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB, right next door to the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark (formerly Palmdale Plant 42 Heritage Airpark). Both are manned by retirees who had previously worked in the aerospace industry, some actually having worked on the aircraft displayed at the two parks. All of the aircraft have been carefully restored for public display. View and walk around retired SR-71A (Blackbird), A-12 and U-2 aircraft. Both are free to the public.
- 14 Museum of Flight, 9404 E Marginal Way S (Seattle, Washington; next to the Boeing 737 factory at King County Airport), ☏ . Daily 10AM to 5PM except 1st Thursday of month 10AM to 9PM. Consists of an indoor area that is further divided into the history, jet age, airport operations, and space travel, and an outdoor section where you can sneak inside retired airplanes. The collection includes 131 aircraft and spacecraft ranging from wood and fabric crates to the SR-71, Space Shuttle Trainer, a retired Air-Force One and a Concorde. Tours to the vicinity of the airport inside a van are available, but most spots do not allow cameras for security purposes. The Museum offers a large educational outreach program including weekend family workshops, the Aerospace Camp Experience (ACE) summer day camp, and an aviation high school. $20 adults, $12 youth (5-17), children (4 and under) free, $17 active military and seniors (65+). Lower fares available for groups of more than 10 people. Free on first Thursday of the month from 5PM until 9PM.
- 15 Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour, 8415 Paine Field Blvd., Mukilteo, Washington (from Everett, take I-5 Exit 189, WA Hwy 526 west 4 miles (6.4km), past the huge Boeing building on your right, then at the 4-way stoplight turn left onto Paine Field Blvd and follow signs for the museum), ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. 8:30AM-5:30PM daily, except for a few holidays; tours start 9AM-3PM. Boeing's Everett factory is the world's largest building by interior volume. It is where the Boeing 747, 767, 777, and 787 airliners are made. The factory is viewed from an observation floor, leaving you a few hundred yards/meters from any aircraft, and the tour can be rather bland and commercial. No cameras or electronics allowed on the tour, not even your cell phone! Tours start from the Future of Flight Aviation Center, which has a gallery and theatre presentations which are fairly interesting, but don't take very long to view. On the observation deck of the museum, you can watch planes land and take off from the runway, with air traffic control audible on speakers; aircraft are often being tested before delivery to Boeing's customers. At Paine Field, there are the Boeing tour and these adjacent independent museums. However, if you only have time for one aviation museum on your trip, you might consider skipping this in favor of the Museum of Flight in South Seattle, which is much larger and engaging than the Boeing tour. $15 for museum and tour ($8 for 15 years and under); $9 for museum only. Reservations recommended for tours. Must be 4 feet (122 cm) or taller. Lockers $1 (for storing items not allowed on the tour).
- 16 Historic Flight Foundation (John T. Sessions Historic Aircraft Foundation), 10719 Bernie Webber Dr (Paine Field, Mukilteo, Washington), ☏ , email@example.com. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. A collection of the most important aircraft produced between 1927 and 1957 (e.g. P-51 Mustang, B-25 Mitchell, Spitfire mk. IX)—all restored and airborne again. $15, $12 senior/military, $10 youth (11-17), kids 10 and under free.
- 17 Flying Heritage Collection, 3407 109th Street SW (Paine Field, Everett, Washington), toll-free: . 10AM-5PM; daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Tu-Su the rest of the year. Microsoft founder Paul G. Allen's collection of rare military aircraft of the 20th century, which comprises artifacts from Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Collection opened to the public in 2004. $14, $12 seniors/military, $10 youth (6-17), kids 5 and under free.
- 18 The Museum of Flight Restoration Center, 2909 100th St. SW (Paine Field, Everett, Washington). 9AM-4PM; Tu-Sa June–August, Tu-Th and Sa the rest of the year. $5, $3 youth (5-17), kids 4 and under free.
- 19 Museum of Flying, 3100 Airport Ave (at Santa Monica, California; Santa Monica Airport (KSMO)), ☏ . F-Su 10AM-5PM. Centered around artifacts from the Douglas Aircraft Company, which used to manufacture iconic aircraft like the DC-3 at the Santa Monica Airport. It includes many aircraft in static display, from a replica Wright Flyer to World War II fighters to the microjet which appeared in the James Bond film Octopussy. "Rides" in a full-motion flight simulator are $8 each. $10 adults.
- 20 Planes of Fame Air Museum, 7000 Merrill Ave. #17 (Chino Airport, Southern California), ☏ . Su-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-5PM; closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day. This museum covers the history of flight, from an 1896 Chanute hang glider through the Space Age. Of special note is the largest collection of Japanese aircraft, including the only original Zero fighter still flying (it appears in the famous Tora! Tora! Tora! movie). Many of the aircraft are the only remaining examples of their kind. 12 and up: $11; 5-11: $4; under 5: Free; Seniors (65+) and Veterans: $10; Active duty military, police, and firefighters: Free.
- 21 Yanks Air Museum, 7000 Merrill Avenue #35-A270 (Chino Airport, Southern California), ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-4PM. This museum owns 160 aircraft, including the largest private collection of World War II American fighters and dive bombers in the world. 12 and up: $11; 5-11: $5; under 5: Free; Seniors (65+): $10.
- 22 La Guardia Marine Air Terminal, 1 Marine Terminal Rd (East Elmhurst, New York 11371; Terminal A at La Guardia Airport, separate access from the main Terminal 'B' from Grand Central Pkwy). Completed in 1939, this Art Deco terminal is part of New York City's LaGuardia Airport, and one of the oldest airport terminals still in active use as the terminal for JetBlue airline.
- 23 Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, 500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way (McMinnville, Oregon 97124), ☏ . Daily 10AM-4PM.
- 24 Tillamook Air Museum, 6030 Hangar Rd (Tillamook, Oregon; Hangar B at the airport which is 4.6 mi (7.4 km) south of town via US Hwy 101 and Long Prairie Rd), ☏ . W-Su 10AM-4PM.
- 25 Anchorage International Airport. Once a major stop for aircraft flying from North America and Europe to East Asia, due to the limited range of earlier aircraft, as well as the prohibition on aircraft from the Western Bloc flying into Soviet or Chinese airspace. It has since fallen on harder times with an underutilised international terminal (the North Terminal), as newer aircraft have the range to fly nonstop from major U.S. and Canadian cities into East Asia, and Russia and China have also granted overflight privileges to Western Bloc aircraft since the end of the Cold War. That said, Anchorage remains a major hub for cargo flights between North America and East Asia.
- 26 Air Mobility Command Museum, 1301 Heritage Rd, Dover AFB, Delaware (the museum has its own entrance gate on Rte 9. Just use exit 91 on Rte 1), ☏ . Tu-Su 9AM-4PM. The museum is on the Dover Air Force Base. The museum has a McDonnell Douglas VC-9C jet, serial number 73-1682, that transported America’s top leadership from 1975 until 2011. It was mainly used as Air Force Two, but was occasionally used as Air Force One when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush visited locations with smaller airports. Free parking and admission.
- 27 Delta Airlines Museum, 1060 Delta Blvd; Bldg. B, Dept. 914, Atlanta, Georgia, ☏ . Tu-Su 9AM-4PM. At the Delta Flight Museum, guests can explore rare aviation artifacts and airplanes, enjoy interactive exhibits, and even pilot a real Boeing 737 flight simulator. They offer regular surplus sales selling aircraft components and equipment used on their flights like the drink carts. Check schedules for when the sales are scheduled. Free parking and admission.
- 28 New Orleans Lakefront Airport, 6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd #219, New Orleans, Louisiana. Originally the main airport serving New Orleans, it was superseded by the current Louis Armstrong Airport in that role in 1946, and today only serves general aviation. The Art Deco terminal building was encased in concrete in the 1960s during the Cold War so it could function as a bomb shelter, but was restored to its original 1930s appearance starting from 2013. Free parking and admission.
- 29 International Women's Air & Space Museum, Burke Lakefront Airport, 1501 N. Marginal Rd. Ste 165, Cleveland, Ohio, ☏ . 8AM-8PM. The museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of women in aviation and space. Free.
Museum aircraft carriers
- 30 USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, 910 N. Harbor Dr (San Diego/Downtown, California), ☏ . Daily 10AM-5PM. Take a self-guided tour of the USS Midway (CV-41), a former aircraft carrier of the US Navy. The Midway is home to a collection of former naval aircraft housed on her expansive flight deck. Guided tours and displays offer a unique look into the life aboard and of a powerful old warhorse. $20 adults, $17 seniors, $15 students, $10 retired military/youth, children under 5 and active military free (discount if purchased online).
- 31 USS Hornet, Pier 3, Alameda Point (Alameda, California), ☏ . The USS Hornet (CV-12) is a retired World War II aircraft carrier that fought numerous battles in the Pacific and also retrieved the astronauts of Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 after splashdown. The ship is run as a museum, with the hangar deck, flight deck, and some other areas open to wander around in, and tours offering the chance to see control rooms, engineering facilities, and other areas of this retired warship.Allow a minimum of three hours; ideally five or more. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for students.
- 32 USS Yorktown (Patriot's Point) (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina; U.S. 17 N from Charleston, right onto Coleman Blvd. Right at first light.), toll-free: . 9AM-6:30PM. Tour the USS Yorktown (CV-10), a decommissioned World War II aircraft carrier that served as recovery ship for the Apollo 8 space mission, and was used in the movies Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Philadelphia Experiment. There are other ships and submarines at the park. $18 adults, $15 seniors/military, $11 children, free for military in uniform. $5 parking.
- 33 USS Lexington Museum on the Bay, 2914 N. Shoreline (Corpus Christi, Texas), toll-free: , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. 9AM-5PM Winter, 9AM-6PM Summer, daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. The very oldest remaining WWII aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1943, the USS Lexington (CV-16) is the recipient of 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation, now a museum. See naval life, the ship, and aircraft complement. Adults $13.95, Children $6.95, Parking $3.
- 34 Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Pier 86, 12th Ave & 46th St (Manhattan/Theater_District), ☏ . Apr-Sep: M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa Su 10AM-6PM; Oct-Mar: Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11) is docked here and loaded with spacecraft and aircraft, including the very cool Blackbird spy plane and the prototype Space Shuttle Enterprise. On the other side of the dock is a guided-missile submarine and a Concorde, both of which you can tour also, and some tanks. The Concorde here is notable for being the one that was once jointly-operated by British Airways and Singapore Airlines in the 1970s, during which it was painted with Singapore Airlines livery on the port side and British Airways livery on the starboard side. $16.50 adult.
- 1 Dayton Air Show, Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio (8 miles north of Dayton, Ohio). This annual Air Show takes place on a weekend in late June. The history of this flight exhibition dates back to 1910 and the Wright Company (Orville and Wilbur were both born at Dayton). Frequent guests include the Blue Angels, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, U.S. Army Golden Knights, the F-18 Super Hornet, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, A-10 Thunderbolt, P-51 Mustang, C-5 Galaxy, and more.
- 2 EAA AirVenture (Oshkosh airshow) (Oshkosh, Wisconsin). last Monday in July through Sunday. One of the world's great aviation gatherings. A week-long aviation event offering seminars, product demonstrations, aircraft tours and daily airshows. One of the largest airshows in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people drive in, tens of thousands of aircraft fly in. A tent city sprouts under the wings of parked aircraft and beyond. Be on the alert for closed roads all around Wittman airport and Highway 41 during the festival. Hotels can be filled for tens of miles around, but local universities open their dorm rooms, and private homes their spare bedrooms, to the visitor. See the AirVenture and Chamber of Commerce websites for leads on housing. If you plan to fly in to Wittman airport during AirVenture, you must absolutely get the AirVenture NOTAM and follow it carefully.
- 3 Reno National Championship Air Races, Reno-Stead Airport, ☏ . Held every September just north of Reno, the National Championship Air Races have become an institution for northern Nevada and aviation enthusiasts from around the world. Each year, the event draws 200,000 visitors to the Reno-Stead Airport, attracting more than 86,000 unique fans. The event features six racing classes, a large display of static aircraft and several military and civil flight demonstrations. The Reno-Stead Airport is a small regional airport about 10 miles north of Reno. This airport has nothing to do with the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, the main commercial airport for the Reno-Tahoe area.
- 4 Sun n' Fun, Lakeland. late March or early April. A major week-long fly-in (general aviation meeting) and airshow. Some years international air acrobatics teams perform.
- 1 Delta Air Lines surplus sale, Hapeville, Georgia, USA. Every month, Delta sells off items it no longer needs, with proceeds benefiting the Delta Flight Museum in Hapeville. Selection varies, but can include things like first-class seats from retired aircraft, servingware and cutlery, vintage uniforms and merchandise, and office furniture.
- 1 TWA Hotel, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City. Hotel converted from the iconic former TWA Terminal at Terminal 5 designed by renowned Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen for use by the now-defunct Trans World Airways (TWA).