Americans have a deep fascination for air flight and space travel, so it’s not surprising that we have so many excellent air and space museums in the U.S. It’s also not surprising that we like to visit air and space museums when traveling abroad, too.
We’ve got you covered no matter which direction your vacation may take you.
The following article explores 10 of our favorite air and space museums in the U.S– complete with addresses, opening hours, and website links to help with your air and space exploration plans.
Cosmosphere Science Education Center and Space Museum (Kansas)
Located just 250,000 miles from the Moon, the Cosmosphere is a museum, theater, planetarium, and kids’ education center in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Permanent exhibits include the flown Gemini X spacecraft, the flown Apollo 13 command module Odyssey, Apollo 11 moon rocks, German V-1 and V-2 rockets, X-planes, and space suits, among many others.
CosmoKids is an interactive play area for children that’s full of hands-on activities like building a Mars habitat. Dr. Goddard’s Space Lab is not to be missed, nor is the two-stories-tall domed theater screen.
Address: 1100 N Plum Street, Hutchinson, KS 67501
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Friday and Saturday until 7:00 PM
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum Complex (New York)
This museum is dedicated to all transportation modes except those on dry land! Housed aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid, a National Historic Landmark, the museum offers original artifacts, interactive exhibits, and historic video footage.
In addition to the Intrepid itself, you’ll see the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the guided-missile submarine Growler, a British Airways Concorde, Russian MiG-17, McDonnell F-4 Phantom, Douglas F4D Skyray, Huey helicopter, and much more.
One of the museum’s high-tech exhibits is hosted by a hologram of Dr. Mae Jemison, the American engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut.
Address: Pier 86, West 46th St. at 12th Ave., New York, NY 10036
Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Weekends 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (Florida)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is more than just a museum, of course – it’s also an active space center. Plan to spend the entire day, as there is so much to see and do!
Permanent exhibits include the Astronaut Hall of Fame, spacecraft from NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the Lunar Module 9, the Mars Rover vehicle, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, astronaut training simulators, a 4D shuttle launch experience, and real astronauts ready to meet and talk with you.
Unique attractions for children include a space-oriented LEGO building room and a multi-story immersive space play area. Add-on experiences include launch pad tours and having breakfast with an astronaut.
Address: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953
Hours: Daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC)
Already one of the Smithsonian’s most awe-inspiring museums, the National Air and Space Museum has been undergoing a multi-year renovation since 2018 that will keep it closed to the public until the Fall of 2022.
All 23 permanent galleries and exhibit spaces are being reimagined for immersive learning. Of its 60,000-artifact permanent collection, more than 5,200 are being moved and preserved, and 1,400 new ones are being added.
When the museum reopens, a new high-profile exhibit will be Columbia, the Apollo 11 command module that transported Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon, and back in July 1969.
Address: 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
Hours: Closed until Fall 2022
Pima Air & Space Museum (Arizona)
Pima is the largest aviation and space museum in the U.S. and the fifth-largest in the world. With six exhibit hangars over 80 acres, plus extensive outdoor exhibits, it features 400 historic aircraft ranging from a Wright Brothers Flyer to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Nearby is the Davis-Monthan Air Force Boneyard, the world’s most extensive aircraft storage and preservation facility with more than 4,400 retired planes in inventory.
Address: 6000 E Valencia Road, Tucson, AZ 85706
Hours: Open daily 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
San Diego Air & Space Museum (California)
No visit to San Diego would be complete without spending some time at this circular-shaped museum in Balboa Park.
Outside the entrance, there’s a Lockheed A-12 and Convair Seadart. Inside, you’ll find both flown and reproduction models of early flying machines, aircraft from both world wars, jet planes, spacecraft, and more.
The museum is also home to the International Air and Space Hall of Fame and a great exhibit on women aviators.
Address: 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
Hours: Open daily 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Space Center Houston (Texas)
As an active space center in addition to being one of the best space museums in the world, Space Center Houston is home to national treasures and multiple flown spacecraft.
The Starship Gallery includes a full-size Skylab training module, the command modules from Apollo 17, Mercury 9, and Gemini V, a Lunar Module, Lunar Rover trainer, and Moon rocks that you can touch.
Explore a replica of the Space Shuttle Independence mounted on top of a Boeing shuttle plane, and see a flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. There’s also the spacesuit Pete Conrad wore on Apollo 11 and many other space garments.
The newest attraction is an exhibit on the Artemis program that will return humans to the Moon for the first time in over 50 years.
Address: 1601 NASA Parkway, Houston, TX 77058
Hours: Open daily 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Virginia)
Part of the National Air and Space Museum, this fantastic space center in Chantilly, Virginia, has thousands of space and air flight artifacts.
Exhibits include a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance airplane, an Air France Concorde, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay from World War II, and a 1:200 scale model of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Additional activities include simulators where visitors can fly jet-age combat sorties and the Airbus IMAX theater.
The facility also houses the National Air and Space Museum’s restoration hangar, where specialists reconstruct, repair, and preserve the Museum’s rare artifacts.
Address: 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly, VA 20151
Hours: Open daily (except Christmas), 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum (Nebraska)
If you love airplanes, this is your museum. The spotlight is on air travel, and their collection of historic planes is unmatched. Step inside a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-29 Superfortress, B-52 Stratofortress, B-57 Intruder, Chinook helicopter, and numerous other aircraft.
Permanent exhibits are organized around the Korean War, World War II, Vietnam, the Tuskegee airmen, and women in aerospace.
Address: 28210 W Park Highway, Ashland, NE 68003
Hours: Open daily (except major holidays) 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
U.S. Space and Rocket Center (Alabama)
With one of the most extensive rocket collections in the world, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center lets you dive into the space race.
“Planet Pioneers” includes 17 hands-on exhibits that challenge budding astronauts to source shelter and food, drive a 4D surface exploration vehicle, fly a virtual drone, and experience G-force in a spinning capsule.
Fly an F-18 Super Hornet in the flight simulator. Walk underwater in the Underwater Astronaut Trainer. If you’re feeling brave, get strapped into the multi-axis trainer to simultaneously rotate, somersault, and roll, just like real astronauts.
Address: One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL
Hours: Open daily 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
It’s not unexpected that there are so many top-notch air and space museums in the United States given that Americans have a profound affinity with aviation and space exploration.
The United States has a unique edge in space history because America was (and is) at the tip of the spear of space exploration for the bulk of the 20th and 21st centuries.
But, our list is less a pat on the back for America than a call to action to get out there and see some of the fascinating mementos, gadgets, and history associated with exploring the Great Unknown.
We highly recommend checking out some top space museums in other countries, should your travels find you overseas.
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