The United States has a long history with flight and space travel. After all, the first airplane was flown here, and the first man to walk on the moon was an American. Because of this, it makes sense that the country would have many museums dedicated to the history and science of flight. While there are a lot of these museums across the country, some of them are worth planning a trip to visit. Whether you love flight, space, museums, or all three, you should definitely put these space and aviation museums on your bucket list!
1: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Chantilly, Virginia
This incredible space center is actually part of the National Air and Space Museum, although it is located in Virginia and not Washington, D.C. If you visit this museum, you will get the chance to see all sorts of major space and airplane artefacts, including the space shuttle Discovery and a Blackbird plane! The facility also has an I-MAX theatre and is the location of the restoration site for the Air and Space Museum.
Address: 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly, VA 20151
If you haven’t been here in person, you’ve likely seen it in Night in the Museum 2. This is definitely one of the coolest museums in the Smithsonian. Here, you can view an entire exhibit on the advent of flight, including original Wright Brothers creations! Step into space, go nose-to-nose with famous planes, and experience the history of flight.
Address: 600 Independence Ave SW,
Washington, DC 20560
This is the museum of all things transportation… with the notable exception of land transport. Learn about travel on the water and in the air here through interactive displays and creative exhibits. Discover how trade and war drive the development of new modes of transport, from Asian barges to European fighter jets. This museum also features a real aircraft carrier and space shuttle, among other vessels of the sea and sky.
Address: Pier 86, West 46th St and 12th Ave, New York, NY 10036
This just might be the coolest space museum in the country! That’s because it isn’t just a museum—it’s actually part of an active space station! Time your visit right, and you could watch a real rocket launch into space. If you can’t catch this exciting event, there are plenty of other things to… like meet an astronaut, check out space shuttles, and experience a simulator. Pretty awesome!
Houston’s huge space center has something for everyone! One of the most fascinating exhibits is Mission: Mars. Step inside this exhibit for your chance to touch a piece of Mars and learn what it takes to travel to other planets. When you’re done exploring Mars, you can visit Mission Control, see a seminar led by an astronaut, or check out a science show. There’s so much to do here!
If you love airplanes, then this is the museum for you. While most of the previous museums on our list focus on space exploration, the Strategic Air Common & Aerospace Museum puts the spotlight on air travel. Immerse yourself in the history of airplanes! Here, you can learn about the people, places and planes that made airspace come alive with sound and motion. Step inside historic airplanes, and imagine what it is like to fly a fighter jet over the ocean. If you’re a World War II junkie, you’ll be sure to love the exhibits that highlight this time period!
This museum boasts one of the largest rocket collections in the world! The exhibits are designed to move you sequentially through the story of the space race. You’ll be immersed in the narrative of space travel until you feel like you’re a part of it! Once you’re done, you can head outdoors to see Rocket Park and Shuttle Park, two spacecraft collections that will leave you inspired.
Not only does the Cosmosphere have an awesome name, but it is an awesome place! Kids and adults alike will have a blast discovering this museum and experiencing its state-of-the-art technology. The 4-K projection digital dome theatre shows both educational and fun movies, so you can enjoy whatever you’re in the mood for. Or, head to the planetarium for a classic dose of star travel with a modern twist.
San Diego has a lot of museums, but this is one you won’t want to miss. The Sand Diego Air & Space Museum has an extensive collection, including Wright Brothers plane replications and real command modules from the Apollo missions. The museum frequently has events, and there are always special exhibits on display.
Address: 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
This museum sits on 80 acres of desert land. You can hang out inside the museum to see the many exhibits filled with flight memorabilia. Or, tour the six hangars to see the incredible collection of airplanes, including a President Johnson’s Airforce 1, an SR71 spy plane, and a 1927 biplane. The museum also offers tours of a huge “aircraft boneyard” nearby.
Kids and adults alike are sure to be impressed by these museums. No matter where your next vacation takes you, try to stop and see one of these incredible air and space museums! You'll be amazed by how much history and technology are woven into the narrative of air travel.