5 of the Best Aviation Museums in America

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was born on July 24th, 1897 and every year on her birthday, America celebrates National Amelia Earhart Day. She was the first female pilot to complete a solo crossing of the Atlantic, marking the achievement four years after Charles Lindbergh flew alone from New York to Paris in 1927.

Earhart was also a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, a member of the National Women’s Party, and one of the founders of the Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. She worked tirelessly to encourage other women to achieve in male-dominated fields and inspired thousands with her feats of aviation. In 1937, Earhart’s plane disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean and while she is presumed to have crashed, her ultimate fate remains a mystery.

In honor of Amelia Earhart Day, we’ve got some great suggestions of places to visit if you’ve got a passion for aviation or just want to see some really cool planes.

  1. National Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C.

National Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C.

If you want to see the Wright Flyer, it’s right here in the heart of the capital. The first powered aircraft was built by the Wright Brothers and took flight in December 1903 just south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis is also here along with the Apollo 11 command module and a host of other landmark exhibits.

  1. The National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio

The National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio

This is the largest museum under the control of the US Air Force and the largest military aviation museum in the world. A series of huge galleries walk visitors through the early years of aviation, WWII, the Korean War, the Cold War era and space exploration. Along with the massive collection of historical military airplanes, visitors can explore interactive displays, try out the flight simulators and even catch a 3D movie.

  1. Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington

Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington

Located on the historic site where Boeing first got started, this is the biggest independent not-for-profit aviation and space museum on the planet. Here you’ll find over 150 aircraft, rare artifacts, images and exhibits preserving the storied history of American aviation. There’s also a fully restored B52 in the adjacent Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park.

  1. Carolinas Aviation Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina

Carolinas Aviation Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina

We’re including this one not because it’s the biggest or the best, but because it’s the home of the A320 Airbus that was at the center of the “Miracle on the Hudson”. After hitting a flock of Canada geese, Captain Chesley Sullenberger landed the plane off Manhattan in the middle of the Hudson River without a single loss of life.  The plane was headed for Charlotte and now lives where it failed to land in 2009. Unrestored and still spotted with goose guts.

  1. Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona

Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona

This is a massive outdoor museum that covers 80 acres and houses over 350 historical aircraft. There are also six indoor hangers with a large display of WWII memorabilia. Beyond the museum, Pima is an “Aircraft Boneyard” for government and military planes and if you book in advance, you can take a bus tour of the 2,600-acre airplane graveyard. While you’re in Arizona, be sure to look up because over 3,000 UFO sightings have been reported in the state’s skies since 1950.

While we may never know what really happened to Amelia Earhart on her bid to circumnavigate the globe, most of America’s aviation history is much less mysterious. You can find out everything you ever wanted to know about military aircraft, spaceships, passenger jets and biplanes at almost 400 different aerospace museums around the country. And who knows, you may even come up with your own theory about the fate of America’s most beloved and celebrated female pilot.