Regardless of which part of the world you live in, if you’re fascinated with aviation, visiting a good aircraft museum is the perfect way to spend the day. If you find yourself in California it won’t be hard to satisfy your itch to learn more about airplanes, the state has more aviation museums than any other state in the country.
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Aerospace museums offer everything for people who love airplanes and want to know more about them, especially as they pertain to the military and national defense.
Not only are there hundreds of ways to learn more about all types of planes at these museums, but visitors are also able to see real airplanes from both long ago and recent times, allowing you an up close and personal way to imagine what it would be like to fly one of these planes.
Included in most of these museums are real artifacts, information sheets, flags, and all types of items used throughout the ages by real pilots, both civilian and military.
Visitors always love seeing these planes for themselves and examining their intricately designed knobs and buttons, and there is never a shortage of these planes when you visit the museums.
If you’re curious about the best air and space museums in the state of California, keep reading for a list of these great facilities.
1. Alameda Naval Air Museum (Alameda)
Located near San Francisco, this museum contains tons of artifacts and exhibits to show the world how important the navy was in defending the country through the decades. Open on Saturday and Sunday only, it also sponsors special events and has meeting rooms for rent.
2. USS Hornet Museum (Alameda)
Dedicated to the USS Hornet, which rescued the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 space capsules, it is a great place to learn all about this aircraft carrier, and you can visit it every day of the week.
3. Castle Air Museum (Atwater)
Just a few of the planes they have on-site include the Boeing B-47E Stratojet, Douglas A-26B Invader, McDonnell F-101B Voodoo, Northrop T-38A Talon, and the Grumman F-14D Tomcat, but there are many others as well.
4. Golden Age Flight Museum (Bakersfield)
The Thorp T-18 Tiger, Convair BT-13A Vultee, Howard DGA-15, and the Weedhopper ultralight are just a few of the magnificent planes in their possession. You can currently only tour or visit the museum by appointment.
5. Kern County Museum (Bakersfield)
Located at Hangars Way at Meadows Field, their small collection includes the Northrop T-38 Talon.
6. Saxon Aerospace Museum (Boron)
Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., their exhibits pay special attention to pilot Chuck Yeager, as well as the female pilot Pancho Barnes. Their planes include the McDonnell NF-4D Phantom II and the Turner T-40, as well as a few others.
7. Commemorative Air Force Museum (Camarillo)
This is a WWII aviation museum that has planes such as the ex-Israeli C-47 and the B-25J 44-30801 on the grounds of the facility, even though the museum doesn’t actually own the planes. It is open Tuesday through Sunday each week.
8. Chico Air Museum (Chico)
Open Thursday through Sunday only, the museum offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including lots of artifacts and displays about some of the world’s greatest pilots. Some of its planes include the McDonnell-Douglas F-15C Eagle and the Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune, among others.
9. China Lake Museum (China Lake)
If you want to learn about naval history and weapons, this is the place to visit. From planes you can look at up close to gift shops that have hundreds of mementos, this air museum is one tourist spot you won’t want to miss.
10. Planes of Fame Museum (Chino)
Open daily throughout most of the year, this museum consists not only of planes and hundreds of artifacts, but also special events that include air shows, special dances, and events that center around certain airplanes, enabling you to learn a lot about the airplanes and more.
11. Yanks Air Museum (Chino)
Open Tuesday through Sunday most of the year, the museum houses more than 120 different planes because it covers comprehensive coverage of the entire American aviation industry, which means it truly offers something for everyone.
12. Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (Compton)
Open daily throughout most of the year, some of the many airplanes found in the museum include the Cessna T-37B Tweety Bird, Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk, Hughes OH-6A Cayuse, and the Bell UH-1B Iroquois, among others.
13. Air Force Flight Test Museum (Edwards AFB)
Open Tuesday through Friday most of the year, the museum is accessible to the public because it is located right outside of the base. Some of the many airplanes on display there are the Sikorsky UH-34G Seabat, Cessna NA-37B Dragonfly, and the Ryan AQM-34 Firebee.
14. NASA Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center (Edwards AFB)
Because of budget cuts, tours of this facility no longer exist, but you can still view certain planes on the outside of the building, including the Northrop X-29A, Bell X-1E, and the SR-71A Blackbird.
15. West Gate Century Circle (Edwards AFB)
Open to the public 24/7, this museum houses airplanes such as the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo, Republic F-105D Thunderchief, Convair QF-106B Delta Dart, and the Lockheed NF-104A Starfighter.
16. Air Group One Commemorative Air Force (El Cajon)
Open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and free-of-charge to the public, the museum houses planes such as the Boeing KC-97L Stratofreighter, North American SNJ-5 Texas, Aeronca L-3B Grasshopper, and the Stinson L-5 Sentinel.
17. Allen Airways Flying Museum (El Cajon)
This museum’s collection of aircraft includes the Ryan STM-2, Stearman C3R Business Speedster, Boeing F4B-1, and the Boeing Stearman PT-17 Kaydet.
18. San Diego Air & Space Museum Restoration Facility (El Cajon)
Dozens of airplanes grace this facility, including the Vertol 44B, Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk, Vans RV-4, McDonnell F-4A Phantom II, and the Grumman A-6E Intruder, among many others.
19. Warbirds West Air Museum (El Cajon)
Open daily throughout most of the year, the facility houses planes such as the Beech C-45G Expeditor, North American T-28C Trojan, Schweitzer SGS 2-8 TG-2, and the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21, to name a few.
20. Central California Historical Military Museum (Firebaugh)
A few of the many airplanes housed in this museum include the Fokker D.VII, Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon, Ryan PT-22 Recruit, Vultee BT-13A Valiant, and the Supermarine Spitfire.
21. National Training Center and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Museum (Fort Irwin)
This museum is dedicated to two things: the history of the military on Fort Irwin from 1844 to the present day, and the history of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment from 1901 to the present. It is open Monday through Friday most of the year and is free to visit.
22. Hemet Ryan Field (Hemet)
This is a functioning operational airport that houses the Grumman S-2A Tracker and possibly other airplanes as well.
23. Milestones of Flight Air Museum (Lancaster)
Although the museum is currently closed, it once housed planes such as the Globe GC-1A Swif, Briegleb BG-12B, Armstrong-Whitworth AW.660 Argosy C.1, Fairchild C-119C Flying Boxcar, and the Hawker Hunter F.51, to name a few.
24. Battleship USS Iowa Museum (Los Angeles)
Open daily throughout most of the year, the museum is free to visit and houses the Piasecki HUP-2 Retriever. It is located at the Pacific Battleship Center in Los Angeles.
25. California Science Center (Los Angeles)
Open daily throughout most of the year, there are both permanent and temporary exhibits, most of which are free to visit. It houses a few dozen airplanes, including the Lockheed A-12, Northrop YT-38A Talon, Wright 1902 glider, and the Condor Hang Glider, among others.
26. Flight Path Learning Center and Museum (Los Angeles)
Open Tuesday through Saturday and free to the public, this museum is located in the LAX Imperial Terminal and consists of airplanes such as the Northrop T-38A Talon and the Douglas DC-3, as well as numerous artifacts that include uniforms, photographs, model airplanes, and hundreds of other items.
27. The Proud Bird Restaurant (Los Angeles LAX)
Open every day throughout most of the year, this restaurant/museum houses a lot of different airplanes, including the North American P-51D, Grumman TBF Avenger, Bell X-1, Beech C18S, and the SPAD S.VIII, among others.
28. March Field Air Museum (March ARB, Riverside)
With free admission and a great gift shop, this museum is home to dozens of airplanes, including the Douglas C-54Q Skymaster, Fairchild CC-119 Boxcar, Cessna A-37B Dragonfly, General Dynamics FB-111A Aardvark, and the Nieuport 11, to name a few.
29. P-38 Museum (March ARB, Riverside)
As long as you make a small donation, you can visit this museum any time on Saturday and Sunday, and there is even an online gift shop to enjoy. Inside is a full-sized replica made out of fiberglass of the P-38 plane.
30. Museum of the Forgotten Warriors (Marysville)
Open on Thursday and Saturday, some of the many artifacts include items from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, and Iraq, as well as others.
31. Aerospace Museum of California (McClellan Park)
Open Tuesday through Sunday most of the year, it is free to visit the museum, and some of the many planes found there include the Douglas AD-5 Skyraider, Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, and the Lockheed F-80B Shooting Star.
32. Hillier Air Museum (Modesto)
Open only on the second Saturday of each month, the museum is home to the Cessna 140, Beech 35 Bonanza, Republic RC-3 Seabee, and the Ryan PT-22 Recruit, among others.
33. Mojave Spaceport Legacy Park (Mojave)
Some of the planes included in this museum are the Convair Coronado 990, Rotary Rocket Company Roton ATV, and the McDonnell F-4C Phantom II, not to mention a SpaceShipOne replica.
34. Moffett Field Museum (Mountain View)
Open Wednesday through Saturday and free to visit, this museum houses planes such as the Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter, Vought F8U Crusader, Bell AH-1G Cobra, and the McDonnell Douglas AV-8C Harriet, among others.
35. NASA Ames Exploration Center (Mountain View)
Open every day except Monday most of the year and free to the public, this museum houses planes that include the Mercury Redstone 1A, Lockheed 300-50A-01 Starlifter, and even a shuttle cockpit simulator.
36. Wings and Rotors Air Museum (Murrieta)
Open Monday through Friday most of the year, this air museum is home to the Hughes TH-55A Osage, Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse, Bell UH-1B Iroquois, and the McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II.
37. Oakland Aviation Museum (Oakland)
With free admission and a great gift shop, you can visit this museum from Wednesday through Sunday and view planes such as the Bede BD-5B, Douglas DC-6B, Boeing-Stearman PT-13D Kaydet, and the Glasair SH-2, among others.
38. Oakland Museum of California (Oakland)
With tons of pictures, artifacts, documents, and both temporary and permanent displays, the museum has an extensive website that goes into great detail on everything it is possible to see there, and it is updated frequently for your convenience.
39. Blackbird Air Park (Palmdale)
Open Friday through Sunday, admission is free and there is even a great gift shop. The museum also houses planes such as the A-12 Oxcart, SR-71A Blackbird, D-21B Drone, and the U-2D Dragon Lady, all manufactured by Lockheed.
40. Joe Davies Heritage Air Park at Palmdale Plant 42 (Palmdale)
Open Friday through Sunday, tours on other days are available by special request. Over 20 airplanes are exhibited here, including the Northrop T-38A Talon, North American F-100D Super Sabre, Vought A-7B Corsair II, and the Republic F-105G Thunderbird, to name a few.
41. Palm Springs Air Museum (Palm Springs)
Open daily most of the year, admission to this museum is free, and some of the planes you can see here include the Boeing Stearman N2S-3 Kaydet, Douglas A-26C Invader, Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, and the North American AT-6G Texan, among others.
42. Estrella Warbird Museum (Paso Robles)
One thing that makes this museum so unique is that you can climb right inside some of their planes to get a better look, so it offers far more than just looking at artifacts and reading documents. Some of the planes housed here include the Ryan Q-2A Firebee and the Sikorsky HH-52A Sea Guard, among others.
43. Classic Rotors Museum (Ramona)
Open every day except Monday, although you can visit by appointment on that day, this museum houses planes that include the Bell 47G-2, Hiller Camel, Adams Wilson 101 Hobbycopter, and the McCulloch J-2 Autogyro, among others.
44. Hiller Aviation Museum (San Carlos)
Open daily most of the year, the museum is close to San Francisco and houses dozens of airplanes, including the Hiller XROE-1 Rotor Cycle, Gonzales Biplane, Fairchild 22 C7D, and the Nelson PG-185B Hummingbird, among many others.
45. California Flight Museum (San Diego)
This museum is home to several different airplanes, including the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21U-600, Rutan Long EZ, Pazmany PL-2, Fairchild PT-19A Cornell, and the Fouga CM170R Magister. It may actually be closed to the public at the moment.
46. Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum (San Diego)
Open Tuesday through Sunday and free to visit, this museum is home to dozens of different airplanes, including the Grumman P9F-2 Panther, Eastern TBM-3E Avenger, McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee, and the North American FJ-3 Fury, as well as many others.
47. San Diego Air & Space Museum (San Diego)
This museum is open daily throughout most of the year and is home to dozens of planes. Some of them include the Montgomery Evergreen Glider, Nieuport 11, General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, Ford Trimotor 5-AT, and the Piper J-3C-65 Cub, among many others.
48. USS Midway Museum (San Diego)
With more than 30 exhibits and 21 restored airplanes, this museum offers a self-guided audio tour available in English, Spanish, and Japanese, and some of its many planes on display include the Rockwell T-2C Buckeye and the Grumman F9J Cougar.
49. Exploratorium (San Francisco)
Open Tuesday through Sunday most of the year, the museum is small but houses planes such as the Eipper MX Quicksilver and a magnificent hang glider. There is an admission fee to enter, and it also offers a fine gift shop.
50. Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum (San Francisco IAP)
With free admission and the ability to visit it most days of the year, this museum is home to the NC18722 Arrow Sport F, and it is available for special events should you so desire.
51. California Army National Guard Museum (San Luis Obispo)
Open daily most of the year and free to enter, this museum houses plans such as the Sikorsky UH-19D Chickasaw, Cessna Q-1A Bird Dog, and the Bell OH-13E Sioux, among a few others.
52. Wings of History Air Museum (San Martin)
This museum is free to enter, has a great gift shop, and is home to dozens of planes, including the Stinson 10 Voyager, Waco 10 GXE, Beech 23 Musketeer, and the Rutan Quickie, among many others.
53. Lyon Air Museum (Santa Anna)
This museum is open almost every day of the year and houses planes that include the North American B-25J Mitchell, Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, and the Cessna O-1E Bird Dog.
54. Museum of Flying (Santa Monica)
This museum offers free admission, a gift shop, and is open Friday through Sunday. The dozens of airplanes housed there include the Quickie 2, Lockheed 5B Vega, Gee Bee Z rep, and the Waco Model UEC.
55. Aviation Museum of Santa Paula (Santa Paula)
This is a smaller museum but still houses some important planes, including the de Havilland DH-60DG Gipsy Moth, Boeing P-12E, and the Viking Dragonfly, among others.
56. Pacific Coast Air Museum (Santa Rosa)
Open Wednesday through Sunday and free to visit, the museum is home to several dozen airplanes, including the Vought F-8K Crusader, Pitts S-1C Special, Lockheed T-33A, and the General Dynamics F-16N Viper.
57. Minter Field Air Museum (Shafter)
Housed in a fire station that was built in the 1940s, a few of the planes housed here include the Cessna AT-17 Bobcat, Pietenpol B4-A Aircamper, Aeronca L-3B Grasshopper, and the Sikorsky UH-34G Seabat.
58. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (Simi Valley)
Open daily most of the year and free to the public, this museum houses planes such as the Sikorsky VH-3A Sea King “Marine One,” Grumman F-14A Tomcat, and the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk, as well as presidential motorcades, limousines, and many other vehicles.
59. American Society of Military History Museum (South El Monte)
Open Friday through Sunday, this museum is located just 12 miles east of Los Angeles and consists of more than 175 military vehicles and outdoor exhibits, including items ranging from WWI to Operation Desert Storm.
60. Stockton Field Aviation Museum (Stockton)
With special emphasis on WWII aviation and equipment, this museum houses the following airplanes: the Beech AT-11 Kansan, Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon, Boeing B-29 Superfortress, and the Lockheed C-60A Lodestar.
61. Western Museum of Flight (Torrance)
Open Tuesday through Sunday most of the year and with a great gift shop to boot, this museum is home to several dozen airplanes that include the Northrop SD-1 Drone, North American P-51D Mustang, Bede BD-5, Acme Siera S-1, and the Teledyne Ryan AQ-34K Firebee. There is also a replica of an 1883 Montgomery glider, as well as other planes.
62. Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center (Travis AFB)
Open Tuesday through Saturday most days of the year, this museum is part of Travis Air Force Base and, therefore, all visitors must check in with the Visitor’s Center before entering the museum. Admission is free, and the museum houses dozens of planes, including the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, Atomic Bomb “Fat Man,” a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, and the Medway Half Pint, among others.
63. American Veterans Memorial (Tulare)
Located between Fresno and Bakersfield, this museum houses a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Preston’s Pride” and a McDonnell GF-4C Phantom.
64. Whittier Museum (Whittier)
This museum is open on Friday and Saturday and is free to visit, although they do encourage you to make a small donation if you can. They offer both permanent and temporary exhibits of many different kinds, including a Jose G. Ramos exhibit that is relatively new. They also provide self-guided tours that take roughly one hour, as well as docent-led tours if that’s what you prefer.
65. The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation (Yorba Linda)
This museum is open daily most of the year and consists of photos, documents, space-age artifacts, and memorabilia that include a spacesuit from Apollo 11, a moon rock, and a recording of the conversation between the president and the crew of Apollo 11, as well as other interesting items.