While driving around Tucson, traveling to meetup with local friends, and moving between the two districts of Saguaro National Park, we drove past enormous fields of airplanes and the Pima Air & Space Museum a few times — and it looked awesome! The museum was actually on my vacation planning list of things to do in Tucson, Arizona, but I didn’t think we’d have time to check it out.
Luckily, Saguaro National Park didn’t take up as much time as we thought, which meant that we had time to visit Old Tucson Studios, San Xavier Mission, and the Pima Air & Space Museum before driving to Lajitas, Taxes and Big Bend National Park.
The Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the world’s largest non-government funded aerospace museums. It displays more than 350 historic aircraft spread across 80 acres.
Pima Air And Space Museum opened to the public in May 1976. The first onsite hangar was completed in early 1982, a second was added in 1987, a third was built in 1992, and a fourth in 1994. From a Wright Flyer to a 787 Dreamliner, at this family-friendly museum, you can geek out on every type of aircraft you can think of, including helicopters, drones, bombers, rockets, and jets. It has also been the home to the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame since 1991.
Visiting The Pima Air & Space Museum
We arrived at the museum around 2:45 in the afternoon, which gave us a little over two hours to explore. While you could spend the entire day here — there is a restaurant and a playground — we had plenty of time to walk the campus and see everything.
The admission fee covers access to the Main Hangar, two WWII Hangars, the Dorothy Finley Space Gallery, the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, the 390th Memorial Museum, and all 80 acres of outdoor museum space with 150+ commercial, private, civil, and military aircraft.
We began outside because that part of the museum closes before the main hangars. What I loved is that we could browse the massive collection of aircraft at out own speed, in any order we wanted. This meant Carter and Brian could move from plane to plane as quickly as they wanted and even run (they REALLY loved this museum), while Natalie and I meandered through the exhibits.
We then checked out the aircraft and exhibits inside the different stand alone hangars and buildings. The Dorothy Finley Space Gallery was really well done and reminded us of the NASA Ames Exploration Center in Santa Clara. But the two WWII Hangars were better — I don’t know if oit’s because we’ve done so many space-related things before, or that the giant planes and the stories that go with them are just that incredible…
When we were done outside, we headed back inside to the main indoor exhibit spaces and wandered through the rows of aircraft, learning about the history of flight and the design of some of the planes. And of course, on our way out, we stopped in the gift shop and snagged a couple bags of Space Food (freeze dried ice cream) for the kids to try!
We had a blast visiting this museum and highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area.
Know Before You Go
- Pima Air And Space Museum is located at 6000 E Valencia Road, Tucson, Arizona 85756 just off I-10 at exit 267 in Pima County.
- The museum is open seven days a week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, with the last admission at 3:00 pm. It is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
- Single day admission is $16.50/adult ages 13+, $13.75/active military and seniors 65+, $10.00/kids ages 5-12, and children age 4 and under are free.
- Parking is free and day-use RV parking is available.
- Review maps of the museum and check out a list of the aircraft on display.
- Read the history of the Pima Air & Space Museum.
- The museum has a quick-service grill — Flight Grill — that serves USDA Prime hand-pressed burgers, fresh salads, Sonoran cuisine, and seasonal specials, as well as hand-scooped ice cream cones or even a caramel latte from the espresso bar. The restaurant is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
- Docent-guided walking tours are daily at 10:30am in the Main Hangar and 11:30am in Hangar 3. From December through May additional walking tours are at 1:30pm (Main Hangar/General Aviation) and 2:30pm (Hangar 3/WWII). Tram Tours operate daily at 10:00am, 11:30am and 1:30pm. From November through May an additional 3:00pm Tram tour is generally offered. “Boneyard”/AMARG tours require a 10 business day advanced reservation.
- The museum is HUGE! Consider bringing bottled water, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen as much of the museum is outside.
- Our visit lasted about 2.5 hours. But if you want to see all six hangars and 80 acres of flight exhibits, you should allow around four hours.
- The Museum Store has a wide variety of aircraft-themed apparel, children’s costumes and toys, gifts, books, memorabilia, and more.
- The Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, established in 1985, is located in the Dorothy Finley Space Gallery. It is a permanent shrine to Arizonans who have played a role in or made a significant contribution to aviation and aerospace history.
- Leashed pets are allowed at the museum. Only service animals are allowed on the riding tours.