TripAdvisor, a travel site, has unveiled its list of the top 10 aviation attractions in the U.S., according to traveler ratings and TripAdvisor Flights experts, who note that America has a rich history as the birthplace of aviation, giving air travel lovers and flying fanatics myriad opportunities to learn more about planes, gliders, shuttles, and everything in between.
No. 1 on the list: The National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
TripAdvisor officials note: Housing the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum is a must see for any air travel enthusiast. Its location in Washington, D.C. is home to several famous artifacts, such as the original Wright 1903 Flyer and the Apollo 11 command module, and its sister site in Fairfax, Virginia, houses additional aviation artifacts sure to inspire flyers of all stripes. As one TripAdvisor traveler raves, “This place is truly incredible and not to be missed.” Admission: Free.
2. Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum, New York, New York: Centered on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space museum is a floating treasure trove of exhibits for aviation enthusiasts. The deck and hangar bay of the ship feature a collection of 30 aircraft, including some that have just recently left active service. Additionally, one of the Concorde supersonic jets on loan from British Airways is on the Intrepid pier and can be explored inside and out by visitors. The museum also houses other interactive exhibits, including an A-6 cockpit simulator and a virtual flight zone. As one TripAdvisor traveler raves, “Intrepid delivers an amazing exploration you won’t soon forget.” Admission: $22 for adults, $17 for children.
3. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: For enthusiasts looking to go back to the beginning of air travel, there’s no better place than the Wright Brothers National Memorial on the site where Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first successful plane travel over one hundred years ago. Travelers can re-trace the routes where the Wright brothers tested out their first aircraft and explore the on-site museum and its collection of models, tools, and machines used by the pioneering, high-flying duo. As one TripAdvisor traveler puts it, “this was the highlight of our trip to the Outer Banks.” Admission: $4 for adults, free for children.
4. National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida: Travelers interested in military aviation should look no further than the National Naval Aviation Museum. The museum boasts more than 4,000 aviation artifacts and 150 aircraft from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Visitors can also get in on the action by taking a ride in the museum’s flight simulators or by watching the Blue Angels practice on select Tuesdays and Wednesdays. As one TripAdvisor traveler puts it, the museum is “worth spending many hours. The aircraft in the museum are breath-taking.” Admission: Free.
5. Museum of Flight, Seattle: Home to more than 85 aircraft ranging from antiques to the cutting edge of modern aviation, the Museum of Flight in Seattle is sure to tickle air travel lovers of all ages. The museum features a wealth of unique exhibits, including an engaging air traffic control tower at Boeing Field and “Style in the Aisle,” which shows off flight attendant uniforms from the 1930s to the 1980s. The museum’s aircraft collection is also expansive, and even includes an Air Force One aircraft that carried presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. As one TripAdvisor traveler raves, “I LOVE this museum, even as a local!” Admission: $15 for adults, $8 for youths, free for children 4 and under.
6. Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona:With more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft in its collection, the Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the largest aviation museums in the world. It features more than 125,000 artifacts of modern aviation, and counts gems like the B-29 Superfortress, SR-71 Blackbird, and World War II German V-1 “buzz bomb” among its exhibits. Visitors can also take in the sights of the museum’s outdoor displays, which show off extraordinary aircraft and their ground support vehicles, as well as an airplane “boneyard.” As one TripAdvisor traveler raves, “the selection of planes seems endless and any military aircraft fan will be in heaven.” Admission: $13.75 for adults, $8 for youths, free for children 6 and under.
7. Boeing Aircraft Factory Tour, Everett, Washington: The Boeing Aircraft Factory is the perfect place to visit for travelers interested in the nuts and bolts of aviation. Visitors can take a tour of the production facility, which is the world’s largest building by volume, to get a bird’s eye view of how aircraft are made. The tour covers the production of several Boeing models, including the eagerly anticipated 787 Dreamliner. The facility also features an aviation museum, which includes aircraft engines and conceptual aircraft designs. As one TripAdvisor traveler notes, “when the lift doors open for the first time and you can see a production line of 747’s being built below you it is truly something else!” Admission: $15 for adults, $8 for children.
8. Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii: Built in the historic hangars that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Aviation Museum offers tens of thousands of square feet of aviation exhibits, including a collection of military aircraft from the World War II era. Visitors can also hop into the pilot’s seat at the museum’s flight simulator, where they can take off and land on an aircraft carrier, and take part in a high stakes battle in the sky. As one TripAdvisor traveler notes, “if you are an aviation buff, this is a can’t miss if you are visiting the USS Arizona Memorial.” Admission: $15 for adults, $8 for children.
9. Gravelly Point Park, Arlington, Virginia: Located just north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Gravelly Point Park is a fantastic place for watching planes take off and land as they pass right overhead. In addition to the great views of the airport, the park is a nice spot to play catch or have a picnic on a warm summer day. As one TripAdvisor traveler states, “how crazy to be standing 500 feet from the touchdown of planes landing at Reagan National Airport.” Admission: Free.
10. Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon: Home to a wide range of aircraft, from cargo planes to commercial jets, bombers to spacecraft, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is a great place for aviation enthusiasts to get their fill and also for casual fans to brush up on a little air travel history. In addition to exhibits and archives detailing the milestones of modern aviation, the museum houses Howard Hughes’s famous wooden “Spruce Goose,” which was the largest plane of its time when it was completed in 1947. As one TripAdvisor traveler puts it, “the museum/hangar itself is a work of art. A great way to spend a day.” Admission: $20 for adults, $18 for youths, free for children 4 and under.
“Whether you’re an aviation buff or someone who just likes being up in the air, there’s a wealth of fascinating attractions across the U.S. that explore the history of air travel,” said Bryan Saltzburg, general manager of new initiatives at TripAdvisor.