Los Angeles has a rich history in aviation and aerospace with Southern California companies playing important roles in the development of air and space flight. So it's not surprising that the area is rich with air and space museums and attractions. Here are the best places to see historic and famous airplanes, helicopters, space craft and related artifacts, as well as places you can fly planes, helicopters, fighter jets or simulators.
If you love other kinds of transportation as well, we also have Museum Ships
, Train Museums
and Auto Museums and Attractions
The air and space exhibits at the California Science Center range from the early history of flight with a 1902 Wright Brothers' Glider to the exploration of space and the planets. A highlight is the NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour.California Science Center Visitors Guide
Flight Path Learning Center and Museum
in the LAX Imperial Terminal on the south side of LAX houses exhibits of airline memorabilia from uniforms to historic ads and promotional items including from now defunct airlines, a massive collection of model planes, and a fully restored luxury DC-3 that you can board. The museum and parking are free.
The Museum of Flying
at the Santa Monica Airport has nearly two dozen aircraft on display. There are also interpretive exhibits on the history of flight as well as the role of Southern California companies in the aviation and aerospace industry.
The Western Museum of Flight
at Zamperini Field in Torrance has a collection of predominantly military aircraft including restored planes, replicas, prototypes and models. They host various aviation-related lectures and events throughout the year.
Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum
(TAM) is a museum in Compton with historic exhibits on the Tuskegee Airmen (the first all-African-American fighter squadron), historic planes and helicopters and simulators. The public museum is part of a larger aviation program for inner-city youth.
The Southern California Wing of the Commemorative Air Force is an all-volunteer non-profit that focuses on preserving historic combat aircraft from all branches of the US military. They operate the WWII Aviation Museum
at Camarillo Airport north of Los Angeles. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you can also watch volunteers working on the planes at the hangars.
Visitors to the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum
in Simi Valley, north of Los Angeles, can go aboard the actual Air Force One
plane that transported US presidents from 1973 to 2001. In the Air Force One Pavilion you can also see the Marine One helicopter that flew President Johnson, and a selection of presidential limousines and motorcade vehicles.
at the Nixon Library
was the helicopter used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. Visitors can climb aboard to see what it was like for the presidents to work out of this flying Oval Office.
The Burbank Aviation Museum
is an collection of artifacts on the history of aviation in Burbank that is looking for a home. In the mean time, they have an exhibit open Sundays from noon till 3 pm at The Portal of the Folded Wings
, a shrine to aviation at the Valhalla Memorial Park just south of Bob Hope Burbank Airport. Twenty-four aviation pioneers are buried at the site.
Jet Propulsion Laboratories
in Pasadena has been at the forefront of space exploration technology from rocket development to the Mars Rover program. JPL offers free tours for the general public once a week on alternating Mondays and Wednesdays with at least 3-week advance reservation.
Proud Bird Restaurant & Museum
is located next to one of the runways at LAX and has a collection of historic planes as lawn decorations. You can watch planes flying in and out of LAX from the patio or dining room.
After ground training, fly six combat engagements with a licensed fighter pilot in an Italian-built fighter aircraft and have the entire experience captured on video by multiple cameras. The entire experience is 2 1/2 to 3 hours. No pilot's license is required.
If the price tag for the authentic fighter plane experience is too steep, you can take a Biplane Thrill Ride
in Fullerton, a flying lesson
in Long Beach, or try the Military Flight Simulator Experience in Anaheim
for significantly less.
See all the options for Air Tours of Los Angeles
via plane, helicopter or zeppelin.