San Diego Air & Space Museum

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2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
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Open:
Daily 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Take flight with the San Diego Air and Space Museum! Spend hours browsing interactive exhibits, media, and replicas of popular and historic aircrafts.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
San Diego Air & Space Museum
Aviation History
What You’ll See
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Turn Your Eyes to the Skies!

Windows to the Apollo 9 Comand Module at the San Diego Air and Space MuseumAmelia Earharts Lockheed Vega 5B at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

The San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego, is a perfect way to spend the day for anyone interested in aerospace. It houses some of the most interesting exhibits and artifacts in the aviation industry, including both replicas and educational displays.

The city of San Diego has an incredibly rich aviation history, which helps to make the San Diego Air and Space Museum truly remarkable.

Real Apollo 9 Command Module at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Real Apollo 9 Command Module at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Exhibits and Collections

Here, you can see some of the most famous and innovative aircrafts including Convair, PBY Catalina, Ryan Aeronautical, and the North Island Naval Air Station.

My favorite part of the Air & Space Museum is that they have the Apollo 9 Command Module on display. It is the real Apollo 9, the one that went to space. A truly unique experience!

I can personally attest that the wide variety of air and spacecraft on display is truly a sight to behold.

History and Significance

The museum has been a part of San Diego since its establishment in October of 1961. Since then, it has only expanded its collection and its efforts to educate and capture the interest of the public. Now, it is a Smithsonian affiliate, and is recognized as the premier aerospace museum in the country.

The Life of Amelia Earhart at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
The Life of Amelia Earhart at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Educational Focus

With a strong educational focus and an exciting blend of exhibits from the sky and space exploration, this museum is a can’t-miss attraction!

Additional Information

Alongside other popular San Diego attractions like the San Diego Museum of Art and the USS Midway Museum, the Air and Space Museum is part of the Go San Diego Pass.

Buying a pass before your trip using our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF will give you and your family the best deal on admission prices.

Local Tips
Apollo 9 Command Module: A Piece of Space History
Don't miss the real Apollo 9 Command Module on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. An unparalleled opportunity to explore a genuine artifact from America's space exploration legacy.

What You’ll See When You Visit

There’s enough to explore at the San Diego Air and Space Museum that it’s possible to spend a half day or even whole day at the museum.

Many Interesting Airplanes at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Many Interesting Airplanes at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

For Aviation Enthusiasts

There’s a little something for everyone in the exhibits. Fans of planes, helicopters, and other aircrafts can learn about some of the most important and record-breaking aircrafts in history while also getting to see full-scale replicas.

Nasa Lunar Landing at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Nasa Lunar Landing at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

For Space Exploration Fans

Those who are more interested in space exploration can learn about what it’s like to be a part of a space mission and examine everything from early prototypes to cutting-edge rockets, satellites, and command modules.

Discovering New Interests

Even if you’ve never been particularly interested in aerospace before, the amazing exhibits on display just might change your mind and give you a new and exciting interest in the world above your head.

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USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
Explore the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum with your All-Inclusive Go City pass! Check out the hangar deck and flight deck, plus over 60 exhibits, displays and interactive experiences. Enjoy an authentic tour narrated by Midway sailors!
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What attractions are included with a Go City San Diego pass?

Attractions that you can visit with a Go City San Diego pass include:

The San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, SeaWorld, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Harbor Cruise, USS Midway Museum, the NAT Museum, Whaley House, PETCO Park Tour, iFLY San Diego and many, many more!

Want to save more? Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Air and Space Attractions and Collections

Apollo 9 Spacesuit at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Apollo 9 Spacesuit at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

The museum’s expansive collection of replicas and real models is one of its defining aspects.

When you visit the museum, you’ll get to learn more about the work that went into creating these aircrafts, the jobs they’re used to perform, and the way they have allowed scientists and explorers to learn more about the world around us.

Spirit of St Louis Plane at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Spirit of St Louis Plane at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Aircraft and Spacecraft Collection

The mainstay of the Air and Space Museum San Diego is its vast collection of aircraft and spacecraft.

Visitors can spend well over an entire day walking the property and learning more about a range of historical aircraft. Highlights include a reproduction of the 1901 Wright Glider, a Bowlus BA-100, and a mock-up of the Gemini spacecraft.

The models on display around the museum are either replicas that have been carefully recreated to be as authentic as possible, or genuine aircraft that have been painstakingly restored to their original glory. Either way, the opportunity to see them for yourself is well worth the cost of admission.

Lots of Old Airplanes at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Lots of Old Airplanes at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Artifact Collection

The museum has a large collection of aviation-related artifacts in addition to its many aircraft.

Visitors can learn more about original flight attendant uniforms from Trans World Airline (TWA), find replicas of the Messerschmitt Bf 109K Panel made popular during the Spanish Civil War, or see a Thompson Trophy from the 1929 National Air Races.

Charles Lindbergh with the Spirt of St Louis at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Charles Lindbergh with the Spirt of St Louis at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Study Aerodynamics

In 2006 the Museum acquired the Low Speed Wind Tunnel near Lindbergh Field, where companies and individuals test their equipment and students can study aerodynamics.

To date, it has conducted nearly 100,000 hours of testing, and Boeing has used it to conduct testing on every one of its commercial airliners, from the 707 to the 787 Dreamliner.

The Low Speed Wind Tunnel is the only privately-held low speed aeronautical wind tunnel in the United States. You don't want to miss it!

Aviation History at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Aviation History at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

International Air & Space Hall of Fame

Throughout history, people like the Wright Brothers and Neil Armstrong have made huge strides in what aviation means for the world and the galaxy beyond.

The International Air and Space Hall of Fame recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of such people and aims to teach the aerospace leaders of tomorrow about the paths they and others before them have followed.

When you visit the International Air & Space Hall of Fame, you’ll see the photos and bios of dozens of people who have been instrumental to the development of aerospace engineering and piloting. You’ll also learn about people who contributed to scientific discoveries in the aerospace field.

Where Dreams Take Flight at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Where Dreams Take Flight at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Media Collection

Media lovers can spend hours perusing the museum's media library. It houses more than two million historical images of aircraft, equipment, events, and people related to the aviation industry, including prints and negatives.

These images are provided for research and to pique the interest of any visitors who may want to extend their knowledge past what many of the floor exhibits have to offer.

The media collection also includes film and audio archives. Here, you can find over 5,000 audio tapes, video tapes, DVs, phonographs, and much more. Many rare historic films and videos are in the process of being digitized by museum staff.

World War I Aircraft Carrier Planes at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
World War I Aircraft Carrier Planes at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

World War I Gallery

From their first appearance in 1914 as a means to gather intel about opposing forces to the development of the first fighter jets, airplanes played a huge role in the first World War.

Learn about famous pilots like the Red Baron and Billy Bishop, as well as the aircraft they piloted.

Breaking Barriers Airplane at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Breaking Barriers Airplane at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

World War II Gallery

In the World War II Gallery, you’ll find all sorts of different planes that were used during the war. These planes conjure up images of daring dogfights and stealthy reconnaissance as you walk through the hall and look at the museum’s Spitfire, Hellcat, Japanese Zero, Warhawk, and many more.

The Spitfire on display in the museum is one of just a few of its kind still in existence out of nearly 23,000 manufactured between 1936 and 1945, making it a must-see on your next visit!

Apollo Space Module with the Rocket Booster at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Apollo Space Module with the Rocket Booster at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Modern Jet and Space Age Gallery

Dedicated to Wally Schirra, the only person to fly in all three of the early space programs (Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo), this exhibit showcases rockets and other spacecraft of the modern age. Check out reproductions of the historic Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini ships.

You can also learn about the unique discoveries and challenges of exploring space in recent years as well as the construction of the International Space Station, which began back in November 1998.

Tiny Airplane at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Tiny Airplane at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Golden Age of Flight Gallery

The “Golden Age” of aviation occurred from about 1919-1939. During this period, trick fliers traveled across the country showing off their skills and inspiring the next generation of pilots.

It was also during this time that air mail service became publicly accepted and most of the United States’ aircraft companies were founded.

Fun fact: the world’s first low-fare airline was actually founded in San Diego in 1949!

Full Throttle Simulator at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Full Throttle Simulator at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Simulators and Interactive Areas

Interactive experiences are available at the museum as well. Step onto the Max Flight Interactive Ride to experience a two-seat FS2000 flight simulator that includes sky loops, aerial combat, and sharp banks in its 360-degree, pilot-controlled experience.

Other interactive exhibits include the Aerial Combat Experience, a flight simulator that features a flat panel display that depicts the flight instrumentation found in the actual aircraft, and a 3D/4D theater that seats 36 per show and includes seats synchronized to what's happening on the screen.

Shows are played continuously throughout the day so there will be plenty of opportunities for you to experience these amazing 3D/4D effects for yourself!

Some showings have included Legend of Apollo, which tells the insider story of the lunar landings (as well as the Apollo 15 mission), and Fly Around the World, where you can experience the amazing flora and fauna of the world, from the wildlife of Africa to the glaciers of Alaska to the deserts of Arabia.

Above and Beyond Exhibit at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Above and Beyond Exhibit at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Special Exhibits

Visitors who have a special interest in a particular sector of aviation may find themselves engrossed in the museum's special exhibits.

Exhibits change regularly and have included such displays as American Women in Flight, which paid tribute to people such as Sally Ride, and SPACE: Our Greatest Adventure, a special program exploring the stars.

Fun and Informative Programs for Kids

The San Diego Aerospace Museum is a popular destination for school field trips. There are group tours offered for a guided educational experience that come complete with fun, immersive activities.

Future Aircraft Exhibit at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Future Aircraft Exhibit at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Little Engineers

Children ages 2-5 can participate in the Little Engineers program held every Wednesday morning from 9:00 AM-10:00 AM, where they can discuss science, experience hands-on activities, and have a private museum exploration.

Each week is devoted to a different topic such as leaves and flowers, stars and constellations, planets, astronauts, and many more. You can pre-register online and there are discounts for buying several tickets in advance.

Mission Control Bus

A converted bus to mobile classroom, the San Diego Air & Space Museum’s Mission Control Bus offers several programs for children ranging from grades PK-5, where they can explore engineering, design thinking, innovation, creativity, and more.

Some programs have included 3 Little Pigs in Space, where children can learn how to build habitats on the moon; Things That Fly, where children can discover why things fly and create their own flying contraptions; and Computer Science Space Making, where children can explore coding, computational thinking, and digital citizenship through rovers, AI, and robots.

Lots to Do at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Lots to Do at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Stem Challenges

Another educational opportunity offered by the museum is their online STEM challenges based around all types of science. Kids can complete biweekly experiments that teach them more about the world around them and introduce them to the idea of running their own experiments.

Some challenges include observing the different moon phases in the sky, building a blueprint for your dream home, and learning how to follow instructions as you make origami.

Summer Camps

The museum also offers multiple summer camps each year for children of all grades from TK-12.

Some camp activities include becoming an astronaut in training, participating in aviation simulations, coding robots, building rockets, and much more. Class sizes are limited so be sure to pre-register in advance.

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Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina
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What to Know Before You Visit

Don’t let confusion over parking or stress over finding a place to get lunch ruin your trip. Check out these helpful tips so you can enjoy yourself!

Map of Balboa Park and All of Its Museums
Map of Balboa Park and All of Its Museums

Parking

There is free parking available on-site at the museum.

If the lot is full, there are many other parking lots and plenty of street parking throughout Balboa Park.

Save on Tickets & San Diego’s Best Attractions

Explore all that San Diego has to offer & save up to 55% on attractions when you purchase a Go City San Diego pass before you arrive. Use our exclusive additional discount code GVSD5OFF to receive even more savings!

There’s also a variety of other activities and attractions included with the Go City San Diego pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, LEGOLAND California, SeaWorld San Diego, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Speed Boat Adventures & more!

Where to Stay Nearby

Conveniently located just a couple miles away from the San Diego Air and Space Museum, Horton Grand Hotel is the perfect place to stay on your next trip to San Diego.

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you get to experience its 1880s Victorian era architecture, handcrafted antique furniture, and more in the heart of Downtown San Diego.

Gift Shop at the San Diego Air and Space Museum
Gift Shop at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Gift Shop

The museum gift shop offers a huge variety of souvenirs and gifts for aerospace enthusiasts. You can buy themed apparel, toys, games, books, stickers, mugs, posters, and much more.

Where to Eat

At the Flight Path Grill located inside the museum, you can quickly grab some light lunch and get right back to your trip. Fare includes sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, salads, snacks, drinks, and desserts. You can also buy alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and mimosas.

Bonus Attraction Pricing

While you are free to walk around the museum as you please for the base admission price, there are some interactive attractions that charge an additional fee to participate.

Check the official website for more information and have some cash on hand if you plan to visit one of these exhibits.

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