air force plane flying over pima air and space museum
Travel date February 2021

Museums are really about preferences and interests but we feel like most visitors would enjoy spending a day at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson.   There are so many exhibits and things to see that there’s something for everyone. 

 military patches from a private collection on display at pima air and space museum

The Pima Air and Space Museum has tons of history and educational exhibits including hundreds of retired military planes, NASA aircraft, commercial aircraft, art exhibits, weather and geography exhibits as well as war exhibits.    It is one of the largest non-government-funded air and space museums in the world.   

wwii planes at pima air and space museum

Is Pima Air Museum worth the admission price? 

Admission is $16.50 for one day or $22.50 for two days.  We usually opt for museums that offer free or discounted admission with our reciprocal AZA and ASTC memberships at partner facilities.    

Unfortunately, Pima only offers a reciprocal discount for other Arizona Aerospace Foundation organizations including the Titan Missile Museum. 

However, I thought the museum admission was a good value considering it provided us a full day of entertainment.   

Included in admission is: 

  • The Main Hangar (3 hangars combined into 1: Hangar 1, Spirit of Freedom, & Flight Central) 
  • Three World War II Hangars (Hangars 3, 4 & 5) 
  • The Dorothy Finley Aerospace Gallery 
  • The Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame 
  • The 390th Memorial Museum (a separate museum on the grounds) 
  • 80-acre outdoor display grounds 
  • Collection of 400+ aircraft and 125,000+ artifacts 
nasa satellite plane at pima air and space museum

Where is the Pima Air and Space Museum? 

The museum is located southeast of downtown Tucson.  It is two miles from I-10 and only 5.5-miles from the Tucson International Airport.  

Is the Pima Air and Space Museum open? 

Pima Air and Space Museum is open 7 days a week from 9 am until 5 pm in the winter (October through May) but closes at 3pm in the summer (June-September).   The last admission is 1.5 hours before closing time however you will want to allow more than 1.5 hours for your visit. 

main hanger at pima air and space museum

How long do you need at Pima Air and Space Museum? 

We spent a full day touring the grounds and hangers however it is possible to hit the highlights in less time.  If you are motivated and willing to skip some areas, a half-day should be sufficient to tour Pima Air and Space Museum. 

If you need other ideas and recommendations while in town, check out our Tucson blog.

What to know before you spend a day at Pima Air and Space Museum? 

Leashed dogs are allowed in the buildings and on the grounds of the museum.   

There is a café inside the museum if you want to eat lunch there.   Your admission allows you to exit and re-enter the museum on the same day so you can also go off-site for lunch. 

RV parking is available but overnight parking is prohibited. 

What is there to see in a day at Pima Air and Space Museum? 

The 80-acre yard has the aircraft organized by the general type with helicopters in a separate area from VIP aircraft such as the plane used as AirForceOne for Kennedy and Johnson.  

air force one for president kennedy and johnson at pima air and space museum

We enjoyed wandering around all of the different fighter jets and military cargo planes.  

air force cargo plane at pima air and space
cargo helicopter at pima air and space museum

The NASA Super Guppy was one of the most unique planes in the lot. 

NASA super guppy

Where do the planes come from? 

Most of the military planes were on loan from military air museums. However, a few of the more unique Japanese kamikaze planes recovered in battles were on loan from the Smithsonian. 

Some of the civilian craft were purchased by Pima while others were donated. 

Can I go inside the planes at Pima Air and Space Museum? 

Sadly, you cannot go inside any of the planes at PIMA.     

What information is provided about the planes? 

The planes displayed in the hangers have informational placards with stories. However, the outdoor displays do not have any information beyond the name, model and years in service. 

Some of the outdoor name placards had QR codes with additional aircraft statistics but most of the QR codes were not functional.    

just one of hundreds of retired military planes we saw during our day at Pima Air and Space Museum

I would love to see Pima add videos of the plane interiors to their website.  We googled videos for a few planes while visiting.   For instance, we wanted to see how the cargo doors opened on a front-loading plane or how the snowshoes worked on a plane equipped to support bases in the Artic. 

What are the painted planes in front of Pima Air and Space Museum? 

The painted planes parked along the front fence of the museum are very pretty.   They are old planes from the boneyard (junk yard) that are in very poor condition but they have been revived by street artists.     This is part of the Boneyard Art Project.  The designs vary wildly but are all unique, non-traditional looks for aircraft. 

Why are there so many planes in Arizona? 

Arizona is extremely dry with low humidity which makes it ideal for storing aircraft.  There is little risk of rusting in the desert.   

Near our free campsite, Pinal Airpark housed hundreds of planes.   It is both a commercial airplane boneyard and storage facility. 

Around the corner from PIMA, we saw a massive military plane storage yard.   We were so impressed with the volume of planes that we had to google it when we got home.  

What is The Boneyard? 

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309th AMARG) is also called The Boneyard.  The United States Air Force has over $39B in aircraft and missiles in this storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona.   In addition to storage, the AMARG refurbishes planes for redeployment and pulls parts from the craft in the boneyard for military requests.  During non-COVID times, PIMA offers a guided tour of the AMARG. 

What if I am limited on time? 

If you’re limited on time and do not have a full day to spend, you should focus your attention on the hangers and chose a specific area or two to visit in the yard.   Finally, I would definitely visit the 390th Memorial Museum.  

What is the 390th Memorial Museum? 

The 390th Memorial Museum is a separately operated museum on the grounds of the Pima Air and Space Museum.  Admission to the 390th Memorial Museum is included in admission to Pima.      

Several volunteers chatted with us while at the 390th Memorial Museum. All were very helpful retired veterans.  They offered unsolicited fun facts and answered questions during our visit.    

The museum guides visitors through a well-curated experience of WWII through the eyes of the 390th bomb group personnel.   The 390th Memorial Museum was a highlight of our day at Pima Air and Space Museum.  

390th memorial museum was one of our favorite parts of our day at pima air and space museum

Is a day at Pima Air and Space Museum worth a visit? 

We enjoy learning and loved our day at the Pima Air and Space Museum.  It was disappointing we couldn’t enter any of the aircraft or learn more about the planes in the yard.   If you enjoy learning and/or aircraft, Pima Air and Space Museum is definitely a great stop in Tucson. 

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