Visiting Tucson – Pima Air & Space Museum

A few years back when visiting Tombstone, we passed an airplane boneyard off the I-10 freeway and Mr. Misadventures and I made a mental note to get there one day. While searching for what exactly the boneyard was called and how to get inside, I stumbled across information about the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson.

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Pima Air & Space Museum is the largest privately funded air museum in the world with over 300 airplanes on 80 acres of land. Best of all, you can touch and feel and photograph to your heart’s content!

Pima Air Space Museum-Air-Force-Plane
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, but it seems to me that most of the museums I have visited in the last decade just aren’t very “fun.” Generally, they all have rules for photography and you can never get up close to anything. It is frustrating!

But not Pima Air & Space Museum!

If you love airplanes (what traveler doesn’t?) and history you will love this museum. You can spend hours (and we did) in and around all the planes up close. There are tons of great docents, ex-pilots or folks that worked with the planes, and they love to talk, tell stories and share unique aspects about the individual planes.

I have to admit I had a lot of fun taking photos of the different instructions around the planes!

Pima-Air-Space-Museum-Notices

With over 300 planes, they practically have one of everything even a new 787 Dreamliner! (My “only” complaint, and it is tiny, is that I would have loved to be able to go inside some of these planes. I know, I just complained about not being able to touch them, which you can totally do at Pima, and now I want more!)

When’s the last time you had this view?

Pima Air Space Museum-Under-a-Plane
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

I am fascinated by the early commercial flights, the legends being PanAm (I saw some of their history in Key West) and TWA.

Pima Air Space Museum-TWA
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

It is so cool to walk and sit under the planes, look into the propellers and get so close. In this photo,

Like here, where I am sitting on a bench under a Boeing EC-135J. It was kind of them to provide benches, they must know the plight of photographer’s wife….lots of waiting!

Pima-Air-Space-Museum-Under-the-Plane

There are planes from all over the world, NASA, Air Force One planes…see so easy to geek out! We were able to photograph awesome details that we generally aren’t able to get because of museum barriers.

Like propellers.

Pima Air Space Museum-Plane-Details-Propeller
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

And noses.

Pima Air Space Museum-Plane-Details-Nose
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

While we were out walking the grounds getting lost in all the planes, the jet pilots at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (which butts up against the museum) were taking off. They were hitting the air at a rate of one per minute it was pretty awesome to see them as I watched while standing under the 787.

Pima-Air-Space-Museum-Jet-Planes-Take-Off

There is an extra tour ($7) you can purchase with your museum entry which takes you onto the base to see the boneyard there, however, we passed on that because it is done via a bus and you cannot get off the bus to get close. We were so satisfied with all the planes we did get access to at the museum, we didn’t think it made sense to do the extra tour.

The museum has a great little restaurant and multiple hangars of planes and air history, enough to spend many hours without getting bored. If you are in the Phoenix area it is worth the drive to Tucson (a little more than an hour by car) to visit Pima Air & Space Museum.

Check for special events when planning your trip. They host lecture series throughout the year as well. There is one coming up in March about women pilots and I am really interested in attending when we are back in Arizona for the month.

After your visit, when you are ready to head home, I highly recommend seeking out Tucson Tamales just down the road. They have some of the most amazing tamales I’ve had in my life. You can’t visit Tucson without stopping! Plus they are the nicest people!

Tucson-Tamales

After lunch we also bought some frozen ones to take with us, a quick steam makes for an easy and delicious dinner.

Note for RVers: We didn’t bring our RV, but there is plenty of parking that would accommodate a rig and tow car, so it is definitely doable on your way in or out of the Phoenix area.

How about you? Do you like air and space museums? Have you been to Pima? Got other Tucson recommendations including restaurants? Do tell!

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42 Comments

  1. Jaime Nicole
    January 20, 2016

    You’ve got some really great pictures! It must have been really fun to be able to touch the planes and take pictures as much as you wanted.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Jaime, it was!

      Reply
  2. Sarah Ebner
    January 20, 2016

    This really does look like a terrific museum – and I love how you can get so close to all the aeroplanes – that’s definitely not something you can normally do. We went to the Air and Space in Washington DC recently, but this is certainly another one to add to our list.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Sarah, the Air & Space museum in D.C. is pretty cool too! But I have never had access to so many planes that close before, it was fun!

      Reply
  3. Esther | The Cuteness
    January 20, 2016

    My 2 year old would LOVE this place. She is totally obsessed with airplanes! Your pics look great!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Esther, she would love it, she can get so close!

      Reply
  4. Alli
    January 20, 2016

    Those tamales look wonderful! And my grands would love to visit that space museum. I like the fact that you can get up close and personal with all the planes. Looks like a fun day!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Alli, I have never been able to do that with airplanes, so it was pretty cool. I bet your grandkids would love it!

      Reply
  5. Jenn @ EngineerMOmmy
    January 20, 2016

    This sounds like a fabulous museum! I would love to visit Tucson. My uncle is a huge fan of studying space and he would love to visit the museum!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Jenn, it sounds like the perfect spot for your uncle.

      Reply
  6. Amazing pictures! Definitely one place I would love to visit!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Nancy, it is a very cool spot.

      Reply
  7. Terri Beavers
    January 20, 2016

    I’d love to take the grand kids to this air space museum. We really enjoy visiting museums and learning from the history of everything.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Terri, I know your grandkids would love it!

      Reply
  8. Cara (@StylishGeek)
    January 20, 2016

    Thanks for sharing your recent travel! I do like visiting air and space museums! I have been to JPAL and have visited two airfreight carriers that have already retired. They had a museum of retired planes too.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Cara, I have not been on a carrier yet, I definitely need to do that!

      Reply
  9. Jenn
    January 20, 2016

    We took the kids somewhere similar. It was an air zoo.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Jenn, an air zoo! Where? Would love to see that!

      Reply
      1. Jenn
        January 22, 2016

        http://www.airzoo.org/index.php It’s located in Michigan. We had a great time.

        Reply
        1. Andi Fisher
          January 22, 2016

          @Jenn, wow that looks awesome, I have it on the list, we might hit Michigan in the autumn!

          Reply
  10. Megan Elford
    January 20, 2016

    My son is working on his pilot’s licence, so we stop at every plane museum we can find. It’s just as fascinating for the rest of us as it is for him. He would love Pima!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Mega, it should definitely be on his list, it is the best museum I have seen!

      Reply
  11. Rebecca Swenor
    January 21, 2016

    This sounds like an amazing time at the Pima Air & Space Museum. I would love to visit Tuscan some day and go to Pima Air & Space Museum. It would be amazing to see all these plane and imagine the being on the planes when they were in service.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Rebecca, I know, I’d love to be able to go inside some of those older ones.

      Reply
  12. Mistee Dawn
    January 21, 2016

    I would love to take my daughter to that museum! Looks like fun and she would love it. I have never been to Tucson!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Mistee, any kid would they way you can touch and climb under everything.

      Reply
  13. John Lopez
    January 21, 2016

    I’ve never been to an air museum, I want to go sometime. I live in Texas, I wonder if there is one close to here. Great pics!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @John, I bet they do, there are plenty of bases in Texas, etc. And lots of air history, I can’t imagine there isn’t.

      Reply
  14. Jasmine Watts
    January 21, 2016

    This sounds like a wonderful museum.. All the pictures are amazing!! I would love to visit!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Jasmine, it really was a lot of fun!

      Reply
  15. coolchillmom
    January 21, 2016

    wow thanks for sharing this. It is totally in my bucket list now. You got some amazing fun shots too.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @CoolChillMom, it is awesome for the family!

      Reply
  16. Britni
    January 21, 2016

    I have taken my kids to a similar museum and my boys were in heaven! You don’t realize how huge those planes are until you are standing beside them!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @Britni, it is so awesome to get up that close!

      Reply
  17. Bites for Babies
    January 21, 2016

    What a cool place to bring the kids! My son is so into airplanes and rocket ships right now so he would love this!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 22, 2016

      @BitesforBabies, he would! We saw other families with children and it is amazing how much they can run around and touch things!

      Reply
  18. Mimi Green
    January 22, 2016

    I’m not really big into planes but this place looks cool. I do like to take them to the air and space museum.

    Reply
  19. […] one being in Santa Fe). We also visited while staying in Phoenix when we totally geeked out at the Pima Air and Space Museum and wolfed down some of the best tamales I’ve ever […]

    Reply
  20. Edith
    September 16, 2017

    It makes me so happy to see this post from my lovely Tucson! I’ve gone to the Air & Space Museum show that they have yearly and it’s quite fun. As for food recommendations, so many! Tucson is known for its cuisine and it’s street food. Mexican food is really popular. Some great places are Guadalajara Grill, Street Tacos (name of place), and Guero Canelo for authentic taste. 🙂 Hoping to move back next year because it’s the food and family I miss most!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      September 21, 2017

      @Edith, thank you thank you for the recommedations. I’m going back soon and I will definitely try them!

      Reply
  21. […] in the fact that you can get up close and even climb over many of the over 300+ airplanes, and Pima Air & Space Museum tops our lists of favorite museums in the […]

    Reply
  22. […] were able to relax and start checking out the local sites. We had an amazing, interactive visit at Pima Air & Space Museum (along with some amazing tamales) in Tucson and I was keen on making sure we didn’t leave before […]

    Reply

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