Planes, Air Museums, and Aviation Fun in the San Francisco Bay Area
If your kids are obsessed with planes and flying machines, then take a family outing to one of these San Francisco Bay Area air museums, airshows, and other aviation destinations. Some of these places even include the opportunity to climb aboard and sit behind the controls of real historic aircraft, while others offer the chance to watch planes and helicopters in action in the air. There's something for all ages!
Please keep in mind that hours and admission details can change, so check museum websites or call before you go.
This air museum at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa offers visitors the opportunity to climb aboard historic aircraft at its monthly Open Cockpit Weekends, Hot Dog Thursdays, and a holiday Santa fly-in, as well as exhibits and fun educational activities. They also produce the Wings Over Wine Country air show and other events like the Wheels and Wings Car Show (September 16, 2023). The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. Location: One Air Museum Way, Santa Rosa 95403
Sonoma Valley Airport (also known as Schellville Airport) is home to countless vintage and veteran aircraft, including Stearman biplanes and P-40 and P-51 warbirds. The airport holds Display Days where owners open their hangar doors and show off their planes. This is an active airport, so make sure you follow safety precautions when you're there. Location: 23980 Arnold Drive, Sonoma 95476
Photo: Hamilton Field History Museum
Novato's Hamilton neighborhood was once the site of Hamilton Air Force Base, and still contains many historic structures from the its beginnings as an army airfield back in the 1930s. The Hamilton Field History Museum is housed in the old base fire station and displays memorabilia, aircraft models, and a World War II-era Link Trainer. Open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from noon to 4 pm. Admission is free. Location: 555 Hangar Avenue, Novato 94949.
This decommissioned aircraft carrier is now a museum in the East Bay city of Alameda, and features a collection of 15 historic aircraft, as well as exhibits related to the ship's role in the Apollo space missions in the 1960s and '70s. You can also ride in a flight simulator, take a guided tour, or even stay overnight on the ship! Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 10 am to 5 pm (gates close at 4 pm). Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, military and students, $10 for youth 7 to 17, and free for children 6 and under. Location: 707 West Hornet Avenue, Pier 3, Alameda 95401
Photo: Visit Oakland
Explore the history of West Coast aviation at this museum located at Oakland International Airport's historic North Field. See a variety of aircraft, including the Short Solent flying boat featured in the classic movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (you can take a tour of the Solent on Sundays for an additional admission fee), board aircraft on open cockpit days, and learn about Bay Area aviation history through numerous exhibits. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors 55+, $13 for military and students, $10 for children 5 to 12, and free for children under 5. Location: 8252 Earhart Road, Oakland 94621
SFO's Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum and Library is housed in a replica of a 1930s passenger terminal and focuses on the history of commercial aviation, especially in the West Coast and the Pacific. The collection includes aircraft models, photographs, and airline memorabilia. Open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is free. Location: Near International Terminal A at San Francisco International Airport.
The Hiller Aviation Museum showcases aircraft as diverse as 19th-century gliders, pioneering aviator Lincoln Beachey's Little Looper, a replica of the Red Baron's Fokker Dr.1 triplane, and a number of the Hiller helicopters created by museum founder Stanley Hiller, Jr. Other attractions include flight simulators, plane cockpits to explore, an Imagination Playground, the Invention Lab, and even the opportunity to fly a drone. Open daily, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission: $19 adults, $12 seniors 65+ and youth 5 to 17, and free for children 4 and under. Some attractions, like flight simulators and drone flying, cost extra. Location: 601 Skyway Road, San Carlos 94070
Photo: Moffett Field Historical Society
This museum at Moffett Field in the South Bay includes a wide array of exhibits, including real aircraft cockpits that kids can climb into and "fly", an amazing diorama of the airship USS Macon (which was housed in Moffett Field's Iconic Hangar 1), model trains, and more. Docents, many of whom are aviation veterans, are on hand for tours. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 am–3 pm. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and disabled persons, $3 for youth 13 to 17, and free for children 12 and under and active military. Location: Severyons Avenue, Building 126, Moffett Field 94035
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