A family of four, three on bikes, stops in front of an old brick building shaded by trees.
Fort Apache Historic Park, Whiteriver

History & Culture

Arizona's Military Sites & Aerospace Attractions

From state landmarks to JFK's Air Force One, explore significant battle sites, collections of important airplanes, and museums dedicated to military and space history in Arizona.

Across the state, visitors can explore Arizona's fascinating military and aerospace past at museums and landmarks whose history made an impact in Arizona—and beyond.

Historic military sites

Re-creation of a historic outdoor covered patio with a mesquite branch roof, pottery and stonework planters in the yard
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, in southeastern Arizona, protects the ruins of a 1752 Spanish fort, the oldest in Arizona. Exhibits and artifacts examine how humans settled the Santa Cruz River Valley, dating back to the Pima Indian community in the 1500s to its time as a fort inhabited by U.S. soldiers. Visitors can see the original adobe walls of the fort and other historic buildings such as Arizona's second-oldest Territorial School House (circa 1885).

Soldiers and settlers eventually moved north and established the presidio (military settlement) of Tucson to further protect Spanish interests. You can view a re-creation of the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum as it appeared in its original location in 1775. October through April, enjoy living history demonstrations and military drill reenactments (soldiers firing their muskets are a favorite). Year-round, docents provide guided tours to bring the site's military and civilian history to life.

By 1853, after Arizona became a U.S. territory, forts were built at remote sites supplied with goods arriving by boat through the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, along the Colorado River. Explore the important 1864 depot grounds and its buildings, learning about the military presence in Yuma and the depot's importance to the growth of settlements across the Southwest, at Colorado River State Historic Park.

Interior of a frontier home - white walls and sparse wood furniture, including a rocking chair, table and chairs
Fort Verde State Historic Park, Camp Verde

Roughly 20 years later, from the 1870s through the 1880s, Fort Verde State Historic Park served as a U.S. Army base during the Central Arizona Indian Wars. Today, the park is Arizona's best-preserved example of an Indian Wars period fort where you can visit four well-preserved buildings, including the Commanding Officer's Quarters and the Surgeon's Quarter. Regular tours and reenactments complete the experience.

Further east, hear the American Indian perspective of post-Civil War conflicts at Fort Apache Historic Park, near Whiteriver, in Arizona's White Mountains. Walk among 27 preserved 1870s buildings that tell the story of battles between the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the settlers, as well as the U.S. government's efforts to dismantle the indigenous culture through boarding schools and assimilation into mainstream American culture.

Military exhibits and museums

Looking down into a massive 35-foot launch duct containing an inactive Titan II missile.
Titan Missle Museum (Photo courtesy of the museum)

Journey into the underground silo of a nuclear missile site, now the Titan Missile Museum, near Sahuarita, south of Tucson. It remains the United States' only publicly accessible Cold War-era Titan II missile site—the last of 54 that were on alert from 1963 to 1987. As you tour the museum (with an actual, disarmed missile still in the launch deck) you'll experience a simulated launch, complete with a siren and lights.

Note: For guests who are deaf or hard of hearing, Titan Missile Museum will provide an on-site Qualified Sign Language Interpreter free of charge for the 45-minute guided tour. Contact the museum at info@titanmissilemuseum.org at least 10 calendar days in advance with your request. More information is available on their website.

Gain a broader understanding of military service at the Arizona Military Museum in Phoenix. The Arizona National Guard Historical Society tells the military story of Arizona and its residents with artifacts, including vehicles and weaponry, plus photos and newspaper clippings. The museum covers military operations from 16th-century Spanish conquistadors to 21st-century Operation Iraqi Freedom and today's Arizona Air National Guard.

Fort Huachuca, established in 1882 in Sierra Vista, maintains a historical museum that's open to the public. Learn about the Army's presence in the Southwest frontier, including the famed African-American Buffalo Soldiers, up to and including today's unmanned aerial systems. A museum on U.S. intelligence is nearby. Because the site is an active U.S. Army base, please see the special rules in place for domestic and international visitors.

Military planes and space aircraft

Two people walk between a row of small-engine aircraft of varying designs. Above them hang even more plans in yellow and red.
Pima Air & Space Museum (Credit: Andrés Lobato)

Nearly 400 civilian, commercial and military aircraft and spacecraft populate Tucson's Pima Air & Space Museum, one of the world's largest non-government-funded aviation museums. Its impressive collection spans six indoor exhibit hangars, including three dedicated solely to World War II. You'll also find the Presidents Kennedy and Johnson's Air Force One, nearly every aircraft used in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and one of NASA's unusual-looking Super Guppy cargo planes. Oh, and it's pet-friendly, too!

Fly over the Phoenix area in a restored B-17G Flying Fortress, a B-25J Mitchell, or a host of other authentically restored World War II aircraft at the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force in Mesa. The nearly two-dozen planes at the Arizona Wing of the CAF are supplemented with exhibits on the Tuskegee Airmen, the Flying Tigers, WASP (Women's Air Force Service Pilots), and British cadets who trained in Mesa.

Open by appointment (call the Douglas Visitor Center), the small Border Air Museum in Douglas celebrates the city's aviation history with photographs, articles and artifacts. At this aircraft museum, you'll learn that the small border town had the first international airport in the U.S. and how the town played a role in airstrikes during the Mexican Revolution.

Smoke pours out of a space shuttle as it lifts off from a space center. The shapes of birds can be seen flying around the sky
Challenger Flight 51-I launches (Credit: NASA - Kennedy Space Center Archives)

Additional Attractions


Grab a burger and see where the first plane landed in Arizona at Yuma Landing Bar & Grill. That October 1911 feat is recorded in a number of period photographers on the restaurant's walls, as well as with a marker and statue of the flier, Bob Fowler.

Established in tribute to the fallen astronauts of the Challenger space shuttle, the Challenger Space Center of Arizona in Phoenix allows visitors to experience the wonders of space travel. Follow the stars in planetarium shows or examine the universe through a telescope on family nights. The exhibits, mostly geared toward small children, include items that have flown in space, meteorites and space shuttle artifacts.

Currently, the center is open to the public only on Saturdays until 3 p.m. Be sure to check the site to confirm hours of operation.

About the Author

Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.

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