Where else in the world, besides San Diego, can you climb aboard a real retired military aircraft carrier and learn about the intimate moments of its past? The USS Midway accommodated over four million visitors in its first five years since opening in 2004. It has since become the world’s most visited floating ship museum, and San Diego, California’s number one tourist attraction. Docked at the Navy Pier between Seaport Village and B Street Cruise Terminal, the USS Midway offers visitors an unfiltered and authentic glimpse into its glorious past.
The Storied Past of the USS Midway
For 47 years the USS Midway served in military and rescue operations around the globe, and was one of the main aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War. Active in every war from World War II to Desert Storm, jets could be deployed two at a time from the hangar to the flight deck in ten seconds. Those returning from maneuvers landed on the deck in a space no larger than a tennis court.
At the end of the Vietnam War, over 3,000 South Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to the flight deck in military helicopters during Operation Frequent Wind. In 1991, 1,800 Americans were rescued during Operation Fiery Vigil after the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. Docents on the USS Midway Museum are mostly retired military personnel who served on the Midway or in similar capacities, and who share their first-hand accounts of these and other events with museum visitors.
USS Midway History Comes Alive in the Present
Visitors can take the self-guided adventure audio tour, the abbreviated family audio tour, or the private docent tour to visit the various locations throughout the Midway. The family audio tour reduces the locations to 30, and at the end children can get their Junior Pilot Wings at the information booth on the Hangar Deck. Former Midway sailors and aviators narrate tours. Some locations on the ship that are on the tours are pilots’ ready rooms, primary flight control, the brig (jail), the galley (kitchen), and the bridge (command). Visitors can also climb into aircraft cockpits and flight simulators.
Visitors can purchase inexpensive meals and snacks from the Fantail Café, where mess hall grub is also available for purchase, made from recipes in the USS Midway’s 1945 cookbook. Souvenirs such as memorabilia, clothing, CDs, DVDs, books and more can be purchased in the Jet Shop, the museum’s gift shop.
The Best Way to Visit the USS Midway
If you are driving, there is parking across from the Midway with enough spaces for 300 cars. If you choose to take the trolley and avoid the traffic and parking fees, get off at the Santa Fe Depot and walk three blocks to the museum. Tickets can be purchased at the door, and admission includes the self-guided tour, the 25 aircraft on the flight deck, and the Docent-led Island tour.
Staff and volunteer Docents on the Midway are dedicated to ensuring that the ship and informative tours are available to all visitors. Nearly 60% of the exhibitions on the USS Midway are wheelchair accessible, and self-guided audio tours offer subtitled ASL on tablets for deaf visitors.
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910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 544-9600
Website: USS Midway Museum