If you’re looking for an inexpensive yet educational commemorative experience to add to your summer vacation bucket list, then you’ll definitely want to plan a trip to the USS Midway Museum. San Diego, California, is the location of this unforgettable adventure.
Since the start of World War II, aircraft carriers have become the backbone of the U.S. Navy. Today, there are around two dozen carriers still afloat, with some still in active service and others mothballed. Five of these carriers have been transformed into aircraft museums.
Today, we are going to look at one of these museums — the USS Midway Museum. We’ll give you an overview of the USS Midway’s history and tell you everything that you should know before you decide to step foot on the carrier this summer.
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USS Midway Museum — The Carrier’s History
The USS Midway was the 20th century’s longest-serving aircraft carrier. The ship was built in 17 months and was commissioned after World War II on September 10, 1945 (missing the war by only a week). The Midway marked the beginning of a class of three carriers that had an armored flight deck and a group of 120 planes.
The aircraft carrier had a revolutionary hull design that provided enhanced protection unmatched by previous carriers. The Midway played a substantial role in the Cold War, as it was the first American carrier that could operate in the midwinter sub-Arctics and was the only ship that captured a German V-2 rocket.
The Midway was in service with the Atlantic Fleet for 10 years and made seven deployments to Europe. The carrier’s first combat deployment was in 1965 during the Vietnam War, where the aircraft shot down three MiGs. In 1975, it was a base for Air Force helicopters during Operation Frequent Wind.
Threats to Arabian oil supplies made the Midway the first American carrier to be homeported abroad in Yokosuka, Japan, and in 1990, it was deployed to the Persian Gulf during the seizure of Kuwait. During its time in commission, the Midway launched over 3,000 combat missions and sustained no losses.
On April 11, 1992, the USS Midway was decommissioned in San Diego and was put into storage in Bremerton, Washington. In 2003, the carrier was donated to the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum organization, and the USS Midway Museum was opened in 2004.
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USS Midway Museum tickets are available to purchase at the entrance of the museum upon arrival and online.
Open Monday-Sunday, the ticket booth and USS Midway Museum hours are 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Last admission is at 4:00 p.m. If you want to avoid the lines and start exploring sooner, we suggest purchasing tickets ahead of time through their website.
General Admission Prices
- Adult (ages 13+) $26
- Youth (ages 6-12) $18
- Veterans (proof of service required) $18
Midway members and pass holders can enter the Midway at any time and do not need to reserve tickets. To go aboard, simply provide a membership card/Freedom Pass and a photo ID.
- Freedom Pass annual pass for 2 people (proof of service required) $90
- Freedom Pass annual pass for 4 people (proof of service required) $150
Children under 5, active-duty military members (valid ID), active sworn law enforcement (valid ID), and active sworn firefighters and reservists (valid ID) can enter the museum for free.
If you purchase your admission tickets online, they will include the Embarcado Adventure offer, which includes discounts for various activities near the Embarcadero.
- $5 off Adult General Admission, $3 off Child Admission to the San Diego Maritime Museum.
- $5 off Adult ticket for 1-2 hour Harbor Tour with Hornblower Cruises and Events.
- $5 off Adult ticket for 1-2 hour Harbor Tour with Flagship Cruises and Events.
If you are visiting multiple attractions in San Diego, check out the variety of attraction packages available to get the best deal!
Directions and Parking
Excited to visit the USS Midway Museum this summer? Here’s some information that will help take the stress out of navigation and parking on the day of your visit.
The USS Midway is located at 910 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, California, 92101, alongside the Navy Pier.
When you arrive at the USS Midway, you’ll find that there is no designated parking lot. The best parking area is located on the Navy Pier, adjacent to the museum. The lot is owned and operated by the Port of San Diego, and there is no RV parking available.
The summer is the most popular time of year to visit the Midway, so you’ll want to anticipate the crowds and arrive early! Parking rates are between $10 and $20 but are subject to change at the discretion of the Port of San Diego.
Before you plan your visit, it is important to know that during holidays and special events, the price of parking will increase, so you may want to avoid busy holiday weekends.
If you don’t want to park in the available lots, there is also metered parking available on the streets adjacent to the museum ($1.25/hour with a 2-hour limit). Be sure to read the signs carefully before parking to understand the rates and timing.
Handicapped parking can be found in the Navy Pier parking lot and is first-come, first-served.
Exhibits and Activities
The USS Midway has over 60 exhibits and 29 restored aircraft for visitors to explore.
Flight Hangar Exhibits
The expansive floating hangar deck exhibit includes vintage aircraft from World War II, various interactive displays, and aircraft cockpit trainers that visitors can climb into and experience what it was like to pilot these aircraft. The hangar deck has multiple exhibits worth visiting. Here are just a few you can expect to see:
Battle of Midway Exhibit
This exhibit includes interactive displays about the Battle of the Midway and a holographic theater. You will also find a restored F4F Wildcat fighter and SBD Dauntless dive bomber.
The Bird Dog
The Frequent Wind display commemorates the role that the USS Midway played in saving refugees during the Fall of Saigon 1975. This exhibit contains the Bird Dog light plane that landed on the carrier’s flight deck.
Showcasing how the Midway was intended to be deployed as a wartime aircraft, this exhibit houses a few planes that it would have carried (F4U Corsair, SNJ Texan, and the TBM Avenger).
Flight Deck Exhibits
Get a close-up look at the helicopters, bombers, and fighters that landed on the flight deck of the USS Midway. Here are just a few of the exhibits:
The flight deck has 26 restored aircraft, including jet fighters, helicopters, specialist designs, and attack aircraft.
Pilot Ready Rooms
These rooms have been created and sponsored by volunteer organizations and allow visitors to learn more about carrier aviation.
Here, you will find a fully restored Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System and an interactive display explaining how this light rig helped pilots land aboard the Midway.
Below Deck Exhibits
Climb below deck and see the engine room and facilities that kept this ship afloat.
See what it was like to feed the crew aboard the USS Midway. This is so cool!
Step foot into the room, where Midway officers socialized and dined. Keep an eye out for the “Dirty Shirt” Wardroom.
Several decks down, you’ll find the restored Engine Room and Main Control Engine. Learn more about what it was like working in the noisy engine room of this powerful aircraft carrier.
Self-Guided Audio Tours
Included with the price of admission is the self-guided audio tour of the museum. USS Midway’s history is brought to life through this engaging 2-4-hour audio tour.
The tour is split into three sections: flight deck, hangar deck, and below deck. Its self-guided nature allows guests to choose where they want to visit and listen.
A 2-3 hour family, self-guided tour is also available, which is geared toward younger skippers.
Be sure to bring headphones along for you and your group if you wish to partake in the audio tour.
Spend a Day at the USS Midway Museum
Be sure to stop by the next time you are in San Diego. USS Midway Museum is an unforgettable experience that you’ll forever treasure. Don’t forget to commemorate your trip with a souvenir photo and a trinket from the gift shop.
At the conclusion of your visit, be sure to check out the USS Midway Museum website to learn more about special events, guest speakers, and ceremonies that are hosted on the carrier throughout the year.
If you want to get more involved, the Midway also offers ongoing individual/group volunteer opportunities. Check out the official USS Midway Museum website to learn more about how to apply.
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