Located in San Diego, California, the USS Midway Museum is America’s largest museum dedicated to naval history and preservation. The floating exhibition is housed inside the retired USS Midway carrier, offering visitors a hands-on re-creation of life on deck through aircraft restorations, flight simulators, and a self-guided audio tour.
The USS Midway was one of the preeminent United States Navy ships of the 20th century, serving 225,000 sailors throughout the Vietnam and Gulf wars. The Midway was the largest ship in the world at her commissioning in 1945, holding the distinction for a decade, and was noted for revolutionary advances in safety and piloting technology. After 49 years of service, the Midway was retired on April 11, 1992, but began a new life in 2004 when she was permanently docked on San Diego’s Navy Pier and opened to the public for tours. Since June 2004, more than 1.4 million annual visitors have made the USS Midway Museum America’s most popular maritime museum.
Audio Tour: The Midway’s three deck levels can be navigated at visitors’ leisure via a self-guided audio tour with over 60 stops. Visitors can learn about the technology of life at sea with engine room tours, knot-tying demonstrations, and introductions to the language of Morse code and message flags. The tour also places a heavy emphasis on the ship’s community culture, with stops at the ship’s sleeping quarters, jail, post office, and sick bay.
Two audio tour options are available, a full 3-hour Adventure Tour or a condensed family-friendly version. Each stop on the tour is brought to life with narration from former Midway sailors, who recount memories of their daily routines and greatest adventures aboard the carrier. In addition to the recordings, on-site docents throughout the museum provide anecdotes and helpful explanations related to the exhibits. On selected days, visitors can also meet and greet with World War II veterans who served aboard the ship and hear their stories.
Aircraft Collection: The flight deck houses a collection of more than 29 restored aircraft dating back as far as World War II. Featured aircraft include an SBD Dauntless dive bomber, an F9F Panther, an F-4 Phantom, and an A-6 Intruder. Climb-aboard exhibits offer visitors a close-up view of cockpits and helicopters, complete with audio of actual pilot conversations. The USS Midway Airwing Restoration volunteer organization is devoted to preserving and expanding the museum’s aircraft collection, with a planned expanded air wing for the museum currently in development.
Flight Simulators: For visitors seeking maximum adventure, two flight simulators offer additional hands-on thrills. The Air Combat 360 is a two-passenger ride that dips, rolls, and spins, while the 12-seat Flight Avionics runs a full mission complete with targets and tasks. Flight simulator tickets are not included with regular museum admission, but can be purchased on site at ride time or online in advance for a discounted rate.
Battle of Midway Theater: The museum’s newest attraction is a 90-seat movie theater hosting free periodic showings of Voices of Midway, a 14-minute film that offers a powerful look at one of World War II’s most pivotal battles and the troops who fought in it.
In addition to its public exhibits, the museum has curated a research library collection of more than 9,700 items. Currently, the USS Midway Library holds one of the largest collections of naval history resources on the West Coast. Ongoing projects in conjunction with the US Naval Institute aim to compile a complete history of Midway service members and proceedings. The library is accessible to museum members at the Circle Level as well as community researchers, volunteers, and former Midway crew members.
The Midway University project aims to use the museum’s resources to create unique learning opportunities for San Diego students. One of the most popular programs offered is Overnight Adventures, which gives youth aged 4-18 the opportunity to eat in the galley and sleep in crew berths like real Midway crew members, while learning about the ship’s history. The On Board With series offers day trip experiences tailored to grades 2-8 that incorporate curriculum standards in science, math, and social studies, while high schoolers can take a virtual field trip back in time to the end of the Vietnam War and learn about the evacuation of Saigon. Seminars provided through the USS Midway Institute program offer professional development opportunities for history and social studies teachers to expand their knowledge about 20th-century military conflicts and learn how to incorporate new perspectives into their classrooms.
910 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA, 92101, website, Phone: 619-544-9600
Back to: San Diego, California
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