photo: Spencer Dahl via Unsplash

The USS Midway Museum is the largest aircraft carrier in the world that you can tour––and it’s located right here in our fine city as one of the coolest things to do in San Diego! This maritime masterpiece features a flight deck and a hangar filled with more than 30 restored helicopters and aircraft, a firsthand glimpse of what life was like below deck, access to the engine room, flight simulator experiences and so much more. Your crew is sure to have a memorable adventure when you visit the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. Scroll down for an insider’s guide that will prepare you for your outing!

photo: USS Midway Museum

Photo-Op Time!
Head to the expansive Hangar Deck where little pilots can hop into the cockpits of aircraft. Even more, half-pints can try their hand at flying in the flight simulators, where they can loop, dive and spin on a mission. ($8 per person) Then head to the Battle of Midway Theater (included with admission) for a 15-minute movie on an important WWII naval battle that’s narrated by the heroes themselves.

photo: USS Midway Museum

Top of the Ship Flight Deck
Explore take-off and landing on the smallest “airport” on the open-air flight deck at the top of the ship. You’ll find fighter planes (and pilots), giant naval helicopters and all the technical and mechanical equipment (perfect for STEM learning) that makes it all work. All the more, the littles are welcome to touch, climb and go inside many of the aircraft.

Insider’s Tip: You’ll see most people accessing this top deck via the giant stairway. However, it’s good to know, there’s an elevator too. Plan on being in direct sunlight and prepare your kiddos with sunblock and hats.

photo: USS Midway Museum

A City! Below Deck!
Everyone in your crew will find walking through the complex passageways of the lower deck amazing and fun. It’s a city under the sea! From a lunch line and industrial-sized kitchen to the sleeping quarters and all the equipment needed to run the ship, going below deck is worth the trip. Even more, you can do a kid-friendly audio tour (included with admission) to get the details of where you are. Top tip: Bring your own headphones if you plan on doing the audio tour!

Insider’s Tip: Before you head below, be aware that there are steep narrow stairs to traverse when going up and down the levels, low ceilings and narrow hallways. So, strollers are not feasible on this leg of the journey.

photo: USS Midway Museum

Docents & Volunteers
Helpful and knowledgeable docents and volunteers are stationed throughout the USS Midway, many of whom sailed the ship when she was in service. They love to take photos, dress your kiddos up in their gear (on special event days) and tell you what it was like to do their job when the ship was at sea. Keep a look-out for them!

Insider’s Tip: Join in the fun of the USS Midway’s Junior Pilot Program. Visit the information booth by the onboard entrance to pick up an activity sheet that has instructions that lead you around the ship to find the answers to questions. Show the completed sheet to the docent at the info booth and your kiddo will receive their Junior Pilot Wings.

photo: Steve F. via Yelp

Feed Me Please!
When tummies start to rumble, the Fantail Cafe is located on the Hangar Deck and serves sandwiches, burgers, pizza, etc. and Starbucks coffee. It’s good to know in advance that prices are on the steep side. The Fantail Cafe menu can be found here. (pdf) Additionally, downtown there are many dining options with Seaport Village and the Gaslamp district close-by.

photo: USS Midway Museum

Special Events
The USS Midway hosts many family-friendly events you’ll want on your radar. July 14-15 is their Family Overnight Experience where you can spend the night on the ship! Their 4th of July celebration is not to be missed either. It’s sold out this year, but plan ahead for next year and you can watch the Big Bay fireworks from the flight deck! Aug. 18, plan on watching Moana under the stars on the flight deck for summer movie night.

Click here for more events held at the USS Midway.

photo: Nikki Walsh

Parking
On special event days and weekends, parking can be tricky downtown. There’s an ACE Parking Lot right next door to the USS Midway Museum that ranges from a $10 to $20 fee. Plan to get there earlier if you want to get a spot. There are several other parking lots as well. For $17/day, we parked by the Santa Fe Train Depot and walked a few blocks. Click here for more parking info.

Know Before You Go

  • Bags are checked before you’re allowed on board the USS Midway. Some of the prohibited items include outside food and beverages.
  • Plan on spending three to four hours on the ship to make the most of your visit. Same day re-entry is allowed. Just stop by the Visitors Information Center by the ship’s exit before you get off the ship if you’re planning on coming back.
  • During your exploration of the ship you’ll be doing plenty of walking, so be sure to wear comfortable, close-toed shoes.
  • It’s also recommended that you dress in layers because temperatures vary throughout the ship.
  • Click here for more info on planning your adventure aboard the USS Midway.

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (last admission is at 4 p.m. and the Museum closes at 5 p.m.)
Cost: $21/adult; $8/child; kids age five and under/free

Top Tip: Buy your tickets online and save $2 per ticket.

ADVERTISEMENT

USS Midway Museum
910 N. Harbor Dr.
San Diego, Ca
619-544-9600
Online: midway.org

Featured image: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

-Nikki Walsh

RELATED STORIES:

10 Adventure-Fueled Pitstops for Transportation Crazed Kids

9 Places to Explore STEM Learning with Your Kids

The Best Free Museum Days for Families