Before heading over to the USS Midway Museum, we checked out on AWESOME playground across the street. Since we were still on East Coast time and up early, we spent some time playing before the Midway opened at 10:00 a.m. The boys had a blast on all the climbing structures and the mosaic sculptures there were beautiful!
USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway Museum is definitely a must-see attraction when you visit San Diego. Everyone in the family enjoyed visiting the ship—including the 18 month old! When you first enter the musuem, they snap a quick family picture (back drop of the ship), which you can purchase on your way out if you choose.
Including in admission to the museum, is a free guided audio tour (the tour was very well-marked if you choose this option). If you are bringing small children in a stroller, there are elevators on the ship. I would not advise bringing a stroller down to the lower level, since the passageways are very narrow and would not be very accessible.
Man and Machine (the Hangar Deck)
On the main level you will find some airplane and helicopter cockpits you can hop into, in addition to a snack bar, gift shop, and restrooms. If you choose to grab a snack or meal while at the USS Midway museum, you can take it outside onto the side deck and enjoy a beautiful view while you eat!
For the older kids and adults, there are also flight simulators that you can use (I think it was an $8 fee). Also on the main level, kids can try their hands at the knot-tying board, check out climb-in bunks and cockpits, and check out the walk-through jail. On selected days, you can also meet World War II veterans.
City at Sea (2nd, 3rd, and 4th decks)
The most fascinating part of the tour is on the lower level, the “city at sea.” The USS Midway was commissioned in 1945 and decommissioned in 1992 (in San Diego), so many military members spent time living on the ship.
At the time of its commissioning, it was the largest ship in the world (it was too big to fit through the Panama Canal). It remained in that position for a decade. In 2004, it opened as the USS Midway Museum, and it has received over 5 million visitors since its opening!
It was absolutely fascinating to view infrastructure that supported so many sailors! You can see the kitchen, mess halls, living quarters, social areas, laundry, post office, and so much more.
Along the way, you can view black and white photographs of the ship during its use, along with quotes from former sailors. As with most aircraft carriers, you could get lost down there with all of the twists and turns.
There was so much to see, and every one of us marveled at how many different things were down there to take care of the 4,500 person crew and civilians on the ship at any given time.
During the ships tenure, there were 600 men in engineering on board, 225 cooks, 200 pilots, 40 corpsmen, 5 physicians, and 3 dentists! There were 40 different skippers in the ship’s 47 years of service. While at sea, the USS Midway went through 10 tons of food a day, served in 13,500 meals!
After spending about 45 minutes exploring the lower level, we headed back upstairs for a brief stopover before heading up to the flight deck. On the flight deck there are a number of retired airplanes and helicopters that you can climb into— it’s so cool and the boys loved getting to sit in the planes!
On the roof, you can also check out the admiral and captain’s quarters and the ready rooms. You can also listen to real pilot conversations, learn morse code, and decipher message flags.
There are also great views of San Diego Bay and the other military ships and surrounding downtown area.