Located in Downtown San Diego at Navy Pier, the USS Midway Museum is a great place to visit for a family day out, offering hands-on activities and a fascinating look into what it’s like to live and work on a carrier. Read on for tips on visiting the USS Midway Museum with kids.
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USS Midway Museum with Kids
The USS Midway was one of America’s longest serving aircraft carriers, in service for 47 years from 1945 to 1992, and is now a maritime museum in San Diego dedicated to carriers and naval aviation.
There are 60 areas to explore in the USS Midway Museum San Diego, including the sleeping quarters, engine room, radio room, galley and war room. There are also several museum docents you will have the chance to meet throughout the USS Midway Museum, who help bring the carrier to life with their own experiences and anecdotes.
The San Diego naval carrier museum houses more than 30 restored aircraft on display between the Hangar Deck and Flight Deck. The wide array of aircraft spans decades from the Battle of Midway in 1942 to today’s tactical aircraft. Visitors can climb into several of these aircraft for a great hands-on experience and fascinating look inside.
Admission includes a self-guided audio tour, narrated by USS Midway sailors, that takes you through the 60 exhibits and altogether lasts 3 hours. You can choose which locations to visit in the aircraft carrier museum, however, so the length of the tour lasts between 2 to 4 hours, depending on the visitor.
The Family Audio Tour, a 2 to 3 hour self-guided audio tour tailored to children, is also available. The Family Audio Tour follows Airman Sam Rodriguez through more than 30 locations on the carrier.
We didn’t use an audio guide during this visit, but I have used one on a previous visit to the USS Midway San Diego. The audio guides are fascinating to listen to the sailors’ stories about what life was like on this floating city on the sea as you move through the various rooms.
We started our self-guided tour of the USS Midway Museum at the Hangar Deck. This is where you will find the Information Kiosk, the Battle of Midway theater, flight simulators and several climb-in cockpits.
Top tip for visiting the USS Midway Museum with kids, don’t forget to stop by the Information Kiosk to find out how your children can earn their Junior Pilot Wings during the visit.
One of the highlights visiting the USS Midway Museum with kids is the opportunity to get hands on and climb into several aircraft cockpits. Little T started off with the F-8 Crusader supersonic fighter jet, that entered service in the late 1950s and flew from the Midway during her first combat deployment to Vietnam in 1965.
There was work in progress on restoring this aircraft’s rotor blade – very interesting to watch while we explored the Hangar Deck!
The next part of the tour is up on the USS Midway Flight Deck, which features 26 restored aircraft, including jet fighters, attack aircraft, helicopters and specialist designs. The Flight Deck is one of the highlights visiting the USS Midway Museum with kids, with plenty of opportunities to climb aboard or walk through the aircraft.
The naval carrier museum’s inventory includes: a SBD Dauntless dive bomber (World War II), a F9F Panther jet fighter (Korean War), a Huey gunship (Vietnam War) and a F/A-18 Hornet combat jet (Desert Storm). See the most up-to-date aircraft gallery details at the USS Midway Museum.
You might recognize the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet that became well-known thanks to the film Top Gun. Tomcats were armed with a 20mm cannon and array of guided missiles, making them the carrier battle group’s first line of defense for more than 30 years.
Top Gun was also mostly filmed in San Diego – the site of the training school, for example, was filmed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar.
We carried on exploring the USS Midway Museum Flight Deck, where there are several jet cockpits that you can climb into.
The Midway was in the forefront of jet aviation at sea, and at the museum, you can see the comprehensive array of advanced carrier aircraft throughout the post-1945 era.
The Flight Deck at the Midway aircraft museum features the most complete collection of seaborne helicopters. The HH-46 Sea Knight search and rescue helicopter was so fascinating to climb into and see what it’s like on the inside!
From the USS Midway Flight Deck, you also have an amazing view of San Diego Bay, Downtown and the Coronado Bridge.
Shown in the photo below is the 25-ft. tall “Unconditional Surrender” statue based on the iconic photo taken on V-J (Victory Over Japan) Day of a U.S. Navy sailor in Times Square grabbing a nurse for a kiss when the news broke that Japan had surrendered.
Admiral’s & Captain’s Country
Just below the USS Midway Museum Flight Deck, we went into the Admiral’s and Captain’s Quarters. The series of rooms included living rooms, a private kitchen with a cook, full bathrooms and conference rooms.
Also just below the Flight Deck is the War Room, the command center where the staff would maintain the strategic picture of the region where the Midway was operating.
In 1991, developments during Operation Desert Storm were analyzed and displayed in this room using the sliding map panels.
The complex Radio message center is where staff would patch and route radio signals to, from, and around the ship.
The next part of the USS Midway Museum self-guided tour took us through the Captain’s Quarters. The Captain’s Quarters consists of a bedroom and bathroom, lounge and a conference room. Little T hightailed it out of there the moment the animatronic captain behind the counter kicked into gear to welcome us to his cabin!
We didn’t manage to see the rest of the carrier’s Below Deck Exhibits on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Decks, where you’d find the crew’s sleeping quarters, post office, ship’s jail, mess hall and more.
There is so much to see and do visiting the USS Midway Museum San Diego with kids, and I look forward to coming back again to explore the areas we missed. This brilliant aircraft carrier museum is very family-friendly and a great value for a San Diego day out. I highly recommend visiting for a fun, interactive and educational experience.
Address & Ticket Info
USS Midway Museum San Diego
Address: 910 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
Opening Hours: 10am to 5pm; last admission at 4pm. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
USS Midway Tickets: Adult (13+) tickets are $31; youth (ages 6 to 12) are $21; children under 5 enter free. Veteran tickets (with proof of service) are $21. Complimentary admission for active-duty military personnel, law enforcement and firefighters – see the USS Midway Museum website for full details.
Parking: There is a parking lot alongside the San Diego USS Midway Museum on Navy Pier and metered spaces available on surrounding city streets
Food and Drink: The two options for food and beverages at the USS Midway, located off the Hangar Deck, are Cafe 41 and Jet Express, a grab-n-go stop. Cafe 41 serves sandwiches, burritos and tamales, burgers and salads.
Good to Know
- Ticket fare includes a free self-guided audio tour sharing details of over 60 locations.
- The Family Self-Guided Audio tour is tailored to children, following Airman Sam Rodriguez through more than 30 locations on the carrier. Guests should allow 2 to 3 hours to experience the tour.
- Stop by the Information Kiosk to find out how children can earn their Junior Pilot Wings.
- 60% of the USS Midway Museum’s exhibits are wheelchair accessible. Elevators are available from Navy Pier to the ship entrance, from the Hangar Deck down to the second deck, and from the Flight Deck to the Hangar Deck.
San Diego with Kids Guide
I hope you found this post on visiting the USS Midway Museum San Diego with kids helpful! San Diego is a great family destination offering plenty to see and do year round. Read on for more tips and reviews for planning a family trip to San Diego, California;
This USS Midway Museum San Diego with kids post was updated on 5 August 2023 with latest visitor information, ticket prices and additional photos.
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