USS Midway Museum Highlights
A self-made monument to American power in the Cold War era and beyond, the USS Midway Museum strikes a commanding presence against the downtown San Diego skyline from its permanent berth, within the inlet of San Diego Bay.
Decommissioned from active service in 1992, today this aircraft carrier, one of the largest of its kind (it was the first carrier too large to venture through the Panama Canal), serves to educate new generations and honor previous ones as a living landmark of martial history.
Named for one of World War II’s most decisive naval engagements, the USS Midway was commissioned in 1945. It served with distinction for nearly five decades, longer than any carrier in the 20th Century, during the Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars, giving home to approximately 225,000 sailors over the course of its lifespan.
General admission to this center for naval and air force technology and history includes a complimentary, self-guided audio tour, narrated by veterans who fought at Midway, offered in English, Spanish, and Japanese. Docents, volunteer guides with deep familiarity with the Midway, share their knowledge through specially-led tours that focus on the areas of their expertise. The museum also has overnight programs for children and their families.
Atop the nearly 4-acre flight deck of the USS Midway, an all-encompassing view of downtown San Diego is complemented by a display of roughly 25 restored aircraft, some with open cockpits to allow visitors to climb aboard and feel the grip of a real throttle themselves. The collection of restored historic aircraft and helicopters includes the A-1 Skyraider, A-3 Skywarrior, A-4 Skyhawk, and F-14 Tomcat aircraft, and the SH-3 Seaking and H-46 Sea Knight helicopters.
The ship’s highest accessible point is the superstructure known as the “island,” which houses the bridge and flight control command centers – try visiting the island early, as the line to get in can grow noticeably larger as the day goes on.
Down below, the hangar deck, machine shops, pilots’ ready rooms, galley, and laundry facilities demonstrate the day-to-day operations that kept the Midway running. 3 flight simulators offer visitors an insight into piloting the powerful aircraft stored on board. The engine room provides a look at the engineering marvel of making such a massive vessel move.
Meanwhile, the confined spaces of the living quarters and mess hall paint a portrait of life aboard a warship packed between 4,500 fellow crewmates while at sea for months at a time.
The Museum also includes a gift shop within the hangar deck, as well as a café, featuring burgers, sandwiches, and some ‘choice’ culinary selections from the vessel’s original 1945 menu.
The Midway is docked alongside Navy Pier on the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego and is open daily (except on Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with final entry closing at 4 p.m. Admission to the Museum is free for young children and active-duty military personnel, with discounted rates for seniors and non-active-duty service members.
The vessel, as well as a majority of its exhibits, is wheelchair-accessible via an elevator on the pier. Paid parking is available by the hour outside. A full tour of the carrier should take at least 3 hours, so plan accordingly. For more information on the USS Midway Museum, go to www.midway.org.