USS Midway Museum Provides a Fun History Lesson

USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum Panorama

Experience Life Aboard the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier

It is not often that you visit a city where there is a legendary aircraft carrier moored on its coastline and allows visitors on-board. On our last trip to San Diego we had seen the USS Midway while driving by, but didn’t get to visit as we had other plans for the day. So, while planning our latest San Diego vacation we made sure to plan in a visit to the USS Midway which is one of only five aircraft carrier museums in the United States.

I was a little hesitant at first to bring my daughter to visit the USS Midway Museum as I didn’t know if she would find it interesting or if there was anything on-board that she was too young to learn about. After showing her all of the interactive exhibits, the views from the flight deck, the aircraft on display and how they let visitors climb into the plane cockpits, she was excited about visiting the ship. Then I found out that there is a kid friendly version of the audio tour that filters out everything that young ears should not be hearing, so I knew it was a family friendly tour. Once these two small worries were no longer, I added it to our San Diego itinerary.

Aerial View of USS Midway and Navy Pier

An aerial view of the USS Midway flight deck and Navy Pier. | Courtesy of USS Midway Museum

The USS Midway museum is located at the Navy pier in Downtown San Diego, which is very close to other family friendly attractions. There is a lot of metered parking around the area (make sure to bring change) or you can pay for a full day in one of the lots alongside Navy Pier. If you do pay for a full day of parking you can tour the USS Midway and also take a short walk down to Seaport Village or the Embarcadero Marina Park.

USS Midway Museum Highlights

  • Self-guided audio tour
  • 29 Aircraft on Display
  • Short Films
  • Midway Museum Docents
  • 60 Ship Locations to Explore
  • Flight Simulators
  • Interactive Exhibits
  • Cafe and Gift Shop

Exploring the USS Midway Museum

The USS Midway Aircraft Carrier self guided tour brings you to many levels of the ship with 60 locations to stop at and listen to Midway sailors tell their stories. In addition to the audio tour, there are numerous docents throughout each level of the ship that share their stories and experiences.

The Flight Deck and Bridge

Panoramic view from USS Midway Flight Deck

The port side view off of the flight deck of the USS Midway which overlooks Downtown San Diego, North San Diego Bay and Tuna Harbor Park. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

A-7 Corsair II on the USS Midway

A Midway Docent talking to visitors in front of the A-7 Corsair II on the USS Midway flight deck. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

On the top level of this massive ship there is the flight deck, the bridge, the ready rooms and the Admiral and Captain quarters. As you climb the stairs to the flight deck, you are visually greeted with fighter jets, helicopters, the beautiful view and the towering ship’s bridge. This is the most familiar part of the aircraft carrier that most people are used to seeing, but stepping on that flight deck gave me the chills like when I hear God Bless the U.S.A. at a 4th of July celebration.

  • Over 20 aircraft situated across the flight deck
  • Climb into the cockpit or walk through aircraft
  • Guided tours of the captain’s bridge and control tower (get in line early)
  • Ready rooms where pilot squadrons were on “stand by” for flight
  • Learn about message flags and launching and landing planes

The Hangar Deck

SNJ Texan Airplane on the USS Midway

An SNJ Texan Airplane on the hangar deck of the USS Midway Museum. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

Madi enjoying audio tour and in cockpit of plane

Madi enjoying the audio tour and sitting in the cockpit of a plane on the USS Midway Museum. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

The hangar deck is where you enter the USS Midway and where you can pick up your audio tour equipment. The hangar is a large deck that was used to store the aircraft when not in use along with spare fuel tanks, engines and other aircraft parts. While most of the aircraft are located on the flight deck at the museum, during her service the hangar is where most of the 80 planes were held. This deck has a lot of nice exhibits, but it also has some non-historical guest areas.

  • 5 aircraft and some with climb-in cockpits
  • Midway model and a see-through floor spanning multiple decks
  • Ejection Seat Theater
  • Brig (jail) and forecastle (anchor room)
  • Ride in flight simulators (additional cost)
  • A gift shop and the Fantail Cafe

The Floating City at Sea – Levels 2, 3 and 4

USS Midway Museum Officer's Quarters

The officer’s quarters provided some ship luxuries. The executive officers had an even more luxurious one bedroom apartment like accommodations. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

USS Midway Museum Aircraft Carrier Galley

One of the galleys that was responsible for serving 13,500 meals on a daily basis. | Photo by FamilyVacationHub

The USS Midway has a small city tucked away under its large flight deck and you get to explore the depths of the ship on your own self guided tour. See what it was like living day-to-day on the ship as you walk through these lower decks. A lot of the areas on these lower decks have well made sailor mannequins in uniform at their work posts.

  • Galleys (kitchens) and Mess Halls
  • Executive Officer’s Quarters
  • Post Office, Barber Shop and Laundry Room
  • Dentist Office, Sick Bay and Operating Rooms
  • Machine and Metal Shops

Why We Recommend the USS Midway Museum For Families

  • An Awe-Inspiring Ship
  • Great Audio Tour
  • Audio Specific For Kids
  • Fun and Educational
  • Hearing Stories From the Docents
  • Entering Aircraft & Sit in Cockpits
  • Exploring the City at Sea
  • Learning About Living on the Ship
  • Beautiful Views from the Flight Deck

USS Midway Museum Photo Gallery (35 Images)

  • Aerial view of the USS Midway Museum
  • F9F-8P Cougar
  • USS Midway Radio Room
  • Madi in the cockpit of a T-2 Buckeye

A Little History

The USS Midway is one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers, serving from 1945 to 1992. When she was commissioned in 1945, the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier was the largest ship in the world and was the first ship too large to traverse the Panama Canal. She was named after the very important Battle of Midway which was a major turning point in World War II. The ship saw action in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm as well as humanitarian rescue missions in Saigon and the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. During its service, with a crew of 4,500 at a time, the USS Midway has seen over 200,000 sailors serve aboard the carrier.

USS Midway Museum Links & Information


We were provided a media pass for the purpose of covering this place on our blog. Regardless, we would only recommend places, activities or services that we would use/visit personally and that we believe will be good for our readers.

About Joe Filipowicz

I have a passion for finding fun things to do, good restaurants and places to stay while traveling with my family and friends. Since it takes a lot of research and exploration to find these family friendly places, I wanted to share my findings with others to make it easier for them to plan their next getaway.

One thought on “USS Midway Museum Provides a Fun History Lesson

  1. Evans

    I would one day like to visit the museum. Though I live in Kenya, reading about this adventure really intrigues me.

    Reply

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