San Diego with kids: U.S.S. Midway attraction

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in San Diego with kids and not gone to the U.S.S. Midway attraction. This incredible museum is comprised of the actual aircraft carrier that now sits in the San Diego harbor. Kids who love military vessels and planes will be in heaven, and even if your level of interest for these items is usually closer to lukewarm, you’ll still be blown away. We spent an hour here, thinking that would be enough, but wished we had at least 2.5 hours.

USS Midway

The U.S.S. Midway was in operation from 1945-1992. As families tour three main decks, a self-guided audio tour and interesting signage depicts what working aboard the ship (and general life aboard the ship) was like in all of these eras. A helpful staff member recommended we start at the top of the ship on the flight deck and work our way down, and he was right: seeing the planes (and the views of the harbor) first was a great idea. Starting here gave us a good introduction to what an aircraft carrier does. Throughout the flight deck, docents in yellow hats offer various talks on flying planes and landing them on the carrier and duties aboard. Most are retired military personnel, and they’re well worth stopping to listen to. Their passion for the subject was evident, and we really enjoyed hearing their accounts of time spent on the Midway.

USS Midway plane

From the top deck, we headed back to the hangar deck, where we sat in cockpits (and tried not to feel claustrophobic!). Then we visited the City at Sea area, which actually includes the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th decks. I found this to be the most interesting part of the ship: we toured berths, mess halls, officer’s quarters, the war room, a hospital wing, and even a dentist office and barbershop. Walking through the labyrinth of hallways and staircases, you really get a feel for life aboard a carrier.

Midway docent

The tour is self-guided, with the exception of an optional 30 minute tour of the bridge/flight tower at the top of the ship, which is led by a docent. These tours depart regularly from the flight deck, and are worth waiting for if you’re traveling with school-aged kids. The audio tour of the rest of the ship is included in your admission, and definitely worth doing. It’s well-planned, in that the exhibits are numbered, and visitors can simply input the numbers they want to listen to into their audio set, and skip the ones they aren’t interested in. There’s both a kid version and an adult version, and every headset can play both, so older kids can opt for either. Honestly, I found the kid version to be more interesting!

USS Midway interior

Admission:

Adult tickets are $19, youth/student is $15, and kids (6-12) are $10. Five and under is free. Families can get $2 off per person by ordering online, and current military personnel get in free. The better deal: the Midway attraction is included in a Go Select pass…these city passes definitely save money.

Hours of operation:

10 am to 5 pm daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas). Last admission is 4 pm.

USS Midway

Dining:

There’s a cafe on-site on the hangar deck, overlooking the harbor, which scores points on the fun factor. Otherwise, plan to visit between meals. Vending machine drink machines are located on both the hangar deck and flight deck, should you need waters.

Directions:

The Midway is easy to find right on the harbor by the Manchester Grand Hyatt at 910 N. Harbor Drive. Parking is on-site, or families can walk from most downtown areas. Pedicabs and regular taxi cabs are readily available outside the museum.

As I disclose whenever applicable, I experienced the U.S.S. Midway as a guest of the attraction, for the purpose of review.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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