San Diego is a city known for its perfect weather, beautiful beaches, warm sunshine and vibrant city life, but it is also a military town at heart. That’s why we are so proud to be permanent home to the iconic U.S.S. Midway, one of the most distinguished aircraft carriers in the history of the United States Navy. Once utilized as one of the longest-serving aircraft carriers in the Navy, the U.S.S. Midway was commissioned in 1945, one week after World War II ended and was decommissioned in 1992 – following a stint of more than 47 years of service.
Today, the U.S.S. Midway Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in downtown San Diego. Over the years, the aircraft carrier has been meticulously and lovingly restored and now greets guests young and old who want to take a glimpse into America’s rich naval history. The museum presents a variety of events and activities throughout the year. Tours include the sleeping quarters of ordinary soldiers, the mess hall, officers’ quarters, engine room, the brig, chapel, and even the laundry room. Visitors end the tour on the flight deck, where 29 restored aircraft are proudly on display.
History of the U.S.S. Midway
From its initial construction until 1955, the U.S.S. Midway was the largest ship in the world. In fact, the vessel was so large that it was too big to transit the Panama Canal. It was the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th Century.
The U.S.S. Midway was constructed by Newport News Shipbuilding and named after the climactic Battle of Midway in June 1942. Constructed in only 17 months, the ship measures 1,001 in length and is powered by 12 boilers with four Westinghouse-geared steam turbines. Despite its massive size, the U.S.S. Midway could reach a maximum speed of 33 knots and a capacity to carry up to 137 aircraft (although it typically carried between 70-100 aircraft) at one time.
Over its many decades at sea, the U.S.S. Midway housed more than 225,000 sailors and helped protect America’s interest all over the world. The aircraft carrier served in the United States Navy for nearly five decades. It was instrumental in operations in both Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s and during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
Exhibits and Activities
The U.S.S. Midway Museum boasts close to 10 acres of displays and exhibits. It is the most complete cross-section of carrier aviation in the world – from the bridge to the main engine room. Here are a few of the main highlights you won’t want to miss:
- Hangar Deck: The Hangar Deck showcases fully restored military aircraft from the World War II era like an F4F Wildcat fighter and SBD Dauntless dive bomber aircraft. Climb into actual cockpit trainers, visit the Combat Information Center or watch the program at the Battle of Midway Theater, all on the Hangar Deck.
- Flight Deck: Walk up and touch the more than 25 aircraft that populate the Flight Deck, including jet fighters, attack aircraft, helicopters, and specialist designs. Learn how aircraft land in such a tight space. Tour the Bridge and the Captain’s and Admirals Cabins and be sure to check out a World War II-era R-2800 Twin Wasp engine that powered aircraft of the time like the F4U Corsair. The Wasp engine is often referred to as “The Engine that Won the War.”
- Below Deck: Have a look at the sailors’ quarters Below Deck and experience what it was like to be a member of the crew and bunk up at sea! In the kitchen, take in all the effort required to feed more than 14,000 hungry crewmembers every day along the Chow Line. Then, dip below the waterline and witness the massive engine and facilities that power the ship.
Visit the U.S.S. Midway Museum
Visiting the U.S.S. Midway Museum is truly an amazing experience. Visitors can explore virtually the entire ship and its more than 60 exhibits. Guests can make their way around the vessel and peer into every nook and cranny of the ship – including tight hallways, step-through doors and narrow stairs. Other key points of interest along the tour include the officers’ and soldiers’ sleeping quarters, the engine room, the mess hall, the chapel and even the brig.
As part of the self-paced tour, visitors get an audio device that plays an explanation of each exhibit, including interviews with personnel who worked on the ship. The interactive tour is all encompassing so you really get a sense of what it was like for those who served on the iconic vessel. Spend as much time
The U.S.S. Midway Museum is alongside Navy Pier at 910 North Harbor Drive in San Diego. The museum does not have its own parking lot. The closest parking area is on Navy Pier, adjacent to the museum. Space is extremely limited during the summer, and it’s best to arrive early in the day if you want to park there. Only passenger vehicles are permitted (No RVs). The closest large-vehicle parking is in metered spaces along Pacific Coast Highway. Handicapped parking is available along the Navy Pier parking lot on a first-come basis.
There is some metered parking along San Diego city streets next to the museum. Please be sure to obey all parking rules regarding timing and rates of each space. Downtown San Diego has more than 50,000 parking spaces, many within a short walk of the U.S.S. Midway, or only a short pedicab or taxi ride away.
Parking rates are generally between $10-$20, with higher rates during holidays and special events.
There are a few excellent public transportation options that can get you to and from the U.S.S. Midway Museum at an affordable rate:
- The Waterfront Summer Shuttle provides low-cost transportation along San Diego Bay for about $3 a day. The shuttle runs from late May through September.
- The Santa Fe Train Depot and American Plaza Trolley Station is another wonderful, family-friendly transportation option that is only a five-minute walk from the U.S.S. Midway Museum.
- The San Diego Circuit Free Ride, or FRED, is an electric car free ride within the downtown area. The FRED operates from the early morning (7-8 a.m.) until the evening (8-10 p.m.), seven days a week.
Special Days at the Museum
The museum is a popular destination during patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and the Fourth of July. The museum’s “Legacy Week” is one of the signature events of Memorial Day festivities in downtown San Diego. From June 4-6 each year, the museum often honors the Battle of Midway, which occurred on those dates in 1942 in the Pacific Theater as part of World War II. On the Fourth of July, the museum is a perfect patriotic complement to the Port of San Diego’s Big Bay Boom fireworks show.
Be sure to check the U.S.S. Midway Museum’s special events calendar to see what’s on tap in the coming months.
How to Get Tickets to the U.S.S. Midway Museum
General admission tickets for adults over the age of 18 are $26. Seniors (age 62+) can purchase a ticket for $22, and students age 13-17, or with a valid college ID, can score a ticket for $18.
Tickets are $12 for children age 6-12. Veterans with a valid ID can enter for only $10 (proof of service is required).
Children age 5 years and youngers are always free. Active military, active law enforcement, active firefighters (including Reservists) can also get in for free by presenting a valid ID card.
Discounts are available if you purchase your tickets online in advance of your visit. Once you purchase your tickets, you are free to arrive and explore the U.S.S. Midway Museum at your leisure from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except for major holidays. Come aboard!
Your online ticket also includes the Embarcadero Adventure Offers, with discounts on numerous activities along the San Diego Embarcadero, like:
- $5 off an adult general admission ticket and $3 off a child ticket at the San Diego Maritime Museum.
- $5 off an adult ticket for a 1- or 2-hour Harbor Tour with Hornblower Cruises & Events.
- $5 off an adult ticket for a 1- or 2-hour Harbor Tour with Flagship Cruises & Events.
Where to Stay in San Diego
San Diego Coast Rentals has vacation condo rentals and lodging near the U.S.S. Midway Museum that have everything you need for a family getaway or a romantic retreat. Vacation rentals provide more space and privacy than a traditional hotel room and are more like a home away from home. Avoid noisy neighbors, over-inflated resort fees, crummy amenities, congestion and fighting for parking.
Most vacation rentals provide a dedicated parking space and plenty of room to stretch out. Our vacation rentals also have cool perks like Jacuzzi tubs for the ultimate in relaxation, or a full kitchen so you can fix a few in-between meals to save time and money for other things. Our vacation rentals can also put you right on the beach, only steps from the ocean. Browse our inventory online to find the best accommodations for you!