San Diego, California: Visiting the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier

Updated: May 1

Summary: This unique museum experience is great for families, and we recommend it even for little kids while visiting the San Diego area. The USS Midway was not inexpensive at $26/adult ticket, but we found the Museum to be quite comprehensive and worth the expense. It's not that often that you get an opportunity to physically travel through history. Housing a museum on the actual aircraft carrier definitely makes it a more memorable experience. We were also impressed with the collection of antique aircraft located on the Flight Deck.


Getting there. The USS Midway is located at the Navy pier right next to downtown San Diego, specifically, 910 North Harbor Drive. Parking, depending on the day, ranges from $10 to $20, and noted that it was quite full fairly early in the day. There are several other public parking lots within walking distance, all of which have various parking time limits and costs.

About the USS Midway. Commissioned in 1945, this US aircraft carrier was in service for nearly fifty years before it was decommissioned in 1992. During its tenure, the aircraft participated in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm, among other deployments. In 2003, the ship was donated to the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, a charitable organization that opened the ship as a museum a year later.


Other fun facts about this aircraft carrier and museum:

  • The museum receives 1.3M visitors each year and growing.

  • The USS Midway Foundation provides annual grants to active and veteran military and their families.

  • The ship weights 69,000 tons fully loaded.

  • At full capacity, the crew eats 10 tons of food per day.

  • Just to keep the Midway supplied, supply ships had to sail along side the Midway.

  • 95% of plane landings during the day were successful but just 88% were successful at night. So...if I were a pilot, I'd ask for the day shift!

Hangar Deck. Visitors enter the museum on the Hangar Deck. Here you can watch a video on the USS Midway, as well as walk about the vast Hangar and view antique war craft like the SNJ Texan (in yellow below), which was used for training flights on the Carrier during WWII. To give you some perspective on just how large the Hangar Deck is, we have included a photo of a Christmas tree that was on display during our visit. The teddy bears in the photo are those giant-type usually on display in shopping malls.

Interior Decks. Next we made our way through the displays in the interior of the USS Midway. Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone," from Top Gun was on repeat in our head as we walked through flight control and the pilots ready room. I heard after our visit that the ship hosts a Top Gun movie night - makes total sense!


It's true that some of the displays with plastic food and smiling manikins were a bit cheesy, but being able to physically walk through the tunnels of the ship is an experience that cannot be shared through videos or photos only. These incredibly tight quarters housed 4,500 servicemen and in some places, like the bunk rooms, bodies were literally stacked on top of one another, three layers high. Can you imagine the snoring and stinky feet in those rooms?

Old School Communications. Considering this was a functioning aircraft carrier all the way up to 1992, these "old school" communication methods were kind of eye-brow raising. After all, by 1992, cell phones were widely available, albeit large and only for the mostly wealthy, but available nevertheless.

Flight Deck. The top deck of the USS Midway or "Flight Deck," contained a museum of aircraft, both fighters and bombers, as well as an assortment of helicopters. The variety and breadth of machinery on display are impressive, but was especially impressive, was the thought that these things actually landed on the what felt like a tiny deck considering just how fast aircraft, like jet fighters, travel. Walking the decks above, like those below, give you an appreciation for the technology involved in designing these aircraft carriers. Crazier yet, the actual landing area for a jet is just the length of a tennis court! One more fun fact: Did you know that the catapults that launch the jets off of the Flight Deck thrust the jet from 0 to 170 mph in just 3 seconds?!

Visiting the USS Midway. We were in San Diego for other reasons but decided that due to the rainy weather that day, it would be fun to check out a museum. The USS Midway was not inexpensive at $26/adult ticket, but we found the Museum to be quite comprehensive and a unique experience. (Note that military and law enforcement receive discount tickets so bring your ID). It's not that often that you get an opportunity to physically travel through history. Housing a museum on the actual aircraft carrier definitely makes it a more memorable experience. In short, if you are looking for a museum-type activity while in San Diego, we recommend stopping in to see the USS Midway.


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