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Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

We set aside a full day to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. I realize the mention of a military and science museum conjures up images of war and destruction, technical engineering, and nerdy math, but I was curious to learn more about this gigantic ship harbored on the Hudson River in New York City. We headed to New York City’s floating museum, which is a multifaceted educational program, using videos, exhibitions, and interactive learning programs to enrich the visitor experience.

It’s not a surprise to learn that more than a million people visit the museum annually. The multi-decked ship weighs in at 27,100 tons and a length of 872 feet, so even on a crowded day, there is room for everyone to participate in the museum experience.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum operates as a non-profit, educational institution with several components. The primary feature is the aircraft carrier, USS Intrepid. The second large-scale exhibit is the space shuttle Enterprise. Finally, be on the lookout for a collection of high-speed jets and a guided missile submarine, all available for touring.

We entered from the pier at Pier 86. The museum is visible long before reaching the entry, even if you have to peek between some highrise buildings to see the Hudson River waterfront. The address is West 46th Street at 12th Avenue, and easy to find in New York City’s grid-like street layout.

The History

The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid brings a rich history into the museum that was founded in 1982. The ship is a National Historic Landmark, and for good reason. The ship served tours of duty in both World War II and the Vietnam War. The outer space connection occurred when the USS Intrepid was used for sea operations supporting the Gemini and Mercury space missions.

Key history facts include

  • The USS Intrepid is an Essex-class aircraft carrier and nicknamed “The Fighting I”
  • She is the fourth US Navy ship with the USS Intrepid name
  • This ship was built during World War II and commissioned in August 1943
  • Notable service during World War II included the Battle of Leyte Gulf
  • Decommissioned after World War II, the ship was updated and recommissioned as a CVA in the 1950’s
  • In a third renovation, the ship was an antisubmarine carrier (CVS) and deployed during the Vietnam War in early 1962
  • Decommissioned in 1974 and used for hosting exhibits in 1976 for the United States Bicentennial (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Established as a museum ship, renovated and moved to New York City in August 1982
  • 1986 – Designated as a National Historic Landmark

What to See

At the museum, you’ll find the Space Shuttle Pavilion, where the world’s first space shuttle, Enterprise is housed. Walk on the flight deck to view 28 authentically restored aircraft. These displays include the Lockheed A-12, known as the world’s fastest military jet and an effective spy plane.

Also take a look at the British Airways Concorde, which travels at record-breaking speeds for commercial travel. There’s a submarine that is open to public viewing, an extensive educational center with interactive displays, and a science-based education center known as the Exploreum.

Tip for visiting the Intrepid: Plan to spend a couple of hours to browse the museum. For members of the military, historians, or ship enthusiasts, plan on a full day. Audio Tours, available for rental at the Information Desk, immerse you in the Intrepid adventure. As you walk the ship, you’ll hear audio excerpts from the pilots and crew members who were on board during her various commissions.

Flight Deck

Our tour began with a leisure stroll along the flight deck. Aircraft are on display and city New York City skyline view is incredible.

Even when it’s foggy and we’re rain-drenched.

Hangar Deck

More than one million guests visit the museum each year, and I’ve visited twice. The first visit was a corporate outing after a long day of meetings. As a team-building exercise, our group .participated in a New York City scavenger hunt, with the USS Intrepid as the final stop and the location for evening festivities and recognition. The second visit was with my husband, a retired US Navy serviceman, which is summarized in this post.

When we entered the Hangar Deck, we had a short wait before the next educational video, so we browsed the deck and found this Lego reconstruction of the ship.


Gallery Deck and Third Deck

The rest of the ship is (mostly) available for personal exploration. There are a few restricted areas. I quickly learned to be careful with my footing on steep ladders and when moving between walled compartments with the knee-knockers that demand close attention.

The ship exhibits on the Gallery Deck and Third Deck offer insights into “a day in the life” of sailors and other on-board personnel including briefing rooms, kitchen arrangements, and sleeping berths. John recognized some of the communications equipment that was in operation during his tenure and paused for a few moments of happy memories.

The USS Intrepid Museum has much to offer. It’s always interesting to better understand our nation’s history and context for world events. This museum docents guide visitors (of all ages) through the complexities of war, ship engineering, life on board a massive ship, and how these carrier ships have served our US Navy for generations.

More than 50,000 servicemen served in the US Navy on board the USS Intrepid during its service years. The museum participates in an oral history program to capture the stories of those who served. Audio clips are available on the USS Intrepid website.

If You Go:

Location: Pier 86, which is 12th Avenue at 46th Street (look for the big ship in the water)

Check the USS Intrepid website before you go. Special programs may cause alternations to the usual exhibit hours and availability.

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