A few weeks ago, we took a quick weekend trip to San Diego.  My parents had flown down so we could all go to a concert, and we were looking for an outing that the whole family could enjoy!  While San Diego is full of fun experiences everywhere you look, it’s sometimes hard to find activities that both young & old will truly enjoy.

Enter the USS Midway Museum! This was the PERFECT family outing.  My 66 year old dad could not have been happier and the 5 year old had the time of her life!  There is so much to explore and almost everything on board is interactive.

First, The Details:  The USS Midway is a retired aircraft carrier that now serves as an amazing, in-water Navy museum in the San Diego harbor. It was the longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century and has an amazing history of service to our country.  Admission is $21 for adults and kids are $12 – $15, but we found discount tickets on Viator, so take a look around and see what kind of coupons you can find.

On boarding the Midway, you find yourself on the Hangar Deck.   You can pick up your self-guided tour headsets here and start exploring.  We decided not to do the tour and just explore on our own. If you have small children, you definitely need to stop by the Information Desk and pick up the free Junior Pilot Program Map.  You can read more about it here, but it’s a fun, interactive activity that takes you to over 30 places on the ship to learn and explore life on an aircraft carrier.  When you are finished, you can turn in your map and earn your Junior Pilot wings!  This was great for keeping Little A completely engrossed in the whole experience on the ship.  She really loved searching out the different stations on the map.

Listening to her audio tour at each Junior Pilot station

Also on the Hanger Deck are real plane & helicopter cockpits that kids (and adults) can climb into and explore.  We all loved climbing in, flipping the switches and experiencing what a pilot would see.

The Hanger Deck also has a surprisingly good cafe (seriously.  I was skeptical, but our lunch was actually very good and reasonably priced), a gift shop and a few fun flight simulators.

We started making our way down to the lower decks and this is where we kept getting lost haha.  There are plenty of signs so we were never TRULY lost, but the place is massive!  We kept rounding corners and going down stairs and coming up on more and more things to explore.  It’s truly amazing the shear size of an aircraft carrier.  The numerous kitchens, the sleeping quarters, the medical facilities and everything in between truly make it a “city at sea.”  Little A’s favorite parts were the command center and the engine room.  The command center is another great hands-on exhibit.  You can sit in the chairs and learn how each of the systems work. First thing I said when we entered was “Whoa, it looks like Top Gun.” Haha, it was pretty fun.

Sitting in the Commanding Officer’s chair

Exploring the Engine Room

All around the ship, volunteer Docents are available to answer questions and show you around.  We also met a few veterans that had served on the Midway. They offered great insight into what it’s really like to serve on an aircraft carrier.  Don’t forget to thank them for their service!!!

We made our way up to the Flight Deck and from here, you really get an understanding of not only the size of the carrier, but also how incredible it is that they land planes on it’s deck.  The Flight Deck features 26 fully restored jet fighters, attack aircraft & helicopters.  You can walk right up and touch them.  This was definitely my dad’s favorite deck.  We took so many pictures! You can also explore the Island / Bridge where the carrier is steered and where the Captain oversees flight operations.

Little A sending a jet out to sea

When you are all done exploring, don’t forget to go back to the Hanger Deck and turn in your Junior Pilot map.  They do a cute ceremony to present the Junior Pilot Wings.  You don’t want to miss it.

Little A earns her wings

All in all it was a fantastic day at the Midway and we highly recommend it, especially for multi-generational families looking for an exciting outing.  We spent about 3 hours on board, but we definitely could have stayed longer as we didn’t end up seeing everything.  But that just gives us a reason to go back again.  The USS Midway also has special events throughout the year like Top Gun Movie Nights, Veterans Day, Memorial Day & 4th of July Celebrations, and an online Wall of Gratitude where you can post pictures and thank your hero for their service.  You can read more about these events here.

Here’s some more pictures from our day! Happy AAAdventuring!

Flying like an airplane

Looking out of the porthole into the water

Binoculars from the Gift Shop

Inside a helicopter on the Flight Deck