Planning a trip to San Diego? The USS Midway Museum is one of the most family-friendly museums I have ever visited.
Young children are encouraged to climb in planes, push buttons, and pull levers. I visited with my five children – from teens to toddlers and we all had a great time.
The USS Midway Museum is a retired aircraft carrier in San Diego that has been turned into an amazing museum. This floating city on the sea was in service for 47 years before it was decommissioned. The self-guided audio tour and plenty of docents available to talk to gave us the opportunity to really imagine what it would be like to live for months at sea on an aircraft carrier.
The audio guide is narrated by Midway sailors, and has sections just for kids. My young ones loved this museum and were in no hurry to leave, even after we spent nearly four hours touring the USS Midway Museum.
Here are some tips to help you plan your visit to the USS Midway Museum.
Ways to Save
The USS Midway Museum is $23 per adult (as of August 2019) and we thought is was worth every penny. However, there are several good ways to save money on tickets. Kids under age 6 get in free.
Official Website – Save $1 per ticket if you purchase your tickets at midway.org, plus get a coupon book with discounts for the San Diego Maritime Museum, Hornblower Cruises and Flagship Cruises. This will also save you time when you arrive.
Get Away Today – Save $1 per ticket at getawaytoday.com. Bundling discount tickets with hotel deals is where this travel agency really shines. Save an extra $25 on a San Diego vacation package with my exclusive coupon code: SDFAMILY.
Go City – Save up to 55% on popular San Diego activities, including USS Midway, with this bundle-and-save pass. Go City lets you choose from top San Diego activities for one discounted price. Learn more at gocity.com.
Go in October – Kids age 11 and under get in free to the USS Midway Museum and dozens of other San Diego attractions during the month of October. Learn more at https://www.sandiego.org
Special Groups – The following groups get free admission with valid ID.
- Active Military
- Active Law Enforcement
- Active Fire Fighters
Related: October Deals in San Diego – Kids Get in FREE
The USS Midway Museum parking costs $10-20 (depending on date) and has 320 slots. If the parking lot is full when you arrive, there are public parking garages and metered parking not too far away.
Do you really need a stroller? I brought an umbrella stroller for my two-year-old son and was glad I did, although most people would recommend leaving the stroller behind. This is a ship with steep staircases and narrow corridors. You will not be able to take a stroller into the lower level of the museum, and you do not want to miss that section about life at sea with 5000 sailors.
If you have a child who needs a nap or who likes to run away, you will be glad for a stroller. Otherwise, leave it behind. A backpack or sling would work well for a younger child. You can park your stroller anywhere and leave it while you tour sections of the ship that are not stroller friendly.
Related: Tips for Visiting the San Diego Zoo
Audio Guide Tips
Audio guides are available only for children ages six and above (paid admission). However, when I asked, the staff let me have extra headphones for my two younger children and each device has a second headphone jack so if you are okay with sharing, younger children can listen to the audio guides as well.
When to Visit
July is the busiest month, followed by August. Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days with as many as 5000-6000 visitors on a busy day. Fridays are the next busiest day.
I visited on a Saturday in early August and arrived at 10:30 a.m. I was able to park in the lot, and while the museum was crowded, I was able to see the entire museum.
Plan to spend at least 3-4 hours on the ship. I couldn't imagine staying that long with five children, but we loved it and after we stopped for snack to re-energize, we stayed nearly four hours. I could have easily stayed longer.
Related: Best Activities for Families at Balboa Park
The USS Midway Museum has a food court and also a small refreshment stand on the flight deck. The refreshment stand up top is CASH ONLY and has pretzels, churros, granola bars, drinks, frozen lemonade, etc. The Fantail Cafe has salads, burgers, sandwiches, etc. between $6-11.
Related: Best Beaches in San Diego for Families
Talk to the Docents
The highlight of the visit for me was talking with the many docents available to answer questions and talk about their experience in the U.S. military. Make time to ask these men about their service. I spoke to a World War II veteran who stormed the beach in Normandy on D-day and earned a purple heart for wounds he obtained there. It was an experience I will never forget.
Tips for your tour
Once you enter the museum, head straight up the stairs or elevator to the flight deck and start your tour at the Captain's Bridge. This special 3o-minute guided tour takes you through the control center of the ship and is very popular. Children must be 42 inches tall to tour the Captain's Bridge.
About 1600 people per day are able to tour the Captain's Bridge, so if this is a priority to you, plan to arrive early and start with that tour. The wait gets longer as the day goes on, and the last tour of the Captain's Bridge starts at 4:00. On busy days, the line may close at 3:30.
The flight deck is filled with airplanes and amazing views of San Diego Harbor. We saw the USS Ronald Reagan in the harbor. My children spent over an hour climbing in the planes and sitting in a helicopter. My favorite part of the flight deck was listening to the docents explain the take-off and landing procedures. Listening to sailors who worked on the USS Midway explain their role in helping planes land and take off was fascinating.
On the main deck of the ship you can try out flight simulators, climb in bunks and cockpits, check out the Ejection Seat Theater, and visit the gift shop and cafe. On selected days you can meet World War II veterans.
The lower decks give you a glimpse of daily life on the city at sea. Tour the laundry rooms, kitchen, mess hall, chapel, movie theater, post office, and more to visualize what life was like on an aircraft carrier.
Good To Know
Where: 910 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, California
When: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last admission is at 4:00 p.m.
How Much: $20 adult, $15 student, $10 child. Save $2 per ticket when you buy online. Kids ages 5 and under are FREE. Discounts for seniors and retired military. Active-duty military personnel (including reservists) are free. (Updated August 2017).
How Long: My family spent nearly four hours at the USS Midway Museum.
Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission for the purpose of review. The opinions expressed here are my own. Featured photo courtesy of USS Midway Museum.
Planning a trip to San Diego?
We recommend booking your San Diego trip with Get Away Today. They sell discounted USS Midway Museum tickets on their website and you can bundle them with your San Diego vacation package. Find a cheaper vacation package? They’ll beat the price by $10. Learn more about our partnership with Get Away Today here.
ANYTIME! Save $25 on any San Diego vacation package of 2 nights or more that includes 2 tickets (San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, etc) when you use the coupon code SDFamily.
Even though they stay open til 5pm they don’t admit visitors after 4pm. We arrived at 4:06pm. We have the Go San Diego Card so we planned to see some today and some tomorrow. They don’t mention the 4pm cutoff on their website which is disappointing.
That is disappointing. I didn’t know that either, but I’ll be sure to pass the info along. I hope you have a good day tomorrow.
Morning afternoon and evening shipmate
Last year may/june weekend trip 2019 I was one of last crewmen to bring USS midway cv41 back from Japan she brung alot of memories felt like yesterday 1992 just texting brings tears and joy hopefully the v4 crew will be able to make it for a reunion if the pandemic let’s travel and for those we recent loss prayers for the family and love ones Abf bacon v4 midway dogs out
Wow! Thank you for sharing your experience, Anthony. Best wishes for your team’s reunion.