Even in a place as packed with cultural attractions as New York City, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum stands out as a one-of-a-kind museum experience. This floating museum offers an interactive exploration of U.S. military history aboard a 900-foot-long aircraft carrier docked along the Hudson River. The massive USS Intrepid aircraft carrier, which sustained five kamikaze attacks in World War II, is now a National Historic Landmark and home to hands-on exhibits, multimedia displays, a space shuttle, spy plane, strategic missile submarine and more – all divided among four different decks accessible via elevators or stairs.
The Hangar Deck makes for a wonderful first stop, since it is the USS Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum’s main indoor exhibit space. Here, you will find an information desk, as well as a short film about the USS Intrepid's history and an interactive exhibit about Medal of Honor recipients. The 13,000-square-foot Exploreum Hall that is a hit with kids of all ages, thanks to a variety of hands-on exhibits where kids can experience a flight simulator, transmit messages in Morse code and get a sense of what it was like to live on a warship by climbing into the claustrophobic crew quarters where naval officers ate, slept and prepared for battle.
The topics of air and space are also the main focus of the Flight Deck, which boasts an outdoor exhibit showcasing a range of aircraft including, helicopters, fighter jets and even an A-12 Blackbird spy plane. The enclosed Space Shuttle Pavilion located on this level houses the space shuttle Enterprise, on display here since July 2012. With a wingspan of 78 feet and a height of 57 feet, the enormous Enterprise makes for an impressive sight. You can climb stairs to a viewing platform, which makes for an awesome photo op, and also watch a brief film about the shuttle narrated by former Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.
For an authentic look at life on a warship, head to the Gallery Deck that is located between the Flight Deck and the Hangar Deck. Here, you can check out areas like the Ready Room where pilots received their instructions before heading off on war missions, the Ammo Handling Room where ammunition for the USS Intrepid's anti-aircraft weapons was stored and the Combat Information Center where crew members used radar scopes and other equipment to keep a careful watch on all other ships and aircraft nearby. Audio recordings of typical U.S. Coast Guard chatter are piped in to various sections of the Gallery Deck, lending an added touch of authenticity to these spaces.
The Mess Deck further explores life on the USS Intrepid during its days of active service, as this bottommost level of the ship features the rooms where naval officers slept and ate. Audio once again helps to bring a sense of heightened realism to the spaces, with piped-in sounds that include contented snores in the sleeping berths and the loud din of mealtime conversation in the dining areas. For those who want to grab a snack or take a break, the Mess Deck also offers a large seating area with tables and an adjacent Au Bon Pain café where sandwiches and other light fare can be purchased.
Additional seating can also be found in an open-air section adjacent to the USS Intrepid. Located at the end of Pier 86, this cluster of seats offers gorgeous views of the Hudson River and a perfect photo op of the record-breaking supersonic plane parked here. With a maximum cruising speed of 1,350 miles per hour, the Concorde Alpha Delta G-BOAD set a world record when she crossed the Atlantic in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds in February 1996. One of the Rolls Royce turbojet engines that gave the Concorde its incredible speed is also on display, and visitors can get a guided tour inside the aircraft's luxe interior.
Docked alongside the Intrepid, and also part of the museum, the submarine Growler is the only intact strategic missile submarine open to the public. Cool sights here include two Torpedo Rooms and a Control Room and Attack Center that was considered state-of-the-art when the USS Growler was built in 1958.
Don’t leave without an Intrepid-inspired souvenir from the excellent gift shop packed with everything from ship models to sailor teddy bears.
Good for kids?
Young visitors are warmly welcomed at the Intrepid, whose mission is to “honor our heroes, educate the public and inspire our youth.” More than 50,000 school kids participate in educational programs here every year. For families visiting on their own, the Exploreum Hall is packed with interactive exhibits designed for kids of all ages. Hands-on play is encouraged here and children can even climb aboard cool objects that include a space capsule replica and a real helicopter. Older kids and teens may enjoy the flight simulators, which have height restrictions.
The USS Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Pavilion both allow strollers. The USS Growler and the Concorde do not permit strollers inside, but they can be left outside for pickup after.
Families wishing to avoid the crush of peak-hour crowds may wish to visit right when the Intrepid opens in the morning.
Did you know?
The USS Intrepid served in World War II and the Vietnam War, but also aided with NASA missions in the 1960s.
The Enterprise was initially to be called the Constitution, but Star Trek fans launched a successful campaign to have it named after the TV show's fictional starship.
The attendants at the Intrepid are an especially useful resource for information, since many are military veterans who actually served on U.S. warships.
Given the popularity of the Space Shuttle Pavilion, you may have to wait in a long entrance line on the open-air Flight Deck; be prepared with water and sunscreen on hot days.
Intrepid Hours and Location Information