Our latest outing in New York was to the Intrepid aircraft carrier, docked in the Hudson River on the West Side of Manhattan.
An Aircraft Carrier Museum in New York
The Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier, has been a museum in New York City since 1982. It closed for renovations in 2006, then reopened better than ever two years later.
Today, a trip to the Intrepid enables tourists to tour the 1950s-era submarine Growler, marvel at the Concorde and be amazed by the Space Shuttle Enterprise. We spent three hours at the museum and couldn't squeeze everything in. If you are the type that likes to take the tours and watch all the films available, plan on spending the entire day. It'll be worth it.
Starting the Visit at the Growler Submarine
Our visit to the museum started with a walk-through of the 1950s-era submarine, USS Growler. Before getting on board, we walked through an exhibit that described life under the water, where the sailors would sometimes go more than a year without contacting their family. The exhibit also included a good explanation of the Cold War tensions that existed from the time the sub was launched in 1958 through the 1980s.
Then came a walk through the submarine. If you are a person who doesn't like close quarters, life on a sub would have been extremely uncomfortable. If you are as tall as me—6 feet, 5 inches—you would have found life on the sub pretty dangerous. I was able to make it through without banging my head, but only by walking bent over for most of the time!
The few minutes in the seacraft really hit home the sacrifice of the men who served on the sub.
Visiting the USS Intrepid's Flight Deck
After the Growler, we made our way up to the flight deck of the USS Intrepid. The carrier was built to hold 90–100 aircraft when it was launched in 1943. During World War II, it participated in several naval campaigns, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The ship was the target of at least four Kamikaze attacks in the war, in which at least 36 men were killed.
Today, the flight deck displays more than two dozen aircraft, from Russian to Italian fighter jets to a Blackbird to helicopters. At one end of the deck is the Enterprise Space Shuttle.
It was fascinating to examine the various aircraft and imagine what it would be like to fly in them. Also cool was climbing to the bridge, where the captain would have directed the carrier in wartime and in peacetime.
Checking Out the Space Shuttle Enterprise
At the far end of the flight deck is the space shuttle exhibition. The Enterprise was the first orbiter of the space shuttle program and didn't have engines or a functional heat shield, making it incapable of spaceflight. Starting in 1977 the Enterprise completed five glider flights but was never fitted to go into space.
I was a bit disappointed that we couldn't go into the shuttle, but it was interesting to read about the vehicle and the contributions it made to the space program.
The exhibit explains that the Enterprise was originally going to be called Constitution since 1976 was the Bicentennial of the U.S.'s independence (never mind that the Constitution actually came along more than a decade later). But a write-in campaign by fans of the TV series Star Trek persuaded the government to rename the shuttle the Enterprise!
Visiting the USS Intrepid's Interior
After the flight deck, we toured the rest of the carrier, including the fo'c'sle (forecastle), gallery deck, hangar deck, and third deck. We checked out the officer and crew's berths—it was amazing how even the officers were really crammed into close quarters. The anchor chain room was particularly cool, while the galley was exactly what you would imagine a ship's kitchen area would be like.
Visitors to the hangar deck can watch several films about different aspects of the carrier's history as well as sit in the cockpit of a helicopter and jet. You can even try climbing into a space capsule (I couldn't fit!).
There are also exhibits about life on the carrier, as well as some details on the ports of call that were visited over the decades. There is a G-Force Simulator that you can try (for an extra expense) and a children's play area.
Back on the pier, you can check out the Concorde, but to see inside you have to pay extra for a private tour. We were too tired at that point to bother.
Overall, we really enjoyed our visit to the museum. Someday I'd like to go back and check out the films and take the Concorde tour.
The USS Intrepid Made of Legos!
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