The USS Midway Flight Deck
CaliforniaSan Diego

‘Top Gun’ meets ‘Top Fun’ at the USS Midway Museum

So you’ve conquered the beaches, devoured the street tacos and now you’re looking for something a little different – something that screams history and adventure. Well, prepare to embark on a time-traveling journey back to the days of naval glory aboard a floating museum that’s more badass than your grandpa’s stories.

The USS Midway is not your typical tourist attraction – it’s like stepping into a real-life version of Top Gun, minus Tom Cruise (sorry, ladies). This massive aircraft carrier is parked right on the San Diego waterfront. Here, you can get up close and personal with more than 60 years of naval history.

San Diego as a naval city

Now, you might think that sunny San Diego is all about the beach vibes. And you’re not entirely wrong – but there’s a whole lot more lurking beneath the surface of those gnarly waves.

San Diego is a naval city. The harbor isn’t just a place for tourists to gawk at the view while sipping their lattes. Nope, it’s a bustling, real-deal naval hub where ships of all shapes and sizes – from battleships to submarines – regularly cruise by.

The city has played a pivotal role in numerous military operations dating back to World War I. So while you’re enjoying your chilled craft beer, remember that many sailors and soldiers have shared the same coastline with a slightly different agenda.

But don’t worry, you’re obviously not visiting a warzone! San Diego has embraced its naval heritage and made it accessible to locals and tourists alike.

All aboard The USS Midway!

USS Midway Entrance

The USS Midway isn’t just big; it’s colossal. To give you an idea, it’s around 1,000 feet long – equivalent to three football fields. So before you take your first step, consider wearing comfy shoes. You’re going to need them because the USS Midway will put your Fitbit into overdrive.

As you board this beast of the sea, you’ll feel like a kid again. You’re surrounded by vintage fighter jets, helicopters and even a few quirky flight-themed souvenirs. Don’t fret if you’re no history buff because the USS Midway’s got your back – or more accurately, your ears. An audio guide (available in several languages) is included with the price of admission, so grab one early on to make the most of your visit.

I always recommend starting with a trip to the theater to watch the inspirational “Voices of Midway”. This 15 minute immersive film tells the story of one of the most important naval battles of WWII. The battle is relived through the eyes of the heroes that took part in this historic episode of American history. I promise it will set the tone for the rest of your visit.

Exploring the Aircraft Carrier

First things first: make a beeline to the flight deck – the USS Midway’s grand stage. It’s best to get there early in the morning when everyone else is exploring below deck. This way, you won’t have anyone photobombing your selfies.

On the deck, you can pose in front of real fighter jets like you’re about to hop into the cockpit and shout “I feel the need… the need for speed!” Just remember, the planes don’t actually fly anymore, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Now, climb your way to the bridge – the command center of the USS Midway. This is where the captain did all the bossing around, except they had to be super serious about it. This is the only part of the tour with an actual human guide. Expert Midway Docents will lead you through to explain Air Operations, Pri-fly, Navigational chart room, Captain’s Bridge and Captain’s at sea cabin.

USS Midway Exterior

No, I’m not referring to the Bravo show (though, I highly recommend it). Follow the audio guide below deck and get a sense of what naval life is like. You’ll pass by the Engine Room, which is basically the Midway’s heart. Imagine towering pipes, roaring engines, and dials that look like they belong in a sci-fi movie. Ever wondered what makes a massive ship like this tick? This is where you will find out.

Another staple on the tour is “The Mess Hall”, where the sailors used to chow down. It’s like a cafeteria on steroids. You can almost smell the nostalgia and hear the cries of sailors racing to grab the last bite. Just remember, no food fights allowed – they have enough history to clean up.

Also on display: the Navy’s cramped sleeping quarters, the carrier’s own jail and a bunch of toilets you don’t want to use.

The ground-level hangar features a few extras (read: tourist traps that are not included in the admission price). There are flight simulators, a cafe / restaurant and a gift shop. The simulators are great for kids, but not worth the money for adults. They feel like a carnival ride more than anything else. On a busy day, you’ll spend a good 20 minutes in line waiting for your turn. And don’t expect the most realistic experience.

Make the most of your day by roaming the impressive carrier, have a drink and stick to taking selfies instead of riding the simulators.

How to get there?

The USS Midway is conveniently located, having plenty of adjacent parking. It’s a ten-dollar flat rate but you get to park for 12 hours straight. Sounds like a long time, but you’ll have the freedom to explore for as long as you want. You’ll even have time to stroll through the nearby Seaport Village and snap selfies at the Unconditional Surrender (AKA The Kissing Statue).

The USS Midway is open 10:00 AM – 04:00 PM. Beat the crowds by getting there at opening and then head to Seaport Village for a lunch amongst the kites. Don’t eat on the Midway, it’s not worth it.

TLDR – choose your own adventure

The USS Midway is a nautical jungle with countless nooks and crannies, each holding a piece of history. Armed with these tips and tricks, you’re ready to conquer this colossal floating museum like a boss. So let’s recap!

  1. Get there at opening to get perfect pictures
  2. Pick up an audio guide
  3. Pay a visit to the theater
  4. Head to the upper deck before the crowds arrive
  5. Wear sneakers and thank me later
  6. Stay hydrated and bring your own water
  7. Go for lunch at the nearby Seaport Village

Ben Voyage, sailors!


USS Midway Museum


The USS Midway is not your typical tourist attraction. The city of San Diego has successfully turned its naval heritage into an entertaining, immersive and accessible museum. The aircraft carrier is visually impressive due to its sheer size and isn't only enjoyable to the average history buff. If this isn't on your itinerary, you'll regret it.

  • Rated 5 out of 5
  • Rated 3 out of 5
  • Rated 5 out of 5


  • Adjacent parking
  • Stay as long as you want
  • Great photos
  • Audio Tour included
  • Bring your own water


  • Parking not included with admission
  • Food & souvenirs are pricey
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