After Puntarenas, Costa Rica, our next stop was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Unfortunately, work constraints kept me from hanging out in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There was important work that needed to be done that day, and so I stayed aboard. But my time to shine came when we arrived in San Diego, California!
Yes, we’re finally in the United States, and I did hang out big time. And by big, I mean aircraft carrier-level big! My destination was USS Midway, a huge aircraft carrier-turned-museum that I got to explore from top to bottom. From its impressive display of helicopters to the fierce fighter jets, from the spacious galleys to the engine room, from the deck to the living spaces, the USS Midway became my playground for the duration of our San Diego stay.
The USS Midway is a historical aircraft carrier, on active duty from 1945 to 1992. It was the second longest-serving carrier of the century, and was the only aircraft carrier to serve through the Cold War and after. It also moonlighted as a humanitarian vessel during peacetime.
Today, the Midway is known for its real-life interactive displays and the many activities that teach people not just how an aircraft carrier works and what it does, but also certain significant events in history (such as the momentous Battle of Midway, from which the carrier’s name was taken). The Museum is one of the most famous tourist spots in San Diego and the whole of California. It is also among the largest, with a crew of more than 13,000 and visitors that exceed more than a million every year! The fact that most of the aircrafts exhibited here are also made in California makes it a true pride of the region.
The museum has been in operation since 2004, and its tickets are available both online and on-site. Adults pay $22 for a ticket purchased online, and I think it’s a really good deal! The price includes a self-guided audio tour, which is especially helpful if you’re at a loss where to start exploring this humongous place. The tour spans dozens of locations, from the crew’s sleeping quarters to the ready rooms where pilots prepare for sorties. There’s also a tour through the flight control deck and the bridge — this last one is a really cool way to feel like an admiral, with all of the high-tech equipment surrounding you!
For fans of airplanes and the vintage, the hangar deck is of special note. This area has a collection of WWII planes, well-preserved and accessible! You can even climb aboard the cockpits and feel what it’s like to be a pilot. The area also contains interactive displays of the Midway Theater of WWII.
Also on display are fighters, bombers, and helicopters that took naval aviation into the jet age. All these are found at the flight deck of the USS Midway. Here are some of these below:
This aircraft was introduced in 1959 as an entry-level jet trainer. The Buckeye trained generations of Navy pilots until the 1990s when it was replaced by the T-45 Goshawk. The striking orange and white markings enhance the visibility of trainer aircT-2-Buckeyeraft as a safety measure for other pilots.
There are also special days wherein the whole museum takes on a theme. There’s even one dedicated to the immortal Top Gun, which once served as the perfect recruitment platform for Navy aviators. A couple of days a year, there’s a “Family Overnight Day” when you can spend a night here living like the real sailors that serviced Midway. They offer the same service to youth groups who want to feel what it’s like to sleep in aircraft carrier bunk beds and have breakfast in the mess hall!
Perhaps the greatest attraction here for both kids and adults alike would be the flight simulators. Here, you get to feel what it’s like to engage in an aerial dogfight! If you feel like it, you can even pull off classic maneuvers such as barrel rolls and somersaults. From takeoff, to the sortie, to the landing, everything is in your hands. It’s $8 a ride, but it’s worth it! There are no reservations needed.
I definitely wished I could have taken the overnight experience, but as it goes I have to transfer ship and hop over to our commercial one. I did have a memorable visit in San Diego and it’s truly a big one – as big as the USS Midway.
Soon we’ve raised anchor again, and are now bound for the port of San Francisco! This was the port I’ve really been preparing for. Sure, there are tourist spots, but I’m not really too keen on seeing the Golden Gate Bridge.
You see, San Francisco will be the site for a mini-reunion I will be having with a few high school classmates and relatives, who are now based in the US. This is the first time I will be meeting them in a long time (28 years to be exact, since our graduation). I guess I have my own stories to share about my travels, and I can hear from them about the finer points of Frisco!