What’s inside USS Midway – exhibits, activities, simulators

Image: Midway.org

The aircraft carrier USS Midway got commissioned into the United States Navy just weeks after World War II and, till 1955, was the largest ship in the World.

After serving the US Navy for 47 years, it was decommissioned in 1992.

In 2004, the ship was re-born in San Diego as USS Midway Museum and till now has attracted more than 15 million visitors. 

In this article, we share what visitors can expect inside the USS Midway Museum. 

Self-guided audio tour

Entry tickets to the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier include a self-guided audio tour.

Tourists who have tried the audio tour highly recommend it. They say, it brings Midway’s history to life and adds a personal touch to the experience. 

There are two audio tours – one for the adults and one for kids. 

Both the self-guided audio tours are available in English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, German, and French.


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Video of what to expect


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What to see at USS Midway

USS Midway Museum has 10 acres of exhibits and displays, including 30 restored aircraft.

From high up on the ship’s bridge to the main engine room below, visitors get to see more than 60 exhibit areas painstakingly restored to their glory days. 

We list out the must-see attractions at this No. 1 tourist spot in San Diego. 

Hanger Deck Exhibits

The Hangar Deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway is massive. 

In this section, you learn about the Midway war, see vintage aircraft from World War II, and you also climb into actual aircraft cockpit trainers. 

Some of the highlights are – 

Battle of Midway Exhibit

Visitors get to see and interpret interactive displays on the Battle of Midway, including the restored F4F Wildcat fighter and SBD Dauntless dive bomber aircraft.

One of the many exhibits on the Battle of Midway. Image: Midway.org

This section gives you an excellent idea of the war, further complemented by the 15-minute movie you watch later in the tour.

Operation Frequent Wind display

This exhibit is dedicated to USS Midway’s role in saving the refugees of Saigon in 1975. 

Don’t miss out on Bird Dog light plane, which made a desperate landing on the Midway’s Flight Deck, and in the process, saved an entire family from Saigon.

Bird Dog exhibit at USS Midway. Image: Midway.org

R-2800 Twin Wasp engine

The R-2800 Twin Wasp engine helped win the Midway war. 

R-2800 Twin Wasp engine on display at USS Midway Museum. Image: Midway.org

The exhibit helps viewers check out the intricate inner workings of the World War II-era engine. 

One gets to see its components interact to produce the horsepower required for powerful aircrafts such as F4U Corsair.

WW II aircrafts

USS Midway had missed WW II by weeks, but that didn’t stop the massive ship from deploying wartime aircraft designs in her early days.

In this section, visitors see vintage aircrafts such as F4U Corsair, TBM Avenger, and SNJ Texan utility plane.

F4U Corsair, the top US carrier fighter, on display at USS Midway Museum. Image: Midway.org

Sailor’s sleeping quarters

In here, you see the harsh conditions in which the ship’s crew slept. 

Sleeping bunks of the sailors at USS Midway. Image: Midway.org

In fact, you can also lie down in one of the bunks to see what it was like to sleep under the Midway’s busy Fight Deck.


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This area was the home of the Air Wing of the Aircraft Carrier.

You get to see the Squadron Ready Rooms, understand the story of naval helicopters, and learn how the pilots and their support staff lived just below the flight deck.

Anchor Chain Room

Midway ship’s anchors weigh 20 tons each. Image: Midway.org

Also known as the fo’c’sle of the ship, this is where you get to see the massive anchor chains.

Here, you can also learn and practice the numerous knots seamen have used over centuries. 

Command Information Center

Command Information Center (CIC) is the room in a warship where the Captain gets processed information for command and control of the ship and its operations.

Command Information Center of Aircraft Carrier Midway. Image: Midway.org

This is can also include information about a raging battle, just above.

You can stand in the middle of the CIC and feel like a Captain.

Carrier Air Group (CAG)

Here, visitors get to see and understand the everyday operations of the Midway Air Wing.

Helicopter History Exhibit

Image: Midway.org

In this section of the Museum, you get to explore the history of the helicopter and their importance to Naval Aviation then and now.


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Flight Deck Exhibits

In this section, visitors see and touch the fighters, bombers, and helicopters that made USS Midway a potent aircraft carrier. 

They also learn how what it takes to take off and land on such a small airstrip. 

Midway Airwing

Restored fighter in Flight Deck of USS Midway. Image: Midway.org

On the Midway’s Flight Deck, one gets to see 26 restored carrier aircraft, including jet fighters, helicopters, attack aircraft, and specialist designs.

Meatball Exhibit

Don’t miss the restored Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System (OLS)

Nicknamed ‘meatball’ it was used to give path information to pilots in the last phase of the aircraft’s landing on the carrier.

The Meatball, which during its hey days helped the pilots land on the Aircraft Carrier. Image: Midway.org

An interactive display explains how this special light rig helps the pilots.

Pilot Ready Rooms

Pilot Ready Rooms of USS Midway where all the missions were discussed. Image: Midway.org

These were the rooms the pilots used to get ready physically and mentally before getting airborne.

Each of the seven Midway’s pilot ready rooms is sponsored and exhibited by dedicated volunteer organizations.

Ship’s Bridge

The Ship’s Island or Bridge is where the Captain steers the ship and oversees the flight operations.

At the ship’s bridge the Captain was supported by an officer of the watch. Image: Midway.org

Don’t miss out on all the equipment you will see on the ship’s bridge.

The Captain’s area

Cabin of USS Midway’s Captain. Image: Midway.org

You see where the Admiral lived below the Flight Deck and the command center from where he participated in Operation Desert Storm.

Don’t miss out on the Radio message center and the Midway Captain’s cabin where he entertained dignitaries.


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Below Deck exhibits

This section is the less romantic and yet an essential part of the aircraft carrier, for it kept it going. 

Here you can climb into the narrow sleeping bunks of the young sailors, see how their meals were prepared (14,000 meals a day!), see their hospital ward, and go down even further to marvel at the massive engine room.

Chow Line

Chowline at USS Midway. Image: Midway.org

At the Chow Line and Galley display below decks, one sees and understands how they cooked the food for the 4500 crew members of USS Midway. 

It was as if a small city was being fed daily. 

Midway Chapel

Image: Midway.org

Midway’s Chapel addressed the spiritual needs of the many faiths represented by the Midway’s crew.

The Chapel was built keeping in mind the space restrictions in the ship.

Today, it is completely restored and features four rows of seats.

Wardroom

The officers always had to be nicely dressed at Midway’s Wardroom. Image: Midway.org

The Midway’s officers dined separately from the rest of the seamen. 

While the seamen stood at the Chow Line, the officers socialized in the Wardroom.

Don’t miss out on the unique silver service set on display and the informal “Dirty Shirt” Wardroom frequented by the pilots.

Sick Bay

The SickBay managed the health of more than 4000 inhabitants of the ship. Image: Midway.org

In the Sick Bay exhibit, you get to see how the medical team managed Midway’s crew’s health needs.

Here, doctors could perform a routine dental checkup or a complicated surgery.

Engine Room & engineering

Visitors can still touch and interact with much of the equipment on display. Image: Carltonautstraveltips.com

You go down below the water line to check out the restored Engine Room and Main Engine Control. 

The work conditions inside the steam engine room powering an aircraft carrier were extraordinary, and you get to see it first hand. 


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Activities at USS Midway

Besides the 60 plus exhibits, while visiting USS Midway Museum in San Diego, you can also indulge in exciting activities. 

We list seven of our favorite USS Midway experiences. 

Battle of Midway Theatre

Midway’s 90-seat theater plays an exciting multimedia movie about the Battle of Midway, called ‘Voices of Midway’.

The 15-minute long movie narrates the story of one of the most critical naval battles of WWII through the eyes and voices of the seamen who participated. 

The ‘Voices of Midway’ is located at Battle of Midway Exhibit and plays out at 25-minute intervals the whole day.

This inspirational activity is part of the USS Midway entry ticket

Flight Simulators

These flight simulators are your chance to live the life of an aviator onboard the USS Midway. 

Air Combat 360

This is a two-people simulator, where you get into a pulse-pounding aerial combat ride controlling all the action. 

Air Combat 360 pilots can roll, somersault, spin, and loop – all in a single session.

This simulator experience is not part of the regular admission ticket.

No reservation is required, and visitors can try them out on a first-come, first-served basis. 

However, it costs $8 per person. 

Height restrictions: Must be at least 42″ tall to ride with an adult. Must be at least 48″ tall to ride without an adult. The maximum height to ride is 77″ (6′-5″).

Screaming Eagles

The Screaming Eagles simulator is the perfect way to get under the skin of a F/18 pilot.

If you have nerves of steel, you can join the men and women in the Training Exercise ‘Screaming Eagles.’ 

The objective is to launch your F/18 off the aircraft carrier, hit the targets provided, finish your air to air mission and land safely back on USS Midway. 

Of course, new challenges can crop up from anywhere in the sky. 

This simulator experience is also not part of the regular admission ticket and costs $7 per rider. 

No reservation is needed, and visitors line up to try them. 

Height restrictions: Must be at least 38″ tall to ride.

Guided Island Tour

An aircraft carrier’s island is the command center for flight deck operations and is located on the flight deck.

This tour is part of the regular USS Midway ticket, and a world-class volunteer Docent, acts as your guide and takes you up serpentine ladders through the navigation and flight control sections of the ship.

The guide then explains Air Operations, Pri-fly, Navigational chart room, Captain’s Bridge, and Captain’s at sea cabin.

Due to tight spaces, this tour has a limited capacity, which is why we suggest you line up for this tour in the early part of the day. 

Junior Pilot Program

If you are visiting Midway Museum with kids, the Junior Pilot Program is a must-attend activity. 

To kick start the program, you must visit one of the Information Booths on the ship to get activity sheets for your child.

Then you follow Airman Sam Rodriguez as he takes you and the youngsters on an excellent and entertaining audio tour (this is also part of the regular Midway Museum ticket) to more than 30 locations on the ship.

Once the kids complete Sam’s tasks, they will be treated to a ceremony performed by one of Midway’s volunteer Docents, where they will earn their Junior Pilot Wings.

Catapult and Trap Talks

The Catapult and Trap talks are an excellent opportunity to learn how aircraft land and take off from carrier decks.

Expert volunteer Docents explain the complicated process of taking off (catapult) and landing (trap) on an aircraft carrier’s short flight deck.

Many of these volunteers are former Navy pilots themselves.

These Catapult and Trap Talks are given daily on the flight deck during regular museum hours, and you can join for free.

Popular attractions in San Diego

# USS Midway Museum
# Legoland California
# San Diego Zoo
# San Diego Safari Park
# SeaWorld San Diego
# San Diego Harbor Cruise

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Priyanka Dwivedi: Since she doesn't want to leave anything to chance, she prefers sightseeing with the assistance of a tour guide or a city map. She also prefers to visit one place during one holiday, and leave nothing unexplored. During her vacations, she takes long walks, pondering the most profound philosophies of life. Favorite Cities: Prague, Lisbon, Vienna, Munich, Nice

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